July Good Causes: Heart Health is More Important Than Ever

While it has been many years since the Heart Foundation released it’s infamous tick of approval to help us all make healthier choices, their work remains more needed than ever before in an era of office jobs, burgeoning technology and more fast food options than ever before. When I scroll through my newsfeed on Facebook or Instagram one of the most common things I see are posts from people who seem to be completely sorted on this whole healthy lifestyle gig. They’re slaying it in spin class, running marathons, lifting crazy weights, and cooking up some very green recipes. Wellness has become a trend, and one that’s worth endorsing because when you get past coconut oil and quinoa (and fancy printed gym tights that would make me look like an elephant in a party dress) eating well and being physically active is a fundamentally positive thing, especially when combined with body acceptance and the ability to be healthy no matter what you look like. Despite this social media smattering that would seem to indicate the country is in pretty good shape, health statistics paint a different picture.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) identifies chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, as the leading cause of the fatal burden of disease in Australia. Cardiovascular disease is one of the most common, with 1 in 5 Australians afflicted. Additionally, 1 in 19 Australians has diabetes mellitus which is major contributor to the development of heart disease (as well as chronic kidney disease and peripheral vascular disease). In my first semester of nursing school I confronted these statistics head on by reading in detail about the pathophysiology of these diseases and their consequences, both physical and social, as well as caring for patients with these conditions. One of the most confronting things as a young student nurse is to see the burden of disease before your very eyes, the reality of things often considered only in abstract form. During this semester I certainly started to make an effort to do more healthy things every day, whether it was saying no to chocolate (hard for long suffering endometriosis girls!) or dragging my ass to the gym at 5am when I would rather be sleeping in with my cats.

The thing is, a lot of these chronic diseases are extremely preventable through positive lifestyle choices such as good nutrition and adequate physical activity. That’s where good sorts like The Heart Foundation come in. For years they’ve been seeking to use evidence-based practice to improve the heart health and access to equal healthcare to reduce the number of preventable deaths directly linked to cardiovascular disease. They do this by fundraising to help fund research into heart disease, providing guidelines for health professionals regarding heart health, consumer and patient education, and advocating to government and industry. They rely greatly on public donations to do this work and so this month I am fundraising with my FitBit. FitForGood is running from July 11-25th and challenges Australians to collectively take 2 billion steps over these dates to raise money for the Heart Foundation. If this goal is reached, $100,000 will be donated. To raise further funds and reach the $500k goal, individual participants can encourage family and friends to donate to support their step goals.

So I have set my daily goal for 10,000 steps, but hope that I can absolutely smash that and go even higher. I’m committed not only to my fundraising, but to bettering my own health. Recently women with endometriosis were given another consideration to add to our already burgeoning list of health concerns. A study has has linked endometriosis to an increased risk of heart disease, especially earlier than other women. While it’s not clear as yet whether it’s due to the ways in which we may treat our disease (e.g. hysterectomy and oophorectomy which reduces circulating oestrogen, oestrogen which is usually protective for bone and heart function), or a risk associated with having the disease itself (i.e due to inflammation). Either way, it’s a scary thought, and one that means I am paying more attention to my risk by reducing it in every way I can. Using my fitness tracker as motivation to increase my activity every day. The best thing I’ve found so far about student nursing is that an eight hour shift sends my step count sky high. After a shift in an aged care facility this past semester, my step count stood at close to 20,000 steps for the day. Nursing is the greatest work out of all. The best thing to be as a nurse is a role model to patients, and I hope I can be with this challenge. Step goals are crazy motivators, so come July 25th I’m certain I won’t be able to stop. Come join me! Even if you don’t have your own FitBit, it can be your own personal goal to just step more. And you can donate to my Everyday Hero page here: https://fitforgood.everydayhero.com/au/dannielle-for-fitforgood

I would absolutely encourage you to make your own as well. Step your way to better health and donate some dollars to a worthy cause.

Here are some helpful links:

http://heartfoundation.org.au/active-living/get-active/fit-for-good

http://www.heartfoundation.org.au/about-us/what-we-do

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