Heart disease: ask your rural friends to go jump

08 May 2013

In Heart Week (5-11 May), why not send a message to someone you know who lives in a rural or remote area to ask how they’re doing and whether they are managing to clock up half an hour of walking each day?

Evidence tells us that walking for at least 30 minutes a day can cut your heart disease risk by 50 per cent.

People in rural communities are three times more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease than their metropolitan counterparts – and fitting some walking or cycling into what you do each day can help so much. Ironically this may be harder for people in the bush because such things as walking to a bus or to visit a neighbour may be quite impractical.

Rheumatic heart disease is generally rare in developed countries but some of the highest rates in the world are found in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in central and northern Australia.

Heart disease is just one of many conditions responsible for the poorer health of people in rural and remote Australia. Mortality from circulatory diseases rises with increasing remoteness and people in remote areas have less ready access to diagnostic facilities and specialist treatment than those living in the major cities.

The prevalence of heart disease in the Australian population as a whole doubled between 1989 and 2011 and there is much that people can do to lessen the possibility of being affected by it and to improve their chances of survival if they do suffer from it. A healthy diet with protein and plenty of vegetables and fruit is essential. Although it may seem paradoxical, because of higher costs and issues with transport, cold chain storage and the like, these commodities may be harder for people in the country to get.

Sugar is linked to heart disease. Australians are in the top 10 in the world for per capita consumption of sugary drinks and Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders are among those at highest risk. A recent study found that subjects having about 6.5 sugary soft drinks per week were 20 per cent more likely to have a heart attack than those who never drank them.

More information on heart health and active living can be found at The Heart Foundation Health Information Service 1300 362 787 www.healthyactive.org.au.