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Truth about heart disease laid bare in wake of high profile deaths

The death of Shane Warne at just 52 from a heart attack earlier this month had many around the country suddenly questioning their own propensity for heart disease.

Less than a week later, Labor Senator Kimberley Kitching passed away at the same age and from similar complications, hammering home the difficult fact that heart disease can happen to anyone.

Director of the Victorian Heart Institute Professor Stephen Nicholls told 7 News recently the deaths should act as a wake up call for Australians.

Heart disease is one of the biggest killers in Australia, he says, and can affect women and men just as tragically and unexpectedly.

“We’ve been in this state of denial forever that heart disease is a problem that men get and that women don’t get and that’s just not true,” he said.

“Women are more likely to die of heart disease than anything else.”

Women are also at risk from heart disease, as the death of Labor Senator Kimberley Kitching drove home.
Camera IconWomen are also at risk from heart disease, as the death of Labor Senator Kimberley Kitching drove home. Credit: Supplied

The morning after news of Warne’s death broke, traffic to the Heart Foundation’s web page doubled. Specifically, interest was peaked in the page relating to heart attack warning signs.

National Manager of Health Research and Innovation at the Heart Foundation Juliane Mitchell told 7 News the number of people booking appointments for general practice heart health check-ups had also increased.

“When the spotlight is shone so brightly on a story, it really does make people stop and think. It’s the greatest legacy that Shane Warne and Kimberley Kitching can give us,” she said.

“This is a conversation that’s long overdue.”

SPORT CRICKET - ASHES Tour 2005 - 12.9.05 - 5th Test - Australia v England at Brit Oval. Shane Warne leaves the field for the last time in England. pic. Phil Hillyard.
Camera IconAustralians should know their risk factors and warning signs of heart disease, experts say. Phil Hillyard Credit: News Limited

The most common sign of a heart attack is chest discomfort or pain, which can spread to your arms, neck, jaw or back, according to the Heart Foundation.

Other symptoms include, dizziness, light-headedness, feeling faint or anxious, nausea, indigestion, vomiting, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing – with or without chest discomfort – as well as sweating or a cold sweat.

Acting fast and calling triple-0 for assistance can be vital in reducing damage of a heart attack, and can be the difference between life and death.

Professor Nicholls said a quarter of people experiencing their first heart attack would never make it to hospital.

“It’s why it’s really important that everybody knows CPR and that we have as many defibrillators in the community (as we can),” he said.

“If we can get people to hospital quickly, then we can initiate a whole range of therapies which have been shown time and time again to result in better outcomes.”

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