Heart age test raises awareness

Research into more than 1,300 Australians who took the Heart Foundation’s online heart age test shows that it mobilises people in terms of heart health.

Half of the people who took the test lost weight and more than 60% increased their exercise regime and improved their diet just 10 weeks after receiving their result.

The findings, published in the international Journal of Medical Internet Research, provide a first-of its-kind insight into the profile of Australians’ heart health and the impact of the Heart Foundation’s Heart Age Calculator on health and lifestyle behaviours.

Co-author of the study, Risk Reduction Manager Natalie Raffoul says the findings showed people with a ‘heart age’ higher than their current age were also more likely to have seen their doctor for a formal Heart Health Check compared to those with a younger or equal heart age.

“This shows that completing the Heart Age Calculator worked very well at raising people’s awareness of their risk of heart disease,” Ms Raffoul says.

“Almost 50% of people who did the test reported later visiting their doctor, and nearly a third reported having a Heart Health Check in the ten weeks after they received their heart age result and follow-up information.

“Two thirds of people had their blood pressure checked and more than half had a cholesterol or diabetes check.”

Two in five (40%) people felt very motivated to reduce their risk of heart attack and stroke and nearly one in three (31%) were less stressed and reduced their alcohol intake.

The Heart Age Calculator is an online tool aimed at people aged 35 to 75 years that asks people questions about age, sex, smoking and diabetes status, height and weight, family history of heart disease, and blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

How to keep your heart healthy

For those wanting to make healthier lifestyle changes to support heart health, the Heart Foundation suggests the following diet, exercise and lifestyle tips:

  • Eat more fruit and vegetables – a diet full of a variety of fruit and vegetables is linked to a healthier heart and reduced risk of heart disease.
  • Opt for wholegrain – when choosing breads and cereals, make sure to choose wholegrain varieties. Whole grains have more nutrients like fibre, B vitamins, vitamin E and healthy fats.
  • Change to healthy fat varieties – the Heart Foundation suggests the best fats for heart health are mono- and poly-unsaturated fats, which are found in fish, olive oil, nuts and seeds, and avocado.
  • Reduce the table salt – try flavouring meals with herbs and spices rather than table salt.
  • Get active – it’s time to lace up because regular physical activity is linked to better heart health.
  • Watch your alcohol intake – aim for no more than 10 standard drinks a week and limit your intake to no more than four standard drinks on any one day.
  • Consider quitting – if you smoke, the Heart Foundation recommends quitting. While it’s not always easy, persistence is the key and there are plenty of resources available to help. You can always speak with your retail pharmacy assistant or pharmacist about the best options for you.