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Women's Health Week: Put your heart and mind first
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

Women's Health Week: Put your heart and mind first

This Women’s Health Week, it’s time to put yourself first. This isn’t a guilty pleasure or a one-off indulgence, and you don’t need an excuse. It’s about making time for yourself, every day of every week, to look after your physical and mental health.  

Every year in the first week of September, the Heart Foundation joins thousands of women, organisations, ambassadors, and sporting and community groups across Australia to celebrate Women’s Health Week.  

The Heart Foundation is dedicated to improving the heart health of all Australian women. We’re funding research, raising awareness and working hard to close the heart-health gap between women and men.  

Jean Hailes, Australia’s leading women’s health organisation and Women’s Health Week pioneer, has identified five key topics for 2021: one for each day of the working week. So, make your favourite heart-healthy beverage (that’s milk, tea, coffee or water by the way), and read on to discover ways to look after your heart health, no matter what day of the week it is.  

Move it Monday!

To kick the week off, Monday’s focus is on getting you moving! Don’t feel like you need to go from zero to hero though. It’s about getting started, one step at a time, and building a healthy habit for the future.  

To help you get started, choose an activity you enjoy, as you’ll be more likely to stick with it. Running, cycling and swimming all count of course, but if you like the idea of dressing up in your favourite outfit from the 80s or 90s and dancing around the house? Go for it. Want to try out that activity you always wanted to do as a kid? Now’s the time.  

If you’re not sure where to start, why not join the 100,000 Australians who have signed up to the Heart Foundation’s Personal Walking Plans? Walking for an average of 30 minutes a day can lower the risk of coronary heart disease and diabetes by up to a third. Our easy-to-follow plans are tailored to your fitness level, and will help you be more active, healthier and happier in just six weeks.  

If you feel like you’re stuck for motivation and need a new physical activity goal, you can sign up to the Heart Foundation’s MyMarathon! This is an opportunity for you to challenge yourself to walk or run 42.2km over hours, days or weeks during October, all while helping to raise funds for life-saving cardiovascular disease research. Register here.

Tricky period Tuesday

Next up, Tuesday is for talking about tricky periods and busting common myths about your menstrual cycle. We’ll let Jean Hailes take the lead on this one, but here are a couple of top tips for looking after yourself and your heart health while you’ve got your period.   

  • If you’re in need of a distraction, why not take some time to check out our heart-healthy food swaps and browse our free heart-healthy recipes? A heart-healthy eating pattern isn’t about individual nutrients or ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods. It’s about making small changes that you can maintain over time. Read more.
  • While smoking might help take your mind off painful period symptoms, it’s not doing your heart any favours. If you smoke, did you know that even just one year after quitting, your risk of a heart attack or stroke is reduced by half? The best way to quit is with support from Quitline (13 7848) plus medicines to help you stop smoking. Read more.  

Private lives

On Wednesday, also known as hump day (pun not intended), it’s time to talk about sex. Sex and intimacy are an important part of all relationships, and women might find their sex life changes after being diagnosed with a heart condition or having a heart event (like a heart attack).  

It’s normal to not feel like sex for a while after a heart event, and it’s ok to take things slow. Focus on open and honest communication with your partner. Share your concerns with them and let them know what they can do to help.  

Most people can have sex soon after a heart event or new diagnosis. You might like to start with activities that take less energy, like a massage or intimate touching. It should be okay to have sex if you can walk briskly or climb up two flights of stairs without experiencing any symptoms. Always check with your doctor if you’re not sure. If you experience any warning signs of a heart attack while having sex (or at any time!), it’s really important to stop.  

If the symptoms are severe, getting worse, or last for more than 10 minutes, call Triple Zero (000) right away and ask for an ambulance.  

Read more about sex and your heart.  

Mind Matters

As we near the end of the week, Thursday’s a time to reflect on your mental health. It’s not new news that many women have had to take multitasking to a whole new level over the past 18 months; juggling working from home, family, home schooling, all while feeling disconnected from friends and their social networks.  

We know that depression, anxiety, social isolation, and loneliness can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. We also know that people living with cardiovascular disease have an increased risk of mental health conditions. The good news though? Support is available:

  • Speak to your doctor as a first step. They can also connect you with other health professionals like psychologists and mental health workers.
  • Give Beyond Blue a call on 1300 22 4636 or visit the Beyond Blue website.
  • If you’ve recently had a heart event or been diagnosed with a heart condition, cardiac rehabilitation can help. Cardiac rehab involves exercise, education, and mental health support. You can meet other women who are going through the same thing as you. Call the Heart Foundation Helpline on 13 11 12 to find a cardiac rehab service near you or check out our cardiac services directory.  

Slumber Party!

Yay for Friday; today is all about getting enough rest and sleep after a big week! Sleep helps to restore the body and plays an important role in overall health and wellbeing. Opting for a heart-healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and minimising stress can help promote deep, restful sleep.  

According to the American Heart Association, inadequate sleep is associated with an increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease and stroke.

If you have trouble getting a good night’s sleep, try some of these top tips:

  • Stick to a regular sleep pattern by going to sleep at the same time each night.

  • Relax in the evening, by taking a warm bath or having a cup of herbal tea, rather than using electronic devices.
  • Avoid stimulants such as caffeine towards the end of the day.
  • Be more active during the day. Exercise is not only great for overall health but can help with sleep problems.

As you slide into the weekend, remember looking after your heart health is a priority, every week of the year. It’s about small choices you can make every day to help your heart (and mind) stay stronger for longer.

If you’re a woman aged 45 and over (or 30 and over for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women) book in for a routine Heart Health Check with your doctor today. Having a Heart Health Check gives you the best chance of reducing your risk of a heart attack or stroke.

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