Heart Week 2023: hear from our heart health experts

Heart Week is Australia’s national heart health awareness campaign held in the first week of May each year. To help with awareness raising on this critical health issue,  we asked our heart researchers a variety of questions on the topic of heart health. Here’s what they had to say.

Associate Professor Lisa Moran

How does our behaviour affect heart health?

“Many of the key risk factors for heart disease are called behavioural risk factors which means that we can improve them ourselves. These include diet, exercise and smoking.

“By targeting these behaviours, up to 80 per cent of premature deaths from heart disease and stroke could be avoided. Managing these risk factors can also manage heart disease if you already have it.”

Associate Professor Lisa Moran is an Accredited Practicing Dietitian and Head of the Healthy Lifestyle Research Program, at Monash Centre for Health and Reproductive Medicine, Monash Victorian Heart Institute.

Dr Esther Davis

What gender disparity issues affect women’s heart health?

“Though not commonly known, heart disease is the biggest killer of women in Australia, and women are frequently diagnosed later and with more severe diseases than men. Many women underestimate their risk of developing heart disease and may not recognise the symptoms of heart disease, which are often experienced differently in women. Despite major advances, women with heart disease continue to be disproportionately under-investigated and under-treated, and are underrepresented in clinical trials.”

Dr Esther Davis is a cardiologist and Women’s Heart Health Program Lead at the Victorian Heart Hospital and Monash Victorian Heart Institute.

Professor Julian Smith

Why are heart health checks so important to do? 

“Health checks are vital in detecting heart disease especially in the early stages, because if treated early and successfully, the patient may not need surgery.”

Professor Julian Smith, is Head of the Department of Surgery in our School of Clinical Sciences and Senior Cardiothoracic Surgeon in the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Monash Health

Dr Alison Beauchamp

How does health literacy improve equity of outcomes in heart health? 

“Having good health information is key to people being able to look after their heart health. Yet for many people with lower health literacy, finding, understanding and using health information can be challenging.

Patients have told us they often leave a health appointment not fully understanding what they need to do, nor can they remember information when they get home. For the prevention or treatment of cardiac conditions, we need to use strategies that support patients to better understand and recall information.

Communication techniques such as using plain language, confirming understanding using the teach-back method, and also encouraging patients to ask more questions using the check-back method during a consultation are also important.

Dr Alison Beauchamp is a Senior Research Fellow at the Monash School of Rural Health and  a registered nurse with expertise in cardiac care. She is an NHMRC Emerging Leader Fellow exploring the role of health literacy in cardiac secondary prevention.

Associate Professor Francine Marques

How can we improve heart health by looking after our gut? 

“High blood pressure is a leading cause of heart disease. Our team is studying new ways we can lower blood pressure by changing our gut microbes and the substances they produce. Our gut microbes play key roles in digesting fibre from our diet for us, and we have evidence showing that this can be leveraged for better blood pressure control. We believe that damage to the gut barrier, known as leaky gut, might be involved in how blood pressure increases. We’re soon recruiting for a new study to measure this, for which we invite interested participants to register for

Associate Professor Francine Marques is Head of the Hypertension Research Group in the Monash School of Biological Sciences.  She is a Senior Medical Research Fellow from the Viertel Charitable Foundation and a National Heart Foundation Future Leader Fellow.

Read more of Associate Professor Marques commentary at Monash Lens.

Interested in learning more about heart research at Monash? Visit the Monash Victorian Heart Institute website.

About Monash University

Monash University is Australia’s largest university with more than 80,000 students. In the 60 years since its foundation, it has developed a reputation for world-leading high-impact research, quality teaching, and inspiring innovation.

With four campuses in Australia and a presence in Malaysia, China, India, Indonesia and Italy, it is one of the most internationalised Australian universities.

As a leading international medical research university with the largest medical faculty in Australia and integration with leading Australian teaching hospitals, we consistently rank in the top 50 universities worldwide for clinical, pre-clinical and health sciences.

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