Heart health is a major issue in the Richmond-Tweed region, with higher than average numbers of heart attacks, hospital admissions and deaths from coronary issues, as well as heightened risk factors for heart disease. Now you can do something about it.
In October, Heart Foundation is tackling the problem from two directions with the charity’s annual fitness and fundraising challenge MyMarathon. Participants will have the entire month to walk or run the distance of a marathon (42.2 kilometres), while also helping to raise money for life-saving heart disease research.
Former Test cricketer and Australian Cricket Team coach, Darren “Boof” Lehmann, is among thousands who have already signed up for this year’s challenge. He has vowed to double the 120 kilometres he walked last year, and has received messages of support from other cricket legends like Shane Warne and Aaron Finch.
Committing to MyMarathon is part of what Darren describes as his ‘second innings’ after having a heart attack in a Gold Coast hotel room on his 50th birthday in February 2020.
‘I woke up at 4.30am with cold sweats. I couldn’t breathe. It felt like someone was standing on my chest. I knew something wasn’t right,’ Darren recalls. ‘I called the hotel doctor and he organised an ambulance. I remember texting my wife, Andrea, to tell her what was going on.’
Angiograms revealed significant blockages in three of Darren’s coronary arteries. Two days later, he had triple-bypass surgery at Brisbane’s Prince Charles Hospital.
By his own admission, Darren has not always made the best choices for his health. ‘Before my heart attack, I was a smoker and I ate all the wrong foods. I was a good exerciser, but still carrying too much weight,’ he said. ‘What a wake-up call.’
After his operation, Darren quit smoking, switched to a healthier diet and continues to exercise regularly.
‘For me, MyMarathon is about improving your heart health, raising awareness of the Heart Foundation and heart disease, and getting everyone to understand that a heart attack can happen to you at any stage,’ Darren said.
Not just for athletes
Heart Foundation Director of Active Living, Adjunct Professor Trevor Shilton, said you don’t need to be an elite athlete to conquer MyMarathon.
‘Just about anyone can get involved, no matter what your age, location, background or fitness level. You decide the pace and you decide the place,’ said Professor Shilton.
‘You can do it in four hours, four days or four weeks; you can do it on your own or part of a team with friends or colleagues; you can walk, run or wheel; you can do it anywhere you like – it’s a very flexible way to complete a marathon.
‘Over the month of October, the distance to complete a marathon equates to about 1.4 kilometres a day, which is a very achievable target. Even in areas subject to a COVID lockdown, daily exercise is allowed,’ he said.
‘So why not put your walks, jogs and rides to good use by fundraising for the Heart Foundation? In addition to ticking “do a marathon” off your bucket list, your heart will thank you for taking part. Regular physical activity helps to keep your heart strong and healthy, while also helping you to stay physically and mentally well.’
Professor Shilton said the Heart Foundation is pleased and grateful about the number of people who have already signed up and started fundraising for this year’s event.
‘The more people who take part, the more funds can be raised to help the Heart Foundation end the heartache caused by heart disease,’ he said.
‘This includes funding world-class cardiovascular research, guiding health professionals, educating Australians to make healthy choices, and supporting people living with heart conditions.’
Local heart health by the numbers
- The Richmond-Tweed region ranks 4th out of 28 NSW regions for heart attack hospital admissions. The region’s rate of heart attack hospital admissions is 18.2 out of every 10,000 people. This is about 26% above the NSW state average.
- Out of 28 regions in NSW, the Richmond-Tweed region has the state’s 8th highest rate of death from coronary heart disease. The death rate in this region is 71.6 out of every 100,000 people, which is 11% above the state average.
- The Richmond-Tweed region has the state’s 7th highest rate of hospitalisations from coronary heart disease. People in this region are hospitalised for coronary heart disease at a rate of 51.8 out of every 10,000 people, about 14% above the state average.
- In terms of heart disease risk factors, around 33% of adults living in the Richmond-Tweed region are obese; about 16% smoke; around 61% are not physically active enough for good health; and just over 23% have high blood pressure.
Find more heart health resources and everything you need to know about registering, participating and fundraising in Heart Foundation’s challenge at MyMarathon.com.au.