Residents in the Charlestown area are being encouraged to give their hearts much needed attention before finalising their Christmas shopping and heading off on end-of-year holidays, with private health fund, HCF, offering eligible members a free heart health assessment.

For the first time in two years HCF, Australia’s largest not-for-profit health fund, will be bringing the Victor Chang Health Check booth to its Charlestown branch from December 12 tom14. Over 200 HCF members took advantage of the complementary health initiative in 2016, where 40% of participants were encouraged to seek further advice from their doctors about elevated heart health indicators.

The on-the-spot health check provides HCF members with extras cover convenient reports on their blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels.It’s also a chance for HCF to contribute to the decline of heart disease prevalence in the country.

Heart disease continues to be a major health priority in Australia. Every 12 minutes an Australian dies from cardiovascular disease. In New South Wales, over 368,000 people are affected by heart disease. The Lake Macquarie region currently has a rate of heart-related hospital admissions of 49 per 10,000 people.

Melissa Bishop, HCF Charlestown Customer Service Manager, says this is a timely opportunity for HCF members to think about their own health needs before the busy holiday season.

“In 2016 over half of our members who participated in the program did not know their blood pressure, cholesterol or blood sugar reading, which is concerning as many presented with elevated levels. We want to be able to provide our members with a convenient way to monitor their heart disease risk factors and provide them with the information they need to have in-depth discussions with their GP.”

HCF has been partnering with the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute since 2011 to offer members quick tests to check heart health risk factors. Over 65,000 Australians have been tested at the Health Check Booths across Australia.

Tips for a healthy heart

According to the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, there are some simple ways that Lake Macquarie residents can maintain a healthy heart:

* Eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables and choose lean meats and poultry.

* Cut down on salt.

* Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise every day.

* Curb your alcohol intake. No more than one or two standard alcoholic drinks per day is recommended.

*  Quit smoking.

*  Know your risk factors for heart disease.

*  See a doctor if you have a family history or concerns about your heart health.