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Early heart checks save lives

According to the Heart Foundation, a simple check of your heart strength can save your life as it launches its Stand Strong campaign.

This image depicts Mereana Hona (Maori woman) standing in front of a Po. She stands with her arms folded across her chest.

“Checking your heart strength is easy and it can identify ways to reduce your risk of having a heart event or condition in future,” says Heart Foundation Medical Director Dr Gerry Devlin. “For Māori, Pasifika and South Asian people, who are more likely to be impacted by heart disease, it’s really important to get a heart check early.”

He says Māori, Pasifika and South Asian people are impacted by heart disease at an earlier age, on average, around ten years younger than their European counterparts.

Te Whatu Ora guidelines recommend that Māori, Pasifika and South Asian people have a heart check with their GP at age 30 for men and age 40 for women. This compares to age 45 for men and 55 for women from other ethnicities with no other heart disease risk factors.

“Having a kōrero with your whānau about your family’s history of heart disease is also really valuable. One of the most important things you can do is understand your family history,” he says.

To learn more about your heart strength, you can use My Heart Check – free on the Heart Foundation website. It uses personal risk factors to assess your heart age and gives tips on reducing your risk. It will also tell you when you need a heart check with your GP.

As a mother, grandmother and Aunty of many, multiple lives were affected when Mereana Hona needed lifesaving heart surgery.

“I didn’t want to accept that I needed emergency surgery. But I had to consider everyone in the decision, not just what I thought was right for me.”

Now Mereana is calling on others to get their heart checked – for themselves, their whānau and their community.

Peneueta Nuualiitia was in his thirties when a check with his doctor revealed a heart condition requiring surgery. It was a difficult journey but one with a positive outcome – he became a personal trainer and opened a gym with his whole family involved. Now he’s not only looking after his own heart, but he’s also helping the hearts of his community.

“It’s about educating my clients, who are predominantly Pacific Island, and trying to make changes with them so they can pass that onto their families.”

Sunny Naidoo had never worn running shoes or set foot inside a gym. But after a heart attack and bypass surgery, he knew things had to change. With the support of his family, he started walking and then running and went on to compete in the World Master’s Games. He wants people to help their hearts before it’s too late.

“I realised that my life could have been taken in milliseconds. I could have been doing other things with my family, getting out and enjoying things, but I was caught up with work.

“Go and see your doctor and have a thorough check-up. Your life is so precious. It’s a gift.”

Gerry says small changes can make a big difference to heart attack risk, whether that is lifestyle changes or medication from your doctor.

The Stand Strong campaign, supported by Te Whatu Ora, encourages and empowers whānau to make positive changes and take control of their heart health.

The campaign materials and messages build on the concept of Poutokomanawa, which translates as the centre post of a house. In the same way that a Poutokomanawa holds up the whare, a Poutokomanawa is also someone who holds up their whānau and their community.

We are all Poutokomanawa, meaning we’re all important to our whānau, friends and community, so we’re asking all adults to learn about their personal risk of heart disease and commit to making lifestyle changes to reduce that risk.

The Heart Foundation is working with a range of community partners across several North Island regions to spread the word, including public events and working with primary health organisations, iwi, churches and sports clubs. They are also working with organisations to run heart checks in selected workplaces.

To read more about the campaign, go to