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Heart disease on the rise

Latest health report reveals the biggest rise in heart disease in a decade, prompting Dame Jenny Shipley and Sir Richard Hadlee to lend their support to the Heart Foundation’s annual appeal.

Heart disease is on the rise in New Zealand

Latest health report reveals the biggest rise in heart disease in a decade, prompting Dame Jenny Shipley and Sir Richard Hadlee to lend their support to the Heart Foundation’s annual appeal.

The Heart Foundation launches its Big Heart Appeal in the wake of new statistics revealing an increase in the number of people living with heart disease.

More Kiwis living with heart disease

Top cardiologist and Heart Foundation Medical Director Gerry Devlin, says there are now 186,000 people living with heart disease according to the latest 2016-17 New Zealand Health Survey¹, a stark contrast from the 172,000 reported in the 2015-16 survey.

“Not only is this a sharp incline in a short period of time, the rates have increased across almost all age groups, not just the older populations.

“New Zealanders need to get out of the mind-set that heart disease only affects the elderly. While incidences of heart disease do increase as we get older, it is not uncommon today to see people presenting with significant heart problems in their forties and fifties. At times, even younger,” says Devlin.

This is supported by the New Zealand Health Survey, which has reported a consistent increase in people living with heart disease between the ages of 35-44 since 2011.

The Heart Foundation's 50th anniversary

The Big Heart Appeal, which is raising money for life-saving heart research and specialist cardiac training, is also marking the Heart Foundation’s 50th anniversary in 2018.

This has sparked support from the likes of Dame Jenny Shipley and Sir Richard Hadlee. They are among a group of New Zealanders who have lived through a heart event and have stepped forward to support the Foundation’s 50th anniversary and its fundraising efforts.

“Having been diagnosed with Wolfe-Parkinson-White syndrome shortly after I retired, I find it shocking to learn that so many Kiwis are facing heart disease today,” says Hadlee, who has been well since his life-saving surgery.

“I bowled my last ball in Test cricket on 9 July 1990 and on 9 July 1991, I had my surgery. I feel lucky that I went on to make a strong recovery and continue to live an active and healthy life. But I don’t take that for granted and I believe the Heart Foundation’s significant investment into research and specialist training for New Zealand cardiologists has had a major impact on successful cases like mine,” says Hadlee.

Since the Heart Foundation began, it has invested more than $65 million into heart research, while specialist cardiac training is also funded. This is where cardiologists and researchers train overseas, and return to ensure New Zealanders receive the same world class care here.

It has been 18 years since Dame Jenny Shipley had her own heart attack back in 2000, when she was still in politics. While Shipley successfully manages her ongoing heart condition today, the former Prime Minister is also grateful for the advancement in medical care and support that ensures she can still juggle her busy life.

“The progress in cardiac care is outstanding and I have been impressed with the standard of treatment I have received while managing my own heart condition,” says Shipley.

“I attribute a lot of the exemplary care I have received to the Heart Foundation and the excellent work they do, ensuring New Zealand cardiologists have access to the very best in international training and innovation in patient care.

“But the fight against heart disease is far from over and the Heart Foundation still need our support,” says Shipley, who has been a patron of the organisation for several years.

Funding research into heart disease

Devlin agrees, stating that the Heart Foundation is the biggest independent funder of heart research in New Zealand.

“In addition to training, we have funded some amazing research breakthroughs as a result of donor’s generosity and support,” he says, adding that there has been a 75% reduction in the death rate from heart disease since the Heart Foundation began its work.

“But this doesn’t diminish the fact that heart disease is still our single biggest killer. With younger age groups now being affected, research is needed more than ever to address the issue,” says Devlin.

To support the Big Heart Appeal campaign, Hadlee and Shipley took part in a photo shoot alongside other heart disease survivors of various ages, backgrounds and conditions.

“I was amazed to meet a young man in his twenties who first had open heart-surgery when he was 15, another teenager that had a heart attack on the basketball court at the same age and a young mother with her six-year-old daughter, who both share the condition I was diagnosed with, Wolfe-Parkinson-White syndrome,” says Hadlee.

“This really highlighted to me that heart disease is an every person’s disease, impacting most Kiwis in one way or another. I would encourage New Zealanders to do their bit by supporting this important fundraising campaign,” he says.

The Big Heart Appeal’s nationwide street collection is taking place on Friday 23 and Saturday 24 February 2018, which will see thousands of Heart Foundation volunteers hitting the streets and shaking buckets to raise money for life-saving heart research..


Research references and links:

¹ The New Zealand Health Survey, Ministry of Health, 2016/17.