Keep our Kiwi hearts beating!

Heart Foundation’s ‘Big Heart Appeal’ kicks off this Friday 22 February.

Every 90 minutes a New Zealander dies of heart disease.

New Zealand’s heart disease statistics are confronting, with more than 6,500 Kiwis dying of it every year, making it our country’s single biggest killer.

The Heart Foundation’s Big Heart Appeal which runs for two days (Friday 22 February and Saturday 23 February) will help raise money to fund research that will ultimately save and improve the lives of Kiwis living with heart disease.

A number of high profile New Zealanders have stepped forward to share how they too have been touched by heart disease in some way and how they take time to take care of their hearts.

Health Minister Dr David Clark says regular exercise is important to him. “Even if it’s just taking the stairs rather than the lift. Getting outdoors for a run or a bike ride is something I thoroughly enjoy for both the physical and mental benefits.

“Almost every day I see evidence of the benefits of making sure everyone has a healthy home, has a good level of health literacy and education, and has good access to primary health care to deal with the things that can lead to heart disease early on.”

Simon Bridges, the leader of the Opposition and MP for Tauranga is aware heart disease can affect people of all ages and to keep his heart healthy, the MP says he “tries to do a little exercise each day”, adding “eating well and good amounts of sleep are also important”.

He says his father has battled heart disease. “Dad is still with us and we are all grateful to wonderful medical specialists and modern medicine.” 

Silver Fern Michaela Sokolich-Beatson manages a heart condition, while television personalities Suzy Cato, Miriama Kamo and Renee Wright all have family and whanau living with heart disease.

The Heart Foundation’s medical director Gerry Devlin says, “Not only do one in five New Zealanders die from heart disease, but more people than ever before are living with a heart condition. And it’s not just the elderly who are at risk.

“One in five people admitted to hospital with heart disease are under 60.”

Well-known journalist and television presenter Miriama Kamo has not only lost whanau to heart attacks, but has close family and whanau members who are on medication to manage their heart health issues.

“It’s a very real issue for us and I hope the heart health message carries throughout our communities. I try to keep my heart healthy by cycling most days but I’d like to do more.”

Silver Fern Michaela Sokolich-Beatson has a heart defect, an unclosed hole in the aorta which usually closes after birth.

“It’s nothing serious, just one day I will need to get it closed. I haven’t done it recently because it takes a few weeks to recover and I am focusing on my netball at the moment. When there is a break in my schedule I will get it closed. I keep my heart healthy by training five to six days a week and making sure I get my ‘five plus’ a day and drink plenty of water.”

Television weather presenter Renee Wright likes to do “some sort” of activity most days. “Sometimes it’s a walk, pilates or just horsing around with the kids. We are big fans of ‘lounge discos’, where I put on some music and the kids and I dance around.”

Suzy Cato also uses time with her children to keep her heart healthy; she joins them on the trampoline, takes the stairs instead of the lift when possible and through summer, they walk uphill to their local swimming beach. “It’s all kinds of good for your heart when you add the bush walk into the mix!”

Food writer Ray McVinnie makes sure he keeps active for his heart health. “I walk every day and eat mostly the sort of diet that American writer and activist Michael Pollan recommends – real food with no additives, plant-based and not too much of it.”

The Heart Foundation is New Zealand’s leading independent funder of heart research and, since 1968, has funded more than $70 million in research and specialist training for cardiologists.

“Funds raised during the Big Heart Appeal will be used to support this research and training programme,” Gerry says.

The Heart Foundation also performs a wide range of activities to help support people living with heart disease and their families, and provides educational programmes and campaigns that promote heart-healthy living.

“We hope everyone will support the very important work the Heart Foundation is doing by donating to the Big Heart Appeal. One New Zealander dying every 90 minutes from heart disease is a sobering statistic and we are hoping Kiwis will get behind us and help raise vital funds for further research.”

To shine a light on the Appeal, Vector Lights on the Auckland Harbour Bridge will be illuminated red from approximately 8.30p.m. this Thursday and Friday.

Donate to the Big Heart Appeal