Love Your Heart Project – Women’s Hearts Matter

Love Your Heart Project – Women’s Hearts Matter

Heart health is an issue for women for a number of reasons. Women are just as likely to die from heart disease as men however their symptoms are often different. Women don’t necessarily have the “typical” chest pain and often take longer to seek help.  90% of women have at least one risk factor for heart disease yet too many of us are unaware that heart disease is a women’s health issue. The good news is you can do something about it!  80% of heart disease is preventable.

The Blue Mountains Women’s Health and Resource Centre, in conjunction with community partners, undertook a project LOVE YOUR HEART : WOMEN’S HEARTS MATTER, to create heart health awareness amongst women in the Blue Mountains. The photographs in this booklet are part of this project.

Many of the women whose photographs appear in this booklet have not previously thought of themselves as photographers and very few of them have exhibited before. However, through their photography and accompanying words, these women all say something to encourage other women to look after their hearts.

We would like to thank Sue Lightfoot and Sue Wildman who facilitated workshops that produced some of the photographs, Gayle Shaw, who put together this booklet and the wonderful women who actively engaged in the project by entering a photograph in the exhibition and portraying the many varied ways that we as women can love our hearts!

Sarala Porter

Manager, Blue Mountains Women’s Health and Resource Centre

Heart Health Tips

  • Eat  Well

 What We Know : 

* What we eat has a major impact on our hearts. Research has shown that a Mediterranean diet which is made up of fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, olive oil and a little fish and lean meat can cut cholesterol and heart risks. These dietary measures help reduce unhealthy LDL cholesterol and boost healthy HDL cholesterol.

* Olive oil is a key part of the Mediterranean diet. Extra-virgin and virgin olive oils (the least processed forms) also contain the highest levels of the protective plant linolenic acid (a type of omega -3 fatty acid).

* We also need to aim for a diet naturally low in trans fats.  These are the artificial ones found in such foods as margarine, snack foods, packaged baked goods and fast foods.

* Also aim for a diet low in salt and low in added sugar.

 What You Can Do : 

 * Eat a diet primarily based on the Mediterranean diet. Aim to eat at least 5 servings of vegetables a day. A serving is half a cup of cooked or one cup of raw vegetables.

* Replace margarine and butter with healthy fats such as olive oil (preferably cold pressed).

* Use herbs and spices instead of salt to flavour food.

* Limit red meats to no more than a few times a month.

* Eat fish at least twice a week particularly fatty fish such as mackerel, herring, salmon, sardines and albacore tuna.

* If you drink alcohol, red wine is best but in moderation.

* Limit takeaways to very occasionally.

  • Physical Activity

What we know :  

* Regular physical activity can halve your risk of heart disease.

* Being active boosts high density lipoprotein (HDL) or good cholesterol and decreases unhealthy triglycerides. It also delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and helps your cardiovascular system work more efficiently.

* Regular exercise has positive psychological benefits. For example, it can help reduce depression in a number of ways. This includes releasing feel-good brain chemicals such as neurotransmitters, endorphins and endocannabinoids, reducing immune system chemicals that can worsen depression and increasing body temperature, which may have calming effects.

What you can do : 

 * Initially work out what you like doing. Is it going to a class? Going to a gym? Walking the dog? Playing tennis? Active gardening? Putting on music and dancing around the living room? Whatever it is, just move!

* At a minimum it is recommended that adults engage in 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day of the week. Moderate activity means that you huff and puff a little but not so much that you can’t talk.

* Try and do vigorous activity where you may be working a little too hard to hold an easy conversation, three times a week. This can have additional health benefits.

* If doing physical activity as recommended feels too hard, break down the 30 minutes into three lots of 10 minutes.

* Find someone you can walk with.

* Set yourself small achievable goals and build on them as you get fitter and physical activity becomes part of your regular routine.

  • Maintaining a Healthy Weight

What we know : 

 * The recommendation is a waist circumference of 80cms or less for women. Belly fat is dangerous because it surrounds organs like your heart, kidneys and liver. It releases chemicals which can cause internal inflammation that can contribute to blockages in the arteries of your heart.

* Being overweight is a risk factor for heart disease and diabetes and also contributes to high blood pressure.

* However, long term studies on the effectiveness of dieting, concluded that dieting itself is a consistent predictor of weight gain. Dieting itself is also associated with increased food preoccupation, binge eating and eating in the absence of hunger.

* Weight loss is more about changing the underlying habits of your eating, rather than choosing the “right” diet.

What you can do : 

 * If you need to lose weight, take a long term perspective and make permanent and sustainable changes to your diet.

* Losing 5 kilos in 6 months is a realistic goal if you don’t want to put the weight back on.

* Embrace the Mediterranean diet for most of the time.

* Choose mainly water to drink.

* Become physically active.

* Accept that unrealistic images of what we should look like, does not necessarily translate into a healthier body but may translate into us disliking our bodies!

  • Be Smoke Free

What we know :  

* Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease.

* It increases the risks of heart attack and stroke and affects the arteries that supply blood to the heart and other parts of the body.

* Stopping smoking reduces the risk of heart disease immediately you quit. This risk is significantly reduced after one year. After 5 years of not smoking, the risk of heart disease is the same as someone who has never smoked.

What you can do : 

* Set a date for quitting and begin to change habits. Learn how to handle stress and urges to smoke.

* Don’t give up. Many people slip up after they have quit and start smoking again. Don’t see this as failure but recognise that many people try a number of times before they finally do give up.

* Consider nicotine replacement products.

* Seek support from health professionals who are able to provide you with scientifically based medical treatments.

Ask your GP whether you need a heart health assessment.

We would like to thank our community partners who have contributed to the success of this project:

¨ Blackheath Area Neighbourhood Centre

¨ Dianella Cottage

¨ Mountains Outreach Community Services

¨ Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District

¨ Thrive Services, and

¨ The Heart Foundation as part of their Making the Invisible Visible women’s heart health strategy.

 This week’s featured photo :


Dianne Walking in the Bush

 Artist:  Serena Holman


Sharing experiences with friends, like walking in the bush, is good for my heart because I’m exercising, breathing in fresh air and enjoying good company.






Previous featured photos : 

Yarramundi Reserve
Floating Down the River

Artist:  Lyn Stanger

I always find water calming and being in Yarramundi Reserve is important to me because it helps me feel connected to my culture.  I like to notice the little things like the sparkle of the water and the little duck on the river.  Being mindful and in the moment is good for my heart.




Wise Birds

Artist : Lexie Kelsey

I took this photo because the pelicans are waiting for their fish dinner. Fish, especially salmon, trout and tuna contains a lot of omega 3 fatty acids and are good for our hearts because the omega 3 fatty acids can slow down the growth of plaques in the arteries.


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