The Love Your Heart Project

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. During 2017 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 Love Your Heart – Celebrating Women’s Hearts with Photography booklet was produced as part of this project. These photographs can been seen below and the booklet can be download via this link : Love Your Heart Booklet

An exhibition was held in September 2017 to showcase the photography and launch the Love Your Heart Campaign and over the coming weeks, from 2017 to 2019 each photo was published our our website and Facebook page to remind all women to “Love Your Heart”

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.

Featured photos :


We hope you have enjoyed our weekly Love Your Heart posts and for more information on heart health see the Heart Foundation



Path to Wellness

Artist : Gayle Shaw

Walking at a steady pace along the beautiful paths of our mountainous landscape keeps me active to maintain a healthy heart. Love your heart!






Squiggly Gum

Artist : Aunty Elly Begg

This little creature has left his mark upon the gum of the Squiggly bark.

We can exercise too – all we need is a foot or two!

30 minutes is all it takes to help lower blood pressure and feel the difference it makes!





Take Courage My Heart

Artist : Lyn MacKenzie

These are not something new, but places in time that touched my heart – before my mental health issues became my prison.

As a wise woman I know says “It is what it is, but it doesn’t have to stay that way”.

Take courage my heart.





Wonga Beach II

Artist : Denise Love-Winn

Wonga Beach in far North Queensland is where I go to “make my heart sing”.






Drum Circle

Artist : Parenting Young

Making music together at Parenting Young keeps us healthy and happy.







Duck Emerging from Water

Artist : Jeannine Woolley

Duck emerging from water bathing in singular movement.





Warmth at Sunset

Artist : Kerry Brokman

Water is spiritual healing for my heart.







Artist : Jennifer McPhee

These fronds are enriched by plenty of water. Water helps us keep the blood flowing, helps us help our hearts. Water, the keeper of life.







Mixing Health & Pleasure

 Artist:  Heather Haisman

All good says media. Health Authorities report all beneficial. My heart loves these.








Just a Moment II

Artist : Lina King

Kookaburras sound happy and according to the American Heart Association “Laughter can decrease stress hormones, reduce artery inflammation and increase HDL – the good cholesterol”.







Honey Bee

Artist : Lexie Kelsey

Raw honey is good for the heart in small doses. You only need a teaspoon a day.







Artist : Serena Holman

Relaxing and feeling calm is good for my heart.

Taking time to be outdoors in the fresh air, feeling the sunshine and being near soothing water helps me refuel and feel calm and relaxed.





My New Born “My Little Heart”

Artist : Marion Conquest

My heart is touched every day by this beautiful memory.

Motherhood – close to my heart with unconditional love.






New Growth

Artist : Vivian Elliott

Joy fills my heart as I gaze at the rich colours of life and new growth.







Swimming is the Best!

Artist : Tilly

Swimming feels amazing!







Artist : Marion Conquest

Frequently, when walking past this wooded property, I am reminded of our dear friends who used to live there. We remain close with a friendship as warm, solid and enduring as these beautiful trees. These are thoughts and reflections of mine whilst walking for a healthy heart.






Wonga Beach

Artist : Denise Love-Winn

Wonga Beach in far North Queensland is where I go to “make my heart sing”.







Brand New Day

Artist : Erica Fedotovs

My heart sings at the start of every new day. I am grateful to be alive.






Fun Occasion

Artist : Passion Rodziewicz

This photo is taken during an afternoon tea treat with my son. Literally – he chose a special candy to reflect this fun occasion. It was a lovely outing.






Thea & Me

Artist : Lisa

Hugs with friends is great for my heart.





Patterns of Light

Artist : Lyn Stanger

Meditating in the beauty of nature helps me to feel calm and connected. It is about being in the heart of the moment.






Water & Light

Artist : Margaret Dawson

Water is essential to life. 6-8 glasses of water a day helps to keep our bodies hydrated.






Calm Waters

Artist : Roz Maunder

Walking along the edge of the water allows me to calmly reflect and clear my head. The cool fresh air fills my lungs and movement increases my blood circulation, keeping my heart healthy.






My Heart Tao

Artist : Louise MacDonald

“Tao”: the absolute heart entity which is the source of the universe…







Artist : Jeannine Woolley 

Lady with dogs on wharf at Wentworth Falls. Contemplation, life and peace of heart.





Happy Days

Artist : Julianne McWhirter

A daily walk for your dog is also great exercise for you and you are a lot less likely to put off a walk if you know your pooch has been hanging out for it all day. Watching dogs play brings relaxation and joy to the heart.




I turned around to see where I had been  

Artist:  Margaret Dawson

This bush track strengthens my heart in so many ways. It is a place for swift movements, slow reflection and chance meeting with others.







Artist : Kerry Brokman

Sharing with friends makes my heart happy.




Heart Collection

Artist : Jade Hudson

I’ve collected hearts on walks, at beaches and at home while making food for my family. For me, my heart is my centre and keeping it healthy, emotionally and physically, is the basis for a contented life.




The Ganesha Tree

Artist : Vivian Elliott

When I go bush walking and see this tree my heart fills with pure bliss.








Artist : Sue Wildman

Friendships and social contacts help increase levels of the hormone oxytocin which acts as a cardio-protective hormone that protects our cardiovascular system.   What a wonderful way to protect our hearts!






Climb Every Mountain

Artist : Gayle Shaw

Climb every mountain…whether it be a mountain or a small hill, movement of my body keeps my heart healthy, pumping rich   oxygenated blood to my brain, allowing me to tackle the demands of life with a smile.








Artist : Jennifer McPhee

Taking time to look, to see the colour and detail in everyday life.  Being mindful is good for heart health as it helps us to feel calm and lowers stress levels.






The Cycles of Life

Artist : Jan Allan

I see beauty in all stages of life and this gladdens my heart.





Just a Moment

Artist : Lina King

Laughter, love and nature’s music keeps the heart beating stronger.







Creative Heart

Artist : Jo

Being creative is great for my emotional wellbeing.





Music for the Eyes

Artist : Claudine Nuhma

The light playing on the trees fills my heart with a beautiful music.






Blossoms of the Heart
Artist : Melinda Kelsey
Being on crutches for four months, my first walk in my garden touched my heart. Camellias of many hues in full bloom inspired me to graduate to a walking stick.


Apples for Hearts

Artist:  Janet Kirkpatrick

A fun photograph of my granddaughter, age 10. I believe that good heart health should start at an early age.






Artist:  Judith Hawkes

Cleaning isn’t one of my favourite things to do, but counting it as 30 minutes exercise for my heart health improves my motivation and it does feel good when the house is clean!







Wednesday Morning Rainbow

Artist : Jacqueline Wagner

The beauty of nature is goodness, a balm for the heart. Photographing a rainbow some raindrops formed hearts on the window and some trees being blown by the wind seemed to take the shape of a woman.






Artist : Sue Wildman

Trees – surrounding us – taking in their energies – helps lower blood pressure.




Beauty in Strength

Artist : Erika Fedotovs

Breathing in beauty and nature fills my heart with calmness and love.







Artist : Jenny Gill

Do things that give you a ‘buzz’. Joy, surprise, interest, wonder, fun and novelty strengthen the heart by reducing stress.




Balls of Happiness

Artist : Jan Allan

Balls of happiness gladden my heart.







In Nature

Artist : Roz Maunder

Being in nature helps to make me feel relaxed and calm and mindful of all that is around me.







Beach Time

Artist : Sophie

Snorkelling, to me, means being with nature, exercise and family time. All good for my heart.






Tribute to Rita Merle  

Artist:  Shelley Oliver

This photo is a tribute to my mother, Rita, who died from heart disease aged 62 in 1985. My mother was a cigarette smoker for all of her adult life and if she had not been a smoker, she would have certainly lived to attend my wedding the year after her death. I believe her message to us all would be, please do not smoke.







Artist:  Karen Edwards

Sitting in nature nurtures the heart and soul. Be kind to yourself and your heart. Fresh air, exercise, good friends, laughter and gratitude equals a healthy heart.






Heart of Grass

Artist : Aunty Elly Begg

“Heart of Grass” – nature’s beauty – spiritual connection to land is important for my health – my heart – my happiness.








Let’s Walk the Heart

Artist : Teena Garcia Kramer

A healthy heart is as easy as a 30 minute walk in the sun. Do it in one stretch or 3 short bursts every day.






Inspirations of the Heart

Artist:  Melinda Kelsey

Using my creativity on my quilt has been inspirational. My heart responds with joy when I complete yet another scene.







My Faithful Friend  

Artist:  Heather Haisman

“Kooka” comes to my son’s veranda every day for Michael to stroke its breast, then off Kooka flies. This does my heart good as Michael has a brain injury.






An Early Start

Artist : Antonia Ravesi

Learning how to look after heart health needs to start in childhood.




Sisterly Love

Artist : Cornelia Gartner

Strong, supportive, fun loving relationships and connections get me through stressful periods in life. Managing stress better helps me maintain a healthy heart



A Simple Moment

Artist : Darcey Spellman

This is my family. Simple moments like this fill my heart to the rim! Taking in the love with one long breath and exhaling the joy and happiness keeps my heart healthy.






Fruit & Veg

Artist : Judith Hawkes

I enjoy shopping for and storing my weekly fruit and veg. Then I have a good supply of healthy food to keep me going during a busy work week.




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.


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.