Australia

Love your real heart this Valentine’s Day

On a day dominated by heart-shaped chocolate boxes and other heart-shaped tokens of true love, Heart Foundation risk reduction manager Natalie Raffoul says Valentine’s Day is the ideal occasion to start taking better care of the real thing.

“If you are 45 and over and do not already have heart disease, you are eligible for an annual Heart Health Check under Medicare,” Ms Raffoul said. “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are eligible from 30.”

Brazilian-born cake maker Verusca Walker fell in love with Australia 22 years ago and cupid’s arrow struck again when she met builder Shawn soon afterwards.

Still going strong 21 years later, the Wollongong-based couple has monitored their heart health since 2014, after Ms Walker lost both her father and 37-year-old brother to heart disease back in Brazil.

It’s not lost on Ms Walker that she operates a sugar-based business.

This mum of a teenage daughter runs three times a week and keeps a close eye on the family diet.

And while her spectacular heart cakes and sugar sculptures run hot on this day of love, this year’s batch has one very special ingredient: a heartfelt plea to look after your loved ones.

“The Heart Health Check is a fantastic gift idea,” she said. “Just go. It’s a couple of minutes. Book yourself and book your husband. There’s one shot. When you lose a loved one, there is no turning back. The pain never goes away.”

The Heart Foundation’s Ms Raffoul said the Heart Health Check usually involves little more than having your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels checked.

“You will also talk about your medical and family history, as well as your lifestyle — what you eat, how active you are, whether you smoke or drink alcohol and if you are maintaining a healthy weight,” she said.

Ms Walker has an extra reason to believe Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to take husband Shawn on a detour to the doctor.

“He can take (me) out to dinner afterwards,” she said.

Try the Heart Foundation Heart Age Calculator here.

For further information about Heart Health Checks go to www.heartfoundation.org.au/