A heart to heart about invisible illness

Written by Melissa Appleby

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a topic very close to my heart. Both my mother and maternal grandmother were diagnosed with heart conditions in their early 30s and recently a close friend of mine suffered a heart attack at the age of 32.

All three of these women lead very healthy, active lifestyles - my 70 year old grandmother still goes to the gym twice a week! - and looking at them you’d have no idea they have CVD. But that’s the nature of invisible illness, on the surface there’s no sign of it. Now that I am approaching my 30s, I can’t help but consider my own heart health. I’ve been doing regular checks and fortunately for me it’s a case of so far so good. But I also don’t want to take any chances.

As a type 1 diabetic, I’ve experienced invisible illness first hand. Being diagnosed in 2012 was the wake up call I needed to get out and be active. I decided early on that I wouldn’t let diabetes hold me back. In fact I’m motivated to work harder as a result.

Research has proven that moving more and sitting less will reduce your risk of (or help manage) CVD and type 2 Diabetes, while improving/maintaining your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Yet statistically 56% of Australian adults are either inactive or have low levels of physical activity. For me, cycling is a really enjoyable way to get moving. And the best part is that it can be as easy or as hard as you wish it to be. 

If it has been a little while since your last ride, it might seem daunting to cycle again, but as the saying goes - it’s just like riding a bike. Many of us were taught as children and it really is one of those things you don’t ever really forget.

You’ll be surprised at how far a bike ride can take you and there’s plenty of safe, scenic rides all throughout NSW. Don’t have a bike? Ask! It’s likely you know someone with a bike you can borrow.

Need more convincing? Here’s why you should get out on two wheels - cycling is low impact, promotes better lung health, builds muscle and can strengthen your immune system. Heart disease can affect anyone. But the good news is there’s a preventative measure you can take every day - exercise! So gear up and get out there.

On March 11 women all over NSW will be cycling to raise awareness for heart health. I hope you’ll join me and the Heart Foundation Gear Up Girl ambassadors for a fantastic cause and a great day out.

Call your friends and get them involved! 


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