What you need to know today...

The topic of heart health is an especially important one. Heart disease is the number-one killer of women in Australia. And while there are risk factors for heart disease that we can't do much about, such as our age, sex and family history, there are many other factors that are within our power to change. So let's listen to a quick guide on what's in store for today...

Listening time: 2 mins

Heart health checks

Heart disease can be silent but deadly. But by simply having regular heart health checks with your doctor, any issues can be pinpointed early. This way, they can be more easily and effectively treated, and you’ll be more protected from developing something serious later. Here are the heart health checks that you need and how often you need them.

Heart checks

Blood pressure check – every 2 years after you turn 18.
Cholesterol check – every 5 years after you turn 45, or more frequently if at higher risk.
Diabetes check – every 3 years after you turn 40, or more frequently if at higher risk.
Weight check – every 1 to 2 years.

Talking heart-to-heart

It’s a simple conversation that takes just 10 minutes, but has the potential to save your life.

This Women's Health Week, together with Her Heart, we’re encouraging all women to talk to their immediate family, to find out if yours have a history of heart disease.

A family history of heart disease can increase your own risk of it. And it’s important information to pass on to your doctor.

Her Heart has an easy family tree to download, to help you get the conversation flowing.

Smoking: bad news for chest health

What’s one way to reduce your risk of heart disease and breast cancer? Stop smoking, or never start.

A major Australian study published this year estimated that death from heart disease is almost three times higher in current smokers versus people who had never smoked.

And it’s not just heavy smokers who are in the danger zone. Smoking 25+ cigarettes a day increases the risk of dying from heart disease almost five-fold, but even ‘light’ smoking – 4-6 cigarettes per day – doubles the risk.

If you smoke, Quit has free tools to help you kick the habit, as well as a helpline and lots of information and advice.

Quiz | What’s normal and what’s not for breast health?

Breasts come in all shapes and sizes – what’s more, the way they look and the way they feel may change throughout your life as much Melbourne’s weather!

Woman smiling

Being on the lookout for any unusual changes is one of the best things you can do for your breast health and protect yourself from breast cancer. So do you know what’s normal and what’s not when it comes to breast health?

  1. It’s normal for your breasts to change throughout your menstrual cycle.

    Your breast tissue is influenced by many hormones. These include the main female hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, as well as prolactin. These hormones rise and fall naturally as part of a menstrual cycle, which can cause your breasts to look or feel different at different phases.

    Many women find their breasts become tender and lumpy just before their period, and the pain or tenderness goes away when their period is over. This pattern of change is very common and normal.

  2. It’s normal for one breast to be a different size or shape than the other one.

    When one breast has a different size, volume, position, or form from the other, this is called ‘breast asymmetry’.

    Breast asymmetry is very common and thought to affect more than half of all women.

    If you’ve always had one breast that’s a bit different that the other, it’s usually no cause for concern. However, if there’s a large difference between your breasts – or if you notice a sudden change that is not linked to your menstrual cycle – see your doctor. 

  3. Nipple hair is not normal.

    Nipple hair is very normal!

    The hair can be light or dark, thick or thin. Nipple hair often becomes noticeably darker at times of hormonal change – such as pregnancy or menopause – or even due to other hormonal changes in your 20s and 30s. 
    In most cases, you don’t need to see your doctor for hair growth on or around your nipples. However, if you’re particularly concerned about it, or are also experiencing increased hair growth in other areas, or have other unusual symptoms, see your doctor. 

    As a side note, there is no health reason for removing nipple hair, but if you do, the safest option is to carefully trim the hair – as opposed to plucking, shaving, etc – to avoid any complications with ingrown hairs.

  4. If you have nipple discharge, and you are not pregnant or breastfeeding, you should see your doctor.

    Nipple discharge can be a normal part of breast health during pregnancy and breastfeeding. However, in non-pregnant, non-breastfeeding women, the health conditions linked with nipple discharge can range from very normal to very serious. 
    Some common and less serious causes are hormonal changes of the menstrual cycle, injury to the breast, or as a side effect to medications including hormonal contraception such as the Pill. 

    However, nipple discharge can also be a potential sign of more serious health issues such as breast cancer.

    If you experience unexpected nipple discharge, and are not pregnant or breastfeeding, see your doctor.

  5. About one in six women diagnosed with breast cancer go to their doctor because of a breast symptom other than a lump.

    It’s important to be aware that while a new breast lump is the most common symptom of breast cancer, it is not the only one.

    A 2017 study found that one in six women who were diagnosed with breast cancer went to their doctor because of another breast symptom or reason. 

    Of more than 2300 women in the study, 83% had a breast lump, 7% had a nipple change (such as discharge or new ‘pulling in’ of the nipple), 6% had breast pain and 1.4% had a symptom not related to their breasts (such as back pain or weight loss).
    This is why researchers urge women to not only be on the lookout for new breast lumps, but to also get to know other symptoms of breast cancer.

  6. Nice work!

    You got out of 5 correct

    A good way to take care of your breast health is by being familiar with your own breasts – how they look and how they feel – and knowing what is normal for you. This way, you can better detect any unusual changes and see your doctor to rule out anything serious.

    Read our article, just below, to help guide you through.

Becoming ‘breast aware’

From your 20s onwards, it's important to become familiar with the normal look and feel of your breasts so you can be on the lookout for any changes and protect yourself from breast cancer. 

Women between the ages of 50-74 years are also recommended to have a screening mammogram every two years. Women aged 40-49 or 75+ years can talk to their doctor to see if screening is recommended for them.

There is no right or wrong way to examine your own breasts. But if you’re wanting some extra help in detecting changes early that might be breast cancer, we have a fact sheet to help you be more ‘breast aware’. While nine out of 10 changes aren’t breast cancer, it’s important to be aware of any changes so you can have them investigated as soon as possible.

All the gentle guidance and information you need is right here.

Live video starting in...

Heart-healthy foods.

Today’s Facebook Live video is all about healthy eating and reducing your risk of heart disease. Jo Roberts from Jean Hailes catches up with Accredited Practising Dietitian Karen Inge from the Institute of Health and Fitness, and Nutrition Advisor for the National Heart Foundation, Sian Armstrong, to learn more about reducing your risk of heart disease through healthy eating.

Rainbow power

If you’re looking to become your own health hero, then let us tell you about a secret weapon. Research has found that ‘eating a rainbow’ can help to reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer. But wait, we’re not talking about unicorns and pots of gold. What does ‘eating a rainbow’ actually mean? And what does it have to do with good health?

Rainbow power!

The natural colours in plant foods provide our bodies with disease-fighting antioxidants. Different colours mean they have different types of antioxidants, each with unique benefits.

Often, the deeper the colour, the more protective power it contains.

The bright orange and deep yellow of carrots, sweet potatoes and pumpkin provide one type of antioxidant.

Red foods such as tomatoes provide a different disease-fighting antioxidant.

Green vegetables, such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts, and blue and purple foods, like blueberries, eggplant and plums, each have their own antioxidant armies within.

So, to best harness their power, arm yourself with all of them. Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, covering all the colours of the rainbow, over the course of each day.

Heart-healthy recipe

Fish is an important part of a heart-healthy diet.

Research shows that eating fish even just once per week is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease. But as the Heart Foundation says, if you bump this up to 2-3 times a week, the better protected you (and your heart) will be.

To help get you there, Jean Hailes naturopath Sandra Villella together with Marley Spoon have created this Grilled barramundi recipe. It features a roast potato, fennel and almond salad to serve on the side, because vegies and the ‘good’ fats found in olive oil and almonds are heart-healthy too.

Fish versus fish oil supplements

Fish oil supplements (also commonly called omega-3 supplements) have long been promoted as a way to help prevent heart disease. But a large research study found they make little to no difference.

We find out what the deal is, and whether you still need to be popping that pill, or putting fish on your dish.

Move more for chest health

Physical activity is an important way to reduce the risk of both cancer and heart disease. Visit Day 1 of Women's Health Week 2019 for great ideas on how to get moving and stay motivated.

Today's treat

Spread good health and self-care this week by downloading this e-Card as our gift just for you, or share it with friends on your social media channels. Don't forget to use the hashtag #WomensHealthWeek.

Activities and resources for workplaces and groups

Most of us spend more than a third of our lives at work. This is why the World Health Organization recognises the workplace as an important place to support and promote health and wellbeing.

Woman smiling at work

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What’s your next step on the journey to health?

Book a free breast screening

BreastScreen Australia is the national breast cancer screening program. It invites women aged between 50-74 for a free mammogram every two years. For more information or to book an appointment, phone 13 20 50 or visit their website.

Find out more

Sort out your sleep issues

Sleep apnoea is a common disorder. However, because its symptoms occur while you sleep, it can be easily overlooked, or mistaken for straight-up tiredness. Learn more about sleep apnoea and it’s links to chronic diseases such as heart disease.

Find out more

Love what you’re reading?

Jean Hailes for Women's Health is the national organisation that proudly presents Women's Health Week every year in September. Subscribe to our email updates and you'll receive a monthly wrap-up of women's health articles, the latest research, recipes, videos and more.

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