A cardiac magnetic resonance (MRI) machine can diagnose a range of heart conditions.
Patients can access world-class healthcare and be treated using state-of-the-art medical equipment.
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Do you know your risk factors?
Dr Davis advises women to get their heart checked regularly, as part of routine preventative care.
‘I would encourage all women over the age of 45, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women over the age of 30, to see their GP for a heart health check.’
She says this is important, even if you have no symptoms or believe you are low risk.
‘My experience is that many women underestimate their risk. Often women who are at high risk for heart disease believe their risk is low.’
Risks for cardiovascular disease include:
high blood pressure
smoking or tobacco use
Extra risk factors for women include:
polycystic ovary syndrome
autoimmune disorders and their treatments
some cancer treatments
Bringing heart services closer to home
The Victorian Government is also investing in heart health equipment and services at public hospitals and health services in regional Victoria.
This means more people, including women, can access heart health checks and diagnostics in their community.
Colac Area Health received $221,500 through the Regional Health Infrastructure Fund for upgraded cardiac monitoring equipment including:
17 cardiac monitors
four telemetry monitors
a central monitoring system.
Lisa Pryor, Executive Director of Nursing for Colac Area Health says patients presenting with chest pain and cardiac abnormalities is common.
‘The new cardiac monitors have made a huge improvement for staff and patients, enhancing the quality of care for our community.’
Lisa Pryor, Executive Director of Nursing, Colac Area Health
Lisa says the new cardiac monitors mean staff don’t have to transfer monitors between bays. Patients can also be observed remotely through the cardiac monitors by the Barwon Health emergency department.
This means patients can avoid unnecessary hospital transfers and be treated in their community.
‘We can care for patients here where appropriate,’ adds Lisa. ‘And if patients do need to be transferred, we can start appropriate treatment here first.’
Colac Area Health staff with the new cardiac monitors. From left to right: Dr Caitlin Kennedy, Registered Nurse Kate Watts, Associate Nurse Unit Manager David Phipps and Graduate Nurse Georgia McDonald.
Goulburn Valley Health’s Shepparton Hospital also received $310,000 in funding through the Medical Equipment Replacement Program to upgrade and replace their trans-esophageal echocardiogram probe.
Also known as a ‘TOE’ probe, this equipment allows clinicians to look at heart chambers and valves for signs of heart disease.
‘Being able to do the ‘TOE’ study on-site reduces the risk of a patient becoming more unwell,’ says Clinical Director of Cardiology at Shepparton Hospital, Dr Jennifer Coller.
The Goulburn Valley Health cardiology team outside Shepparton Hospital. From left to right: Rapid Access Atrial Fibrillation Nurse Catherine Maulion, Cardiac Nurse Coordinator Jemma Rigby, and Clinical Director of Cardiology, Dr Jennifer Coller.
Reaching all women
When it comes to women’s heart health, some groups face additional risks or barriers.
At Goulburn Valley Health’s Shepparton Hospital, Dr Coller and her team work closely with the hospital’s Aboriginal Liaison team. This helps reach women at higher risk. It also helps the team build a culturally safe environment.
Migrant and refugee women can also face more barriers to getting the right support for their heart health. These can include language barriers, or limited health literacy.
Dr Coller recently spoke to women from migrant and refugee backgrounds about women’s heart health through the Wise Well Women Program.
The program engages women from different cultural backgrounds in creating better health outcomes.
She hopes speaking to women who face more barriers will have a ripple effect. ‘Women can then return to their communities and spread the word about the importance of heart health’, adds Dr Coller.
Helping women live happier, healthier lives
Dr Coller believes we need to take gender into consideration more when treating women. This includes asking questions about:
previous issues during pregnancies like pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes
Dr Coller says it’s important to consider life stage and how it impacts the heart. For example:
a young woman might have an iron deficiency – caused by heavy periods – that can impact on heart symptoms
a woman at family planning stage might need a change in treatment
a woman going through menopause might benefit from a chat about risks versus benefits of hormone replacement therapy.
Dr Coller believes taking this time upfront to understand a woman’s overall health and lifestyle provides short and long term benefits.
By doing so, healthcare professionals can build trust and rapport, which can support a woman’s engagement with treatment and potentially help improve a women’s quality of life.
'A heart health review may not only prevent heart attacks and strokes, but potentially help improve a woman’s quality of life.’
‘It means they can feel better and get back to things they enjoy.’
Dr Jennifer Coller, Clinical Director of Cardiology, Goulburn Valley Health
Women's Health Week 2023 program
Women's Health Week is an initiative by Jean Hailes and runs 4-8 September.
This year's program features new resources and information on hormones, polycystic ovary syndrome, cervical screening self-collection, heart health, persistent pelvic pain and nutrition.