Here’s how you can help fight Australia’s single leading cause of death

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Heart disease continues to be the single leading cause of death in Australia, according to new Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data released today.

The ABS’ annual Causes of Death data show that heart disease claimed the lives of 17,533 Australians in 2018, or around 48 every day.

In response, the Heart Foundation is calling on Australians to join the fight against heart disease  and improve their own heart health by signing up for its MyMarathon challenge, which will run throughout October.

MyMarathon allows participants to conquer a marathon at their own pace and in any place, while also raising money to tackle heart disease.

Participants will have the entire month of October 2019 to run, jog, walk, cycle or wheel the distance of a marathon (42.2 kilometres), which equates to around 1.4 kilometres a day. The distance can be built up at any time of the day or night that is convenient for them.

Australians have many different motivations for signing up to do MyMarathon, but for Julie and Clarisa Wiggins, the reason is deeply personal and painful.

On 26 August last year, Julie and her husband, Peter, were enjoying a typical Sunday afternoon with their 18-year-old daughter, Clarisa, at their home on a farm about 78 kilometres north of Swan Hill, Victoria.

In the loungeroom, Clarisa was chatting with Peter about her plans to attend university in Melbourne the following year when he got up to go to the kitchen.

Clarisa heard a loud noise from the kitchen. When she went to investigate it, Clarisa found her father clutching his chest and falling to the ground. Peter had suffered a cardiac arrest, in which the heart stops beating.

With the help of a Triple Zero call taker, Julie performed CPR. Clarisa called neighbours, who also helped with CPR until an ambulance arrived.

Peter was transferred to a hospital in Melbourne, where he passed away six days later at the age of just 55.

“It happened so quickly and there was no warning,” said Julie. “Apart from being a few kilos overweight, Peter was fit and healthy. Some days I still can’t believe it.”

As the first-year anniversary of Peter’s death approached, Julie and Clarisa wanted to do something in his honour. This led them to registering as a mother-daughter team for the Heart Foundation’s MyMarathon.

“By doing this for Peter, we hope to raise awareness about heart disease, along with funds for research and community education,” Julie said. “As our experience shows, there is still a lot to learn and understand.”

MyMarathon is open to people of all fitness levels and ages. Location is no barrier either. Thousands of people have already registered from every state and territory across Australia, including regional and remote areas. Last year, Australians working in Antarctica did MyMarathon.

Heart Foundation Director of Active Living, Adjunct Professor Trevor Shilton, said you don’t need to be an elite athlete to conquer MyMarathon.

“Just about anyone can get involved, no matter what your age, location, background or fitness level. You decide the pace and you decide the place,” Professor Shilton said.

“You can do it in four hours, four days or four weeks; you can do it on your own or part of a team; you can walk, run, wheel or shuffle; you can do it anywhere you like – it’s a very flexible way to complete a marathon.

“In addition to ticking ‘do a marathon’ off your bucket list, your heart will thank you for taking part. Regular physical activity helps to keep your heart strong and healthy, while also contributing to your broader physical and mental health.”

To help the Heart Foundation achieve its goal of a world where people don’t suffer or die because of heart disease, MyMarathon participants are encouraged to ask family, friends and colleagues to sponsor their efforts.

“We are really pleased and grateful about the number of people who have already signed up and started fundraising for this year’s event, but we are hoping for many more to get involved before MyMarathon officially gets underway on 1 October,” Professor Shilton said.

“The more people who take part, the more funds can be raised for the Heart Foundation’s vital work in fighting heart disease.

“This includes funding world-class cardiovascular research, guiding health professionals, educating Australians to make healthy choices, and supporting people living with heart conditions.”

You will find helpful resources, along with everything you need to know about registering, participating and fundraising, at the MyMarathon web site.

MyMarathon is the trademark of the British Heart Foundation.