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New Campaign Tackles Killer Head-On

The biggest single killer of New Zealanders is being tackled by a new public information campaign launched at Parliament today.

Coronary heart disease is the largest single cause of death of New Zealanders.

There are a number of factors which are known to increase the risk of a heart attack such as raised cholesterol, raised blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, being overweight and a lack of physical activity. The more risk factors you have the greater your chance of a heart attack.

However, people can modify their lifestyle to lower their risk profile and that is the focus of the Take Control of Your Cholesterol campaign launched by Minister of Health Annette King today, and which is being co-ordinated by PHARMAC in conjunction with the Heart Foundation and Sport and Recreation New Zealand.

“The campaign aims to have people alter their lifestyle to reduce the chance they will suffer a cardiac event, such as a heart attack or stroke,” explains PHARMAC chief executive Wayne McNee. “We want to get the message across that there are positive steps people can take to lower their cholesterol levels.”

“Many people will be aware of information urging them to adopt a healthier lifestyle, what we want to emphasise is that the end result of this could be that people save themselves from having a heart attack, or a stroke,” Wayne McNee says. “Regular daily activity and a healthy diet are positive ways in which people can take control of their cholesterol.”

PHARMAC already supports the Green Prescriptions initiative developed with the former Hillary Commission (now Sport and Recreation New Zealand). This programme encourages people to take in some daily activity in consultation with their doctor to improve their health.

For the campaign the Heart Foundation has developed broad recommendations on what to eat for a healthy dietary pattern. The recommendations improve cholesterol levels and blood sugar control, lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of blood clots. Healthy dietary patterns will complement cholesterol-lowering drugs and reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke. The recommendations include examples of what foods to eat, amounts, and serving sizes.

“PHARMAC is pleased to work with these other agencies to promote healthy lifestyle programmes. Many risk factors for cardiovascular disease can be reduced by people modifying their lifestyle. This can mean changing to a more healthy diet, stopping smoking, or building activity into their day,” Wayne McNee says. “However, it is a reality that these moves will not be sufficient for some people, who will also need to take medication to lower their cholesterol levels.”
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2/New campaign tackles killer head-on

In addition to promoting healthy lifestyles, PHARMAC has recently made it easier for at-risk people to gain access to cholesterol-lowering drugs in a move that will make about 300,000 people eligible to have statins prescribed.

“Widening access is only one part of the equation,” Wayne McNee says. “Some of the most high-risk people do not regularly visit their doctor, or do not even have a regular doctor. Others have been prescribed medication but have not stuck to it.”

Risk groups targeted by the campaign include people over 40, and Maori and Pacific peoples.

“We are encouraging people to adopt healthier lifestyles to take control of their cholesterol. If this is not enough for some people, we want to ensure they have access to medicines which can also help.”

The ongoing campaign begins with information packs being sent to doctors, followed by targeted mail drops to key community groups and a series of advertisements.

[ends]

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