Whaiora nurse Kuini de la Mare [right] checks the blood pressure of UCOL nursing student, Georgia Hutchby-Way. PHOTO/ELI HILL

ELI HILL

With World Heart Day coming up this Sunday, the Midweek spoke to Whaiora nurse Kuini de la Mare about the importance of looking after your ticker.

Each week on a Wednesday Kuini holds half-hour long clinics to check people’s risk of being affected by heart disease.

“We get them to do a blood test and screen them for diabetes, look at their cholesterol levels.

“Then we put them into a programme, and we give them an estimation of what their heart risk is for the next few years – it’s just an estimate,” Kuini said.

For people whose results come back as low risk that’s the end of it.

“When we see them again depends on their demographic, it might be two years, or it might be five years.”

People with a risk of heart disease are brought in for a follow up appointment where Kuini talks about other lifestyle factors such as smoking and alcohol, their family history, diet, and exercise.

“We discuss goals on that day and quite often we discuss medication.

“Most people are not keen to go on medication so we will quite often try lifestyle things first. If they’re really high risk, I’ll recommend medication and also work on lifestyle.”

One example was a man who ate fish and chips every single night, as he had no one at home who cooked.

“For them it’s about setting achievable goals. For him we set the goal that he would try to cook three times a week and add some vegetables into his diets.

“For someone who’s done it a lot that might not be a big thing, but for someone like him that’s big,” Kuini said.

Patient’s family and social dynamics are also a big part of the equation as there are often other stresses and outside factors that may influence their health.

The age people should have their first screening depends on their demographic.

People with Maori, Pacific, or South Asian heritage, people with diabetes, people with other high-risk factors such as smoking or obesity, and people with severe mental illness should be screened earlier than those without risk factors.

While some people were keen to come in and learn about their health, others would often ignore letters and phone calls.

However, Kuini said the uptake had been getting better.

“We’re getting new ways to deliver it so that it makes it a bit more interesting for them and we’re looking into other ways we can better engage with people.”

People who want a heart screening should contact their general practice to check whether they’re due for a screening.