Welcome to the November newsletter from the clinical team at the Heart Foundation. In this edition, read about how the Heart Foundation is helping New Zealanders become more proactive about their heart health, with the launch of its new online risk assessment and management tool, My Heart Check.

Medical Director, Dr Gerry Devlin, gives highlights from the ESC Congress and we feature new research the Heart Foundation has funded in its latest research grants round.

Also, sign up for our Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Week webinar with Dr Guy Armstrong.

Featured topics this month include:

1. My Heart Check risk assessment tool
2. Heart Foundation research grants
3. Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Week
4. Heart Foundation resource update
5. New Heart Foundation Community Operations Manager
6. From the Medical Director desk
7. Research articles
8. Events and support groups for your patients
9. Contact your local Heart Health Advocate

My Heart Check

My Heart Check

Your patients can now assess their heart health with a new free online tool.

The Heart Foundation is helping New Zealanders become more proactive about their heart health with its new online risk assessment and management tool, My Heart Check. The risk management tool is freely available for all New Zealanders to self-assess their heart health.

My Heart Check complements the tools clinicians use in assessing the heart health risk of their patients and helps health care professionals provide further care for patients at increased risk.

Life-saving heart research

The Heart Foundation has just announced $4.2 million of funding for heart research and specialist training for New Zealand clinicians, bringing the total awarded by the charity since its formation in 1968, to more than $78 million.

"Heart disease is New Zealand's single biggest killer. With our ongoing commitment to supporting research, we can keep saving lives and improve the quality of life for the 170,000 New Zealanders living with heart disease."

This year the Heart Foundation has awarded research grants across the bench-to-bedside spectrum, including new treatments, structural interventions and prevention.

Kaupapa Māori action research

Erina Korohina has been awarded a Heart Foundation Māori Cardiovascular Research Fellowship and will use kaupapa Māori approaches to support whanau and communities to develop an approach to eating well that works for them in their environment and with resources that are easily accessible.

This approach is intended to have a positive effect on persistent heart health inequities that impact Maori.

Erina Korohina

There is an equity gap in heart disease prevalence and mortality for Māori compared to non-Māori, and healthy nutrition knowledge is a key part of improving heart health.”

The research will review different sources of nutrition information that includes Western science, mātauranga (knowledge) Māori and social media. As well as understanding community perceptions, barriers to good nutrition and enablers to sustaining long-term healthy nutrition.


Premature babies at higher risk of heart disease

Dr Sarah Harris

Premature babies and their mothers at higher risk of developing heart disease and new research could change New Zealand's national guidelines for cardiovascular screening for mothers and babies.

Dr Sarah Harris, Neonatal Paediatrician, University of Otago Christchurch, has been awarded a Heart Foundation Research Fellowship to come up with real-world solutions to investigate the link between premature birth and heart disease.

"Our aim is to ensure that premature birth does not lead to a premature death later in life in these children or their mums," says Dr Harris. "Emerging evidence shows adults who were born prematurely, and mothers who give birth to a premature baby, are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease but neither are included in our national guidelines for cardiovascular risk screening."

Atrial Fibrillation (AF) Awareness Week

The Heart Foundation Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Week is running from 16 to 22 November 2020. You are invited to join Cardiologist Dr Guy Armstrong for our AF awareness webinar run in conjunction with the Goodfellow Unit.

Dr Armstrong will discuss prevention, diagnosis and management in the primary care sector. Register for the webinar here.

Date: Tuesday 17 November
Time: 7.30 pm to 8.45 pm


Heart Foundation resources

We have updated the pacemaker resource and ‘Heart attack warning signs’ poster. Both resources have been redesigned, and the content has been reviewed and updated where required. Translated versions of the heart attack warning signs poster will be released as older stock is used up.

Jamie Shirlaw joins the Heart Foundation

Jamie Shirlaw joins the Heart Foundation

We welcome Jamie Shirlaw as our new Care and Support Community Operations Manager.

Jamie will be responsible for our Heart Healthcare Advocates who are based throughout New Zealand, and will grow our service offerings for Care and Support.

Jamie has held management roles in the health sector and NGO/Charity space, working in disability, brain injury and chronic illness.


From the desk of Heart Foundation Medical Director, Dr Gerry Devlin

In August the European Society of Cardiology held its annual scientific meeting, but this year, due to Covid-19, it was fully virtual.

One of the biggest news stories was the expanding evidence base to support the use of sodium-glucose co-transporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors.

The EMPEROR-Reduced trial evaluated the effects of an SGLT2 inhibitor (empagliflozin 10 mg once daily vs. placebo) in 3,730 patients with heart failure and reduced left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF ≤40%), with or without diabetes. During a median follow-up of 16 months, patients in the empagliflozin group had a lower risk of cardiovascular death or hospitalisation for heart failure than those in the placebo group, regardless of the presence or absence of diabetes.

In the DAPA-CKD trial, treatment with the SGLT2 inhibitor dapagliflozin cut the incidence of substantially worsened chronic kidney disease by an average of 39% compared with placebo when added to standard treatment. The level of benefit was similar in patients with and without diabetes. It also delayed the initiation of dialysis and reduced the number of deaths.


Some good news is that SGLT2 inhibitors will be funded by PHARMAC for diabetic patients in the next few months. The emerging evidence base of benefit in a non-diabetic population will likely be reflected in updated international guidelines, and will also need to be considered within New Zealand.

Another highlight of the meeting included the update of four ESC practice guidelines:

1. AF
3. Sports Cardiology and Exercise in people with CVD
4. Adult congenital heart disease

Some key recommendations from the ESC AF Guidelines 2020:

- Diagnosis of clinical AF requires an ECG or a single-lead ECG tracing of ≥30 seconds.
- Novel technologies such as wearables, add to the diagnostic potential, but are still incompletely defined.
- For optimal management, structured characterisation of AF should be considered in all patients - clinical assessment of stroke risk, symptom status, burden of AF and evaluation of possible cause.
- Use of the Atrial Fibrillation Better Care (ABC) holistic pathway streamlines integrated care of AF patients across all healthcare levels and among specialties.
- Optimising shared decision-making about AF treatment options, and patient-reported outcomes should be routinely collected.

Overall, there is also greater emphasis on the need for lifestyle modifications and targeted therapy of intercurrent conditions.

Research articles

Inequity in mortality rate following first myocardial infarction (MI) in Maori and Pacific patients

In New Zealand, at first presentation with MI, Māori, Pacific and Indian patients are younger, have more advanced cardiac disease and a greater burden of CVD risk factors compared with others. Some of the inequity in outcomes for Maori and Pacific people, is associated with differences in potentially modifiable clinical factors.

Medical Marijuana, Recreational Cannabis, and Cardiovascular Health

This Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association critically reviews the use of medicinal and recreational cannabis from a clinical and public health perspective, evaluating its safety and efficacy profile, particularly in relationship to cardiovascular health.

Events and support groups

Check our website for updates regarding Heart Foundation community events and support groups.

Details of DHB cardiac rehabs and community run support groups are listed on our directory. We encourage you to contact the groups for more information.


Contact your local Heart Health Advocate

The Heart Health Advocate in your area, can support you with all things heart related. Get in touch to let us know how we can help.


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The Heart Foundation
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