Red alert keeps Griffith at heart of the matter

Griffith University will take on a hearty shade of red today in support of the Heart Foundation’s Go Red for Women campaign.

The risks of heart disease — the number one killer of women in Australia — will be highlighted on the University’s Gold Coast, Nathan and Logan campuses.

“We are supporting the Heart Foundation’s quest to get more women involved in healthy cardiovascular activities,” Professor Lyn Griffiths, Director of the Griffith Health Institute, said.

“The Griffith Health Institute is undertaking significant cardiovascular research that looks at healthy ageing, associated gene changes and recovery from cardiovascular events.”

Significant cardiovascular research is ongoing at the Griffith Health Institute, including an emerging focus on the different effects of cardiovascular disease on the hearts of men and hearts of women.

“There is a wealth of difference in female heart cells and male heart cells,” Professor John Headrick, Deputy Director of the Griffith Health Institute’s Heart Foundation Research Centre, said.

“It’s well documented that males and females have differing risks of heart disease at different life stages, and evidence does indicate that male and female hearts respond differently to heart attack.

“Our goal is to identify ways to reduce cell damage during heart attacks and this damage may arise differently in women and men.

“At a basic level we are identifying differences that might lead to tailored therapies in males and females.”

Professor Headrick said this type of sex-distinct research was on the rise and had the potential to uncover important new findings.

Professor Griffiths is leading a team from the Institute’s Genomics Research Centre investigating genetic links to cardiovascular disease.

The ongoing study, funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council, is focused on the isolated population of Norfolk Island, and directed towards defining the genetic factors that influence gene susceptibility.

It aims to identify transcriptional biomarkers for cardiovascular risk traits so that more efficient diagnostic, prevention and treatment strategies can be developed.

The use of an isolated population offers important advantages in gene mapping studies with the cultural isolation reducing the effects of non-genetic variables by promoting a uniform lifestyle.

“We are trying to identify genes that play a role in cardiovascular disease. This study looks at gene expression changes with a cardiovascular disease risk factor,” Professor Griffiths said.

Staff and students at the Gold Coast campus will wear red and hand out red apples to highlight the risk of heart disease among women. The Go Health Go Griffith Ambulance will offer free blood pressure checks outside the library throughout the day.

Information stalls will also be set up on the Nathan and Logan campuses with free blood pressure and body mass index checks available between 10am and 2pm.

The Heart Foundation’s Go Red for Women campaign encourages all people to improve heart health by taking up a healthy heart challenge this June.

It also aims to increase awareness of the risks of heart disease among women.