Look Inside My Heart

The 'Look Inside My Heart' campaign aims to not only highlight medical research at UNSW Medicine working to understand the physiological functions of the heart itself, but also to share our emotional connection with the wider communities who are impacted by cardiac-related diseases.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Australia

At UNSW Medicine we have chosen to run a campaign with a focus on the ‘Heart’, not only to highlight the medical research we do related to the physiological functions of the heart itself, but also to share our emotional connection with all the communities who benefit from our work. Together with our partner organisations, Centres and Institutes we are championing and leading research in cardiovascular and heart health that has impact and can be translated into real world outcomes.

Our goal is to raise awareness of the importance of research to promote and support heart health

Be kind to yourself – self-compassion can help with nutrition, eating behaviour and body weight

Dr Rebecca Reynolds, Lecturer in the School of Public Health and Community Medicine, Registered Nutritionist with the Nutrition Society of Australia

About UNSW Medicine

  • As one of Australia’s leading research-focused medical faculties, UNSW Medicine is committed to continuously improving patient outcomes.
  • Our leading educators, researchers and clinicians are turning discoveries into breakthrough cures, therapies and treatments
  • Our approach to research is inclusive, promoting the links between academics and clinicians, across disciplines and across faculties.

Through university-wide affiliations, our researchers are producing world leading multidisciplinary research in the fields of

Every decision I make as a clinician - every test I order, every medication I prescribe, every treatment I recommend - is based on the findings of research studies that have come before me. Research continues to define and expand our understanding of the heart. It informs every part of my practice and gives me cause to believe that we will continually improve the lives of patients with heart disease.

Dr Sze-Yuan Ooi, Interventional Cardiologist

Outreach events

  • UNSW Medicine was proud to present 'Look Inside My Heart', a panel discussion featuring leading clinicians, dieticians and researchers. The panel members discussed their research and how it can revolutionise cardiac health. The panel was moderated by Professor Vlado Perkovic.
  • This event was part of the Sydney Science Festival.

The least you can get away with to improve heart health is 75 minutes a week of vigorous intensity exercise. That actually comes down to only about 11 minutes a day.

Dr Belinda Parmenter, Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP)

Learn more about healthy heart habits, how to prevent heart disease and how to determine your heart disease risks from one of UNSW Medicine’s most prominent Medical Research Institute partners, the The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute. Our research partners work toward the same goal of raising awareness of the importance of research to support heart health.

Tips from our speakers of the panel

Vlado Perkovic has been the Executive Director of The George Institute, Australia since 2011, and is Professor of Medicine at UNSW Sydney, and a Staff Specialist in Nephrology at the Royal North Shore Hospital. His research focus is in clinical trials and epidemiology. Vlado will be the new Dean of Medicine at UNSW Sydney from October 2019. Qualifications: MBBS PhD FRACP FASN FAHMS


Rebecca is a lecturer in the School of Public Health and Community Medicine, and a Registered Nutritionist with the Nutrition Society of Australia. Her research focus is on disordered eating and eating disorders (including orthorexia nervosa), eating psychology, body weight management and ethical nutrition. Regular consultant to the media (www.therealbokchoy.com/media) and writer for The Conversation. Creator ofwww.therealbokchoy.com: ‘real nutrition and lifestyle’, nutrition and wider lifestyle consultancy. Passionate about: making real-world change, ethical eating, balance and evidence-based practice.

  • 60% of the burden of CVD comes from poor diet, so:
    • Eat more fruits and vegetables in particular; (and wholegrains, nuts, seeds, fish, olive oil and low fat dairy)
    • Be mindful of your intakes of processed foods and animal products that are higher in salt, saturated fat and/or trans fats; (and alcohol)
  • Your body weight matters – 8% of the burden of CVD comes from having too much stored fat in our bodies
  • How you think and feel about what you eat and drink is important for your cardiovascular health:
    • Being obsessed about healthy eating can increase psychological stress, which can directly damage your cardiovascular system
    • Caring about the environmental aspects of what you eat and drink (e.g. food waste) can give you a sense of meaning, which can be beneficial for your cardiovascular system
  • Be kind to yourself – self-compassion can help with nutrition, eating behaviour and body weight

Nutrition (in children)

Jennifer is a clinical dietitian at Sydney Children’s Hospital and a Senior Research Fellow at the School of Women’s & Children’s Health in the Faculty of Medicine, UNSW. Jennifer specialises in the area of nutrition in paediatric oncology both during and after cancer treatment. Jennifer has developed an ehealth program called Reboot-Kids which aims to improve the dietary intake of survivors of childhood cancer ultimately reducing their risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Jennifer is also known as "The Fussy Eating Doctor". She regularly consults to the media on childhood nutrition and has several online programs helping parents of children with fussy eaters.

  • Focusing on your diet and lifestyle changes can be just as effective, if not more effective for improving our heart health than medication.
  • Consume lots of fruit and vegetables-focus on a plant-based diet with vegetables at every meal
  • Make sure you have enough fibre in your diet, especially soluble fibre eating foods such as oats, barley, legumes, beans, sweet potato, pears, apples, citrus and eggplant
  • Eat healthy fats such as nuts, avocado extra-virgin olive oil and oily fish


Alexandra Jones is a public health lawyer leading The George Institute’s Food Policy Division program on regulatory strategies to prevent diet-related disease. Ali’s current research interests include Australia’s front-of-pack Health Star Rating system, fiscal policies to improve diets (e.g. taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages), product reformulation, restrictions on unhealthy marketing, and the interaction of international trade law and health. Ali has previously worked on global tobacco control, and in health and human rights. She holds a LL.M. in Global Health Law from Georgetown Law (Washington, D.C. USA), and a BA/LLB from the University of Sydney. Her Ph.D. explores nutrition labelling regulation worldwide.

  • Make the most of the food label when shopping. The Health Star Rating for example is a great way to compare the healthiness of similar packaged items, but don’t let it replace common sense – many of the healthiest choices (e.g. fresh fruit and veg) don’t come in packages.
  • As only 1/3 of packaged foods now carry Health Stars, you can use The George’s free Food Switch app to scan the bar code of products and get this information for all products, as well as recommendations for healthier choices.
  • Most of the salt eaten by Australians doesn’t come from what we add from the shaker at the table – its in processed and packaged foods like breads, breakfast cereals, cheeses and processed meat. To reduce salt intake, look for lower salt versions of these products.
  • Government’s role in our diets isn’t about strengthening the ‘nanny state’, it’s just about resetting the currently unhealthy default to make it easier for us to make good food choices.

Stress and Mental Health

Professor Michael Farrell (FRCP FRCPsych) is the Director of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre since 2011. Before that he was Professor of Addiction Psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College London. His extensive research interests include psychiatric epidemiology looking at the prevalence and life course of different conditions including anxiety and depression. He is also interested in the impact of smoking, drinking and other drug use such as stimulants on cardiovascular disease. Prof Farrell will address the risk of stress and mental illness on Cardiovascular health as well as talk to the mental health issues post myocardial infarction and its complications.

  • Don't smoke - smoking is one of the single biggest risk factors for cardiac disease
  • Drink moderately
  • Live a balanced lifestyle and manage your stress


Dr Belinda Parmenter is an accredited exercise physiologist (AEP) with over 25 years’ experience in prescribing and delivering exercise for persons with or at risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Her clinical and research experience includes a specialisation and interest in novel and brief exercise and physical activity interventions to improve heart health. She has a particular interest in researching ways to improve adoption and adherence of exercise to prevent and treat cardiovascular disease across the lifespan and works with children, adolescents, adults and older adults.

  • Just move: Choose to move. Choose to stand. Tips to be more active: I’m not sure many people like walking upstairs, but it also counts and is easy to walk down the stairs. Take the lift to the top floor and walk down to your office/classroom level. Take the park further away from the shops. Push a trolley at the supermarket, carry your shopping bags inside, don’t order online home delivery. Everyone says get off a stop earlier when on public transport, but not many actually do it. Do it if you want to, but you can go for a five minute walk around your building every hour. Set an alarm on your phone to go off every hour to remind you to move. Put your bin outside your office. Put the printer down the hallway. Stand on the bus/train journey into school or work. Have standing meetings. Have walking meetings. If you are really keen get a bike or treadmill desk.
  • It is only 22 minutes a day of moderate intensity (exercise that is somewhat hard, where you are a little out of breath, but can still maintain a conversation) or 11 minutes a day of vigorous intensity (exercise that feels hard/very hard, causes you to sweat, be out of breath to the point where you can’t talk continuously and get a bit of muscle soreness). And…you can accumulate it throughout the day. Walk with purpose, run up a stair case and you’ll find it easier to meet the guidelines.
  • Strength training counts against the fight with CVD. This includes going to the gym and lifting weights, doing push-ups, doing squats, carrying groceries, pilates, any activity that requires the muscles to push against a force or pull a load.
  • If you have cardiovascular disease or a risk factor such as high blood pressure, diabetes (or similar chronic condition) you are entitled to a referral to an exercise physiologist from your GP. Ask your GP about a GP Management Plan and if they know any good AEPs they can refer you to for some more exercise advice and prescription for your particular needs.


Dr Sze-Yuan Ooi is a Staff Specialist in Cardiology and the Director of the Coronary Care Unit, Prince of Wales Hospital. His clinical expertise is in coronary intervention and cardiac device implantation. He holds a Conjoint Senior Lecturer appointment with the University of NSW. Sze-Yuan obtained his Bachelor degree in Medicine and Surgery with Honours from the University of Queensland in 1997. He is a Fellow of the Australasian College of Physicians (FRACP) and the Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand (FCSANZ). He undertook his research degree at the University of Leeds in the area of coronary inflammation. Dr Ooi’s principal research interests are in the field of coronary inflammation, coronary physiology and new cardiac device technologies.

  • Angina is not always painful. It is classically described as a tightness or pressure in the chest.
  • Breathlessness or chest discomfort on exertion is a warning sign. Heed it!
  • Muscle damage caused by a heart attack is irreversible. Time is muscle! Act fast.
  • If there is a family history of heart attack or stroke, be proactive and speak to your GP.
  • Don't smoke!
  • Enjoy life in moderation.