2016 February – Director’s Blog – Pulses!


by Susan Brumby.

When I read it was the International Year of the Pulse, I immediately thought of measuring heart rates. Having a pulse and keeping it pulsing is particularly important for rural and remote populations where sadly the number of deaths from heart disease is higher than in urban populations. If Australians living in rural and remote areas had the same death rates as urban Australians, there would have been 3,632 fewer deaths due to coronary heart disease in rural areas in 2009-2011.[1] Confronting? I’m thinking of three towns with populations of around 1000 people — Coleraine, Wee Waa and Keith — gone.

The further you live from a metropolitan centre, the greater your risk of hospitalisation and death from cardiovascular disease. Therefore, the greater the need is, to care about your heart. If you were going to purchase a pump to replace your heart, this is what you would need to ask your pump dealer:

“I want a light weight pump (280 – 340 grams) that can pump 11,500 litres per day through 80 – 100,000 kilometres of pipe, run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for 80—90 years and pump around 4.1 mega litres per year. I can’t bring it in to be serviced”.

So if you want your heart pump to do this:

  1. Know your numbers – this includes blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose and waist measurements.
  2. Know your family history – heart disease risk is heritable so knowing what your family has suffered or died from is important.
  3. Know how to perform CPR
  4. Act early and seek help with chest pain. Research has found that the further you live away from a health service the longer you wait at home[2]. Exactly the opposite of what you must do to increase your chance of living.
  5. Exercise regularly, eat a diet that meets the new Australian guidelines[3] and that includes eating pulses!
  6. Know your ambulance and hospital numbers.
  7. Be an advocate to make healthy choices the easy choice and have access to health services that understand our risk. If transferred to a large hospital make sure they know that you are returning to a rural area and connect with local services for support.

Anyway, back to the International Year of the Pulse (IYP)[4] as declared by the 68th United Nations General Assembly. It is actually about promoting and eating more pulses (lentils, chickpeas, beans and peas). Two new systematic reviews of more than 3000 papers demonstrate the health benefits of eating one serving or more of pulses daily.[5],[6]

So, as it turns out, eating pulses may help your pulse.

We would love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to leave a comment below, and if you have any questions we’ll get back to you.

Kind Regards,


Dr Susan Brumby
Director – The National Centre for Farmer Health
Clinical Associate Professor, Deakin University

The National Centre for Farmer Health can be contacted via email: ncfh@wdhs.net or phone: +61 (03) 5551 8533.
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[1] National Rural Health Alliance (2015) Cardiovascular Disease in Rural Australia accessed at http://ruralhealth.org.au/sites/default/files/publications/cardiovascular-disease-fact-sheet-may-2015.pdf

[2] Baker, T., S. McCoombe, et al (2011). “Chest pain in rural communities; balancing decisions and distance.” Emerg Med Australas 23(3): 337-345

[3] https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/guidelines/australian-guide-healthy-eating

[4] Food and Agriculture Organisation, International Year of the Pulse (2016) accessed at http://www.fao.org/pulses-2016/en/

[5] Ha, V., J. L. Sievenpiper, et al (2014). “Effect of dietary pulse intake on established therapeutic lipid targets for cardiovascular risk reduction: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.” Canadian Medical Association Journal 186(8):

[6] Li, S. S., C. W. C. Kendall, et al (2014). “Dietary pulses, satiety and food intake: A systematic review and meta-analysis of acute feeding trials.” Obesity 22(8): 1773-1780.