With one in five Kiwis dying from heart disease, the Heart Foundation is calling for people to help tackle the sobering health statistic by volunteering as a street collector for its Big Heart Appeal on Friday, February 22 and Saturday February 23.

Heart Foundation medical director Gerry Devlin says every year around 6000 New Zealanders die of heart disease.

"It's staggering to think that the number of deaths is almost the size of the entire population of the Ōtaki township in the North Island."

Gerry says while the time commitment involved as a volunteer for a few hours on one day is small, the reward is huge and will play a vital role in the fight against New Zealand's single biggest killer, heart disease.

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"We are calling on volunteers around the country to give just a few hours to help collect funds to support our vital research and work in the community," Gerry says.

"Since the Heart Foundation was founded 50 years ago, we've seen a phenomenal reduction in death from heart disease but there's still a lot that needs to be done. Not only does heart disease remain our single biggest killer but we have more people living with heart disease than ever before all around New Zealand.

"While the Heart Foundation is committed to tackling heart disease in New Zealand, we can't do it alone. Our volunteers around the country make a huge difference in our ability to help."

He says funds raised during the Heart Foundation's annual appeal are used to support heart-related research and specialist training for cardiologists.

The Heart Foundation is New Zealand's leading independent funder of heart research. Since 1968, it has funded more than $70 million in research and specialist training.

"We also perform a wide range of activities to help support people living with heart disease and their families, and provide educational programmes and campaigns that promote heart-healthy living."

Visit www.heartfoundation.org.nz/volunteer to sign up for the Big Heart Appeal street collection.