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Heart Foundation Cuts 'Appalling' Ad Scene But Defends 'Bold Approach'

After being slammed online as 'appalling' and 'reprehensible', the Heart Foundation has backtracked on an earlier defence of a heart disease advertisement.

The Foundation has now apologised for its controversial ad, which featured a number of scenes where people told their families they were "lying" about loving and caring for them.

"It's not just my heart I don't care about, it's yours," one woman in the ad is seen telling her young daughter while in hospital.

The 'Heartless Words' campaign advertisement has been copping backlash online for several days, and despite earlier defending its ad, the Foundation has now apologised for causing offence.

"We understand our campaign has upset people who have lost a loved one to heart disease," Heart Foundation CEO Victoria Kellie-Ann Jolly said in a statement to 10 daily.

PHOTO: Heart Foundation

Jolly said that since their campaign started, more than 20,000 people had visited the Heart Foundation website to use their Heart Age Calculator.

She said the campaign was necessary because 600,000 Australians are living with heart disease, and 13 million Australians had three or more risk factors for heart disease.

Jolly said the silent risk factors of high blood pressure and high cholesterol are usually only discovered when people visit the doctor for a heart health check.

“That is why our message is that looking after your heart means you are also looking after the hearts of those who love you," Jolly said.

"We realise that not everyone will agree with our approach. However, our intention is from a good place, to save lives."

The ad, launched online this week, encouraged Australians to get their hearts checked. But it received immediate backlash, with users slamming the Foundation and claiming it unfairly targeted people with congenital heart defects.

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Jolly said that using moments of family life was a "bold approach."

"By using moments of family life that people can relate to in order to cut through and get Australians to understand their risks of heart disease," she said.

But users said the video sent the wrong message to young children who had lost parents to sudden heart failure and illness.

"This is disgraceful," one user tweeted.

"As a mother of a child with congenital heart defects, I am struggling to find the words to articulate just how offensive and insensitive this ad is."

"Shame is not a health promotion tool," another said.

The Heart Foundation initially defended its ad online, saying it used "uncomfortably emotive" messaging in order to get people to pay attention.

"About 18,500 Australians die every year from heart disease. It's time to get people thinking about their hearts," the Foundation said, replying to one user on social media.

But by Wednesday it had edited out one particularly controversial scene, which shows a mother tells her young son "every time I told you I loved you, I was lying. You are not my priority."

The scene has been removed from the ad which features on the Heart Foundation website and on TV, but not from its social media pages where it is still receiving many complaints.

One scene was scrapped from the advertisement on the Heart Foundation website but remains on social media. PHOTO: Heart Foundation

But one Twitter user pointed out that the removal of the specific scene from the ad -- described as a "bungled mess" -- was "ironic" because it involved two people who appeared to be Indigenous.

"They're sticking to a national campaign that doesn't target the part of the population that die from heart disease at nearly twice the rate of the rest."

Jolly said the decision was made to take down the scene from the ad after "feedback" but the older version of the video online would not be taken down because "they are part of an active online discussion."