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Friday, December 1, 2023

Shock results for under-50s as two million Aussies take heart age test

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Seven out of 10 Aussies yet to hit their 50s have a ‘heart age’ above their actual age, new figures reveal – and millions do not know their blood pressure or cholesterol numbers.

The Heart Foundation has released the figures after close to two million Australians used its Heart Age Calculator to understand their risk of having a heart attack or stroke, and what to do next.

One in five Australians aged 35 to 75 have taken the online heart age test, which compares your heart age to your biological age, since it started in 2019.

The heart health charity warns the scorecard for people in their 30s and 40s is a big concern.

Analysis of a sample of more than 71,000 heart age test results for Australians aged 35-49 shows:

  • Seven in 10 Australians had a heart age above their biological age.
  • One in eight in this group had a heart age at least six years above their actual age.
  • Nearly 60 per cent did not know their blood pressure levels, and more than four in five (82 per cent) did not know their cholesterol readings. This equates to about 2.9 million Australians in this age group not knowing their blood pressure and four million not knowing their cholesterol level.
  • Of those who knew their numbers, one in four had high blood pressure and two in five had a high total cholesterol level.

Heart Foundation general manager of heart health, Bill Stavreski, says the startling results show why heart disease needs to be on the radar of all Australians.

“Many younger Australians who took the test have risk factors for developing heart disease down the track.

“What’s just as worrying, is most don’t know their blood pressure or cholesterol numbers,” Stavreski said.

“This complacency can be a killer because high blood pressure and cholesterol are the two leading risk factors for heart disease and stroke.

“These conditions often have no obvious symptoms.

“Taking care of your heart and managing your blood pressure and cholesterol now can help avoid irreversible damage later in life.”

Stavreski said younger adults needed to start thinking about their heart health now.

“There are many modifiable risk factors for heart disease that you can address before they contribute to full-blown heart disease in the future,” he said.

“While there are some risks you can’t change – like age, sex, ethnicity and family history – there are other risks we can all take steps towards reducing, including maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active and smoke-free, and managing high blood pressure and high cholesterol.”

Overall, close to four in five people aged 35-75 recorded a heart age higher than their actual age.

“This represents a staggering number of Australians who could be a ticking time bomb for a heart attack or stroke,” Stavreski said.

“It is encouraging that two million people have taken the Heart Age Calculator to learn more about their risk for heart disease, but this is only the first step.

“If you are 18 or over, we recommended getting your blood pressure checked at least every two years, and your cholesterol at least every five years.

“If you’re 45 and over, or from 30 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, you should get these monitored as part of a regular Heart Health Check.”

The call comes after the Heart Foundation flagged a dramatic drop in heart health screenings during the pandemic.

“Heart disease remains our single biggest killer, claiming 45 lives each day,” Stavreski said.

“These heart age test results reinforce that Australians should not put off these checks any longer, particularly those who skipped appointments due to COVID-19.

“The good news is there’s plenty you can do to reduce your risk for heart disease and lower your heart age.

“Your GP will support you in taking the necessary steps to improve your heart health, which may include changes to your diet, exercising, and possibly taking medications.”

How the test works

The Heart Age Calculator is designed for people aged 35 to 75 who do not have heart disease or have not previously had a heart attack or stroke.

Users answer questions about their age, sex, smoking and diabetes status, height and weight, cholesterol and blood pressure levels and if they take medication to control them, and whether close family members had a history of heart attack or stroke before age 60.

The calculator provides a heart age, which is an initial indication of a person’s overall risk for heart disease compared to a healthy range.

A heart age that is older than a person’s biological age may indicate higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

To find out your heart age, go to the Heart Age Calculator on the Heart Foundation website.

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