An estimated 57,000 Australians are admitted to hospital with heart attacks every year. Thirty per cent of them are on their second and one-in-10 will experience another event within 12 months.
But if that’s not enough to set alarm bells ringing, research suggests survivors of the nation’s single-biggest killer aren’t sufficiently aware of the ongoing risks.
A Heart Foundation survey of 400 heart attack patients reveals many weren’t given resources to help them understand their condition or support their recovery when they left hospital.
Despite the heightened chance of suffering a repeat episode, nearly one-in-five were uncertain about how to safely manage their lives when discharged.
A further 27 per cent weren’t provided with material that might have enabled them to overcome the challenge.
The Heart Foundation’s general manager of health Bill Stavreski says patients often underestimate the support they need and may not know educational resources can help achieve a better quality of life.
“A heart attack is a confronting, life-changing experience,” he says.
“Many people report feeling confused, scared and emotional after their heart attack and are often concerned about having another event or even dying.
“If you’ve had a heart attack, you are at a much greater risk of a repeat event.”
Stavreski says survivors often need to make significant lifestyle changes but can’t do it alone.
To help them feel empowered, connected and understood, and to avoid ending up back in care, the Heart Foundation last year piloted My Heart My Life in partnership with 38 hospitals.
The free, six-month national program, which offers practical advice to help people understand and manage their health following a heart event, has so far attracted 5000 participants.
Also available to family members and carers, it provides booklets about attacks and angina that discuss risk factors, as well as the importance of attending cardiac rehabilitation and taking prescribed medications.
The program is open to patients from the moment they enter hospital or after their return home.
In partnership with Westmead Applied Research Centre, regular educational texts are sent to participants, along with emails linked to Heart Foundation resources like fact sheets, videos, walking plans and recipes.
Of more than 200 people who have completed My Heart My Life 80 per cent have reduced smoking, 84 per cent have undertaken regular blood pressure checks and 67 per cent have had regular cholesterol checks.
Seven-in-10 have upped their level of physical activity, 64 per cent have lost weight, 84 per cent have improved their diet and 69 per cent cut down on alcohol.
For more information on the My Heart My Life program, click here.