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Thursday, June 30, 2022

It starts with your heart: two-thirds of at-risk Aussies ignoring vital heart check-ups

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As we celebrate Heart Week (May 2-8), it might come as quite a shock to most of us that around two thirds of Australians who need annual heart check-ups have not done so in the past two years despite some carrying significant risk factors for heart attack or stroke, a new survey has found.

The Heart Foundation is concerned that this could lead to an unwanted spike in heart-related deaths and hospitalisations.

A new survey of 1000 Australians conducted by the Heart Foundation found that 64 percent of people aged between 45 and 74 – representing 5.5 million Australians – had not had a Heart Health Check through their GP in the past two years, despite more than half of that cohort having either high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or being told that they are at high risk of heart disease by a doctor.

The Heart Foundation’s interim CEO, Professor Garry Jennings, said the results showed a pressing need for Australians to get their hearts checked by a GP to prevent a spike in heart-related deaths and hospitalisations.

Knowing that people have deferred their heart health during the pandemic despite having significant risk factors is something we find very concerning.

Heart Foundation interim CEO, Professor Garry Jennings

“There has never been a more important time for Australians to come together and focus on heart health,” Jennings said.

“Heart disease is still Australia’s leading cause of death – we already lose more than 18,000 lives to it each year.”

Jennings explained that knowing that people have deferred their heart health during the pandemic, despite having significant risk factors, is something the Heart Foundation finds very concerning.

“This, coupled with growing evidence from studies overseas that COVID-19 can further increase the risk of heart disease among those infected means heart disease could be silently and unknowingly progressing in a large number of people,” he said.

“This Heart Week, our message is clear: we need Australians aged 45-74 (or aged 30-74 if First Nations) to take immediate action and please book a Heart Health Check with your GP today.”

The Heart Foundation is also calling for a bipartisan commitment from the LNP coalition and Labor to extend Medicare subsidies for Heart Health Checks beyond the current June 2023 expiry date, to ensure they remain accessible for all at-risk Australians as they return to GPs for routine health checks.

There has never been a more important time for Australians to come together and focus on heart health. Heart disease is still Australia’s leading cause of death – we already lose more than 18,000 lives to it each year.

Professor Jennings

“We are calling for permanent and ongoing subsidies for Heart Health Checks to ensure that they are more accessible to at-risk Australians, who need them now more than ever before,” Jennings said.

“The warnings signs of a heart attack are tragically often the first indication that someone is at risk,  and by then it is too late to prevent.

“Ongoing subsidy under Medicare will help Australians to take action before it is too late, and save their families the unnecessary heartache.”

A Heart Health Check is a 20-minute appointment where a GP and nurse will assess a person’s risk factors for developing heart disease and work with them to create a plan to lower this risk immediately.

Blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels will be routinely assessed as part of the check.

This Heart Week, our message is clear: we need Australians aged 45-74 (or aged 30-74 if First Nations) to take immediate action and please book a Heart Health Check with your GP today.

Professor Jennings

To learn more about Heart Week and Heart Health Checks, cick here or contact your GP to book your check.

Heart Week 2022

This is week, (May 2-8) is Heart Week, which aims to raise awareness about the importance of heart health and deliver Heart Health Checks for more at-risk Australians.

You have the power to change the statistics by focussing on simple, routine practices that have a measurable life-saving impact.

Start by downloading your Heart Week digital promotional pack here.

New resources toolkit for Heart Health Checks

More than 46,000 health professionals have visited the Heart Health Check Toolkit since its launch in February 2021.

Designed to streamline CVD risk assessment and management, the Toolkit offers easy-to-use resources in one place, including assessment and management templates, quality improvement tools, patient engagement resources and more.

Templates are also integrated in popular practice software, ready for use during your next Heart Health Check.

New resources are being introduced during Heart Week to enhance your management of clinical and lifestyle risk factors, so be sure to bookmark the Toolkit and subscribe for more updates.

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