A total of $8 million to accelerate heart and stroke research has been awarded to eight Australian researchers in a joint initiative by the Heart Foundation and the Federal Government.
A central focus will be the under-researched area of women and heart disease. Other research areas will include:
Heart damage caused by cancer treatments
Predicting heart disease
Heart disease rehabilitation and recovery
The research areas for the grants are based on the outcomes of an extensive two-year Heart Foundation survey of thousands of Australians, from people living with heart disease through to heart health professionals.
Key outcomes highlighted gaps in the early diagnosis, prevention and treatment of heart disease, as well as the positive benefits of sustained rehabilitation.
Heart Foundation Group CEO, Adjunct Professor John Kelly AM, said the findings around women and heart disease were among the most concerning outcomes of the survey, making it a research priority.
“Many women told us they did not know that heart disease was relevant to them; they didn’t realise it was just as deadly for women as it was for men, Professor Kelly said.
“Most concerningly, evidence shows heart disease in women is underdiagnosed and undertreated here and internationally.”
The survey also found that patients are seeking more support and advice regarding recovery and prevention of further heart events, while clinicians are focused on new ways of identifying and preventing cardiovascular disease before it can take hold and cause damage.
Professor Kelly congratulated the successful researchers and thanked the Federal Health Minister, Hon. Greg Hunt, for the Federal Government’s co-contribution of $4 million for the grants.
The $8 million is in addition to the Heart Foundation’s latest annual funding round of $17.2 million.
Women and Heart Disease
Professor Sarah Zaman, University of Sydney, aims to reduce the risk of heart attacks and stroke in women who develop pre-eclampsia in pregnancy or experience premature menopause. A clinical trial will identify how many of these young to middle-aged women go on to develop early-onset heart disease.
Associate Professor Lisa Moran, Monash University, will modify the register that monitors pregnant women for gestational diabetes to include other pregnancy complications and track how many go on to develop risk factors for type 2 diabetes and CVD later on.
Professor Peter Meikle, Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, will develop a more precise way of assessing a person’s risk factors for heart disease. The new predictive model will allow doctors to identify heart disease early and deliver more targeted preventative treatments.
Professor Diane Fatkin, University of New South Wales, will investigate whether genetic factors influence who will develop the heart-rhythm disorder Atrial Fibrillation. Professor Fatkin will examine single gene mutations and the body’s response to anti-arrhythmia medications.
Professor Jon Golledge, from James Cook University in Queensland, will assess rehabilitation programs for people with blocked leg arteries. One million Australians have this condition, called peripheral artery disease (PAD), which causes pain and increases the risk of having a heart attack, stroke or amputation. Professor Golledge will also calculate the economic cost of PAD.
Associate Professor Tom Briffa, University of Western Australia, will assess cardiac rehabilitation programs, comparing the outcomes of personalised programs versus standard, group-based programs. Cardiac rehab is known to reduce the risk of having a second heart attack or stroke and reduces hospital re-admissions, yet attendance remains low.
Associate Professor Rachel Conyers, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, will investigate how chemotherapy and other cardio-toxic cancer treatments damage the heart and arteries and cause strokes. Professor Conyers will establish three national cardio-oncology hubs in Australia, combining research with clinical services for these patients.
Professor Gail Garvey, Menzies School of Health Research, Northern Territory, will research heart disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cancer survivors. Professor Garvey will identify the prevalence of heart disease in these patients.