Almost 13 million Aussies risk heart disease: new data

New data released today by the Heart Foundation reveal more than two thirds of Australian adults – almost 13 million people, or 69.1 per cent – have at least three risk factors for the nation’s biggest killer, heart disease.

The data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics National Health Survey 2017/18 is being released by the Heart Foundation to mark Heart Week (28 April to 4 May 2019).

This year, the theme encourages Australians to visit their doctor for a Medicare-funded Heart Health Check.

“The good news is that Australians aged 45 years and over, and Indigenous Australians from 30 years, can now see their GP for a Heart Health Check covered by Medicare to manage their risk of heart attack or stroke in the next five years,” said Heart Foundation chief medical adviser Professor Garry Jennings.

It is estimated the check could prevent on average 42 heart events every day for the next five years, including heart attacks, strokes and deaths. After years of campaigning by the Heart Foundation, the check became covered by Medicare from April 1 this year.

A Heart Health Check performed by your doctor involves an assessment of your risk factors for heart disease (such as blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, diet and physical activity levels). The most important part of this process is working with your doctor to manage your risk of heart disease through lifestyle changes, such as exercise, and possibly medications.

“People are used to seeing their GPs when they feel unwell but heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol or family history of heart disease are often silent or symptom free,” Professor Jennings said.

“Having a Heart Health Check gives you the best chance of reducing your risk of a heart attack or stroke.

“No one wants a heart attack to be the first sign that something is wrong with their heart.”

The ABS data revealed seven million men over the age of 18 (more than 3 in 4 or 76.5 per cent) and six million women (more than 1 in 2 or 62 per cent) have three or more risk factors for heart disease.

“This is alarming, because we know that the more risk factors you have, the more likely you are to have a heart attack or stroke,” Professor Jennings said.

With a heart health check, your doctor will gather information about all risk factors and use a calculator to determine how likely it is that you will have a heart attack or stroke in the next five years.

In other disturbing findings from the survey about Australians’ individual risk factors, released earlier:

• More than 9 in 10 (92%) adults ate too few vegetables

• More than 8 in 10 (83%) were not active enough

• More than two thirds were overweight or obese (67%)

• Nearly 1 in 4 (23%) had measured high blood pressure.

“While you can’t change your family history, it’s important to understand that if you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or lifestyle risk factors, you can certainly act to reduce your risk.”

Visit or call the Heart Foundation Helpline on 13 11 12.

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