Now affecting 1 in 50 Australians, heart failure is becoming increasingly common and expected to rise, as more people survive heart attacks, live longer, and experience heart issues that lead to this potentially debilitating condition.
“Unfortunately, dangerously low levels of awareness about heart failure are leaving Australians vulnerable to this long-term condition,” said hearts4heart CEO Tanya Hall, who lost her father to heart failure when he was just 59.
Heart failure claims the lives of 61,000 every year, and it’s the number one cause of hospitalisation in people over age 65.
“Heart Failure Awareness Week has been developed to raise awareness about the prevalence of heart failure, and to educate people about symptoms, especially among those aged 65 and older, caregivers, and healthcare professionals. Recognising heart failure symptoms is the key to early diagnosis and ensuring the best health outcomes for patients.”
The campaign also creates an opportunity to encourage critical conversations about the importance of reform in how heart failure diagnosis, treatment, and long-term management are addressed in Australia, Ms Hall said.
During Heart Failure Awareness Week, hearts4heart is launching Australia’s first Heart Failure Patient & Caregiver Charter with the support of Parliamentary Friends of Heart and Stroke, clinicians, patients, and caregivers. The Australian-first aims to support shared decision-making between patients and clinicians, reduce preventable hospitalisations, and improve the overall quality of life of heart failure patients and caregivers.
“Together, we can help patients affected by heart failure to feel better and live longer, healthier lives, but it requires a commitment from all Australians. Knowing the symptoms and understanding that each case of heart failure is unique can help in the coordination of an effective care plan for patients and caregivers,” said Parliamentary Friends of Heart and Stroke Chairperson Maria Vamvakinou MP.
Accounting for $3.1 billion, heart failure is the number one cause of hospitalisation in people over the age of 65, with around 1.1 million days of hospital stay recorded each year. Alarmingly, 30% of patients admitted to hospital with heart failure are readmitted within 60-90 days and around 1-in-3 of those admitted will die within one year of being diagnosed.
“Delayed diagnosis and upward trends in Australian heart failure hospital admissions is a serious cause of concern,” said the Director of the Cardiology Research Unit at Barwon Hospital, A/Prof John Amarena.
Heart failure doesn’t mean that your heart has stopped, but it is ‘failing’ to keep up with your body’s demands. The heart is unable to pump enough blood through the body to meet its nutritional needs, either because the heart is unable to fill with enough blood, its pumping action isn’t strong enough, or both.
When left untreated, heart failure progressively worsens, but with early diagnosis, treatment and lifestyle changes, a person with heart failure can reduce their risk of hospitalisation and improve their quality of life.
“I had never heard of heart failure, but now looking back, I was experiencing symptoms like shortness of breath, tiredness, and lower tolerance to exercise, that I now know are signs of heart failure,” said Paul Kelly, who was diagnosed with heart failure at age 47, shortly after having a heart attack.
Symptoms can include any of the following and should be discussed with your GP:
- Shortness of breath during minimal exercise or exertion
- Needing to use extra pillows when lying down to breathe easier
- Irregular heartbeat or palpitations
- Swelling of legs, feet, or stomach
- Weight gain over a short period of time (e.g., >2kg over 2 days)
- Extreme tiredness, low energy, or no energy
- Loss of appetite
“I won’t be able to run a marathon again, but I’m grateful that with the right management plan, I am still able to bond with my son, go for walks with my wife and fix up vintage Japanese motorcycles as my hobby.
“Speak with your GP if you’re experiencing any symptoms, and get your heart checked,” said Mr Kelly.
“You’ve only got one heart – don’t fail it!”