After years of campaigning by the Heart Foundation, the Heart Health Check became covered by Medicare from 1 April this year. This means a Medicare rebate is now available for Australians aged 45 years and over, and Indigenous Australians from 30 years, to see their GP for a Heart Health Check. The check is designed to identify and manage patients’ risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the next five years.
The Heart Foundation estimates the Heart Health Check could prevent on average 42 heart events every day for the next five years, including heart attacks, strokes and deaths. This equates to around one heart event every 35 minutes, or a total of 76,500 over five years. Those who are already helping us spread the word about Heart Health Checks include:
- Wayne Raven, 60, suffered a cardiac arrest and collapsed on a Sydney street in 2014. A nurse found Wayne and performed CPR until paramedics arrived. Wayne and the nurse who saved him have become firm friends. Together, they want to raise awareness about the importance of Heart Health Checks.
- Geelong resident Tony Palmer, 51, found out he had a heart problem when he saw his GP for medical clearance to walk the Kokoda Track. Tony got the all-clear for his Kokoda adventure, but eventually needed a new aortic valve. “I can’t stress enough the importance of looking after your heart, and a Heart Health Check is a great place to start. I am lucky my condition was diagnosed before I had a heart attack,” Tony said.
- Emma Wilson, 49, from Brisbane, had to be medi-vacced off a cruise ship two days before Christmas in 2015 after suffering a heart attack. Looking back, Emma had some risk factors and warning signs that, if she’d addressed earlier, might have helped her avoid the trauma of a heart event. Emma has gone on to become a competitive body-builder.
Today’s call for Heart Health Check Champions coincides with the launch of a new Heart Foundation awareness-raising marketing campaign about Heart Health Checks.
The campaign is a powerful reminder of what’s at stake when you neglect your heart health and the importance of Heart Health Checks in preventing heart attacks, strokes and deaths.
Through emotive advertising and social media messaging, the campaign delivers a heartbreaking message: when we neglect our own hearts, we risk breaking the hearts of those who love us. In communicating that the risks associated with not having a Heart Health Check are not worth taking, the campaign enocurages people to act – if not for themsleves, then for the people they most care about.
“Now that we have been successful in getting the Heart Health Check covered by Medicare, we’re turning our attention to spreading the word far and wide about it, and we want all Aussies to join us in this quest,” Heart Foundation Group CEO, Adjunct Professor John Kelly, said.
“No matter how old you are, no matter where you are from, no matter what your background – we encourage you to become a Heart Health Check Champion. Tell everyone you know and love about the Heart Health Check, so that those who are eligible will get one and manage their risk of heart attack or stroke before it’s too late,” he said.
“You can do this by visiting the Heart Foundation’s social media sites and sharing our messages about Heart Health Checks, or creating your own social media posts by downloading tiles from our web site. Or it could be as simple as starting a conversation with your loved ones about heart disease and Heart Health Checks.
“You can also tell everyone you know about our Heart Age Calculator, which helps people understand their risk of having a heart attack or stroke by comparing their ‘heart age’ to their real age, and providing advice on what to do next. Since its launch in February this year, about 400,000 Australians have completed the calculator.”
Meanwhile, if you are eligible for a Heart Health Check, take the first step by making an appointment with your GP.
“Risk factors like high blood pressure and high cholesterol are often silent or symptom free. Having a Heart Health Check gives you the best chance of knowing and reducing your risk,” Professor Kelly said.
Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics National Health Survey 2017/18 show that an alarming nine in ten (93.4 per cent) of Australian adults had at least two risk factors for heart disease. This corresponds to 17.4 million people.
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.