If you are 45 but your heart age is 50, your risk of having a heart attack is elevated.
To build awareness about this, the Heart Foundation has launched its new Heart Age Calculator to kickstart a national heart disease information campaign.
The online calculator helps people understand their risk of having a heart attack or stroke by comparing their ‘heart age’ to their actual age.
It helps people understand their own risks and provides advice on what to do next.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 2017 an average of 21 Australians died each day from heart attack, while 22 a day died from stroke. Australians of all ages are impacted; more than 30,000 Australians under the age of 55 have had a heart attack that has affected their lives for at least six months.
The Heart Age Calculator is for Australians aged 35 to 75 years who do not have a known history of heart issues.
It asks questions about age, sex, smoking and diabetes status, Body Mass Index, blood pressure levels and if they take medication, cholesterol levels, and whether there is a close family history of heart attack or stroke before the age of 60.
The answers are analysed to determine if a person’s heart age is above, equal or below their actual age.
Heart Foundation chief medical advisor Professor Garry Jennings said: “Alarmingly, one in five Australians aged 45 to 74 have a moderate to high risk for heart attack and stroke in the next five years.
“Don’t wait for a heart attack to be your first sign of trouble. Knowing your risk is the first step towards avoiding a heart attack or stroke.
“The higher your heart age compared to your actual age, the higher your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. If your heart age is greater than your actual age, we advise you to make an appointment with your doctor for a heart health check.
“High blood pressure or high cholesterol are some of the leading risks for heart disease, which remains the biggest killer of Australians.
“These conditions often have no obvious symptoms, yet they can be a ticking time bomb for people’s heart health. Critically, too few people understand the significant impact these risks have on their heart health.”
Professor Jennings added that close to 40 per cent of Australians aged 18 and over have three or more risk factors which is putting millions at risk of premature death or chronic ill health.
“There’s no one cause for heart disease, but the more risk factors you have, the higher your chance of getting it, and these risks only increase with age,” he said.
“Filling out the Calculator does not replace the need to see your doctor for a Heart Health Check. We recommend having a regular heart health check if you’re 45 years old and over, and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, from 35 years and over.
“The good news is by taking some small steps to change your lifestyle – through eating a healthy, balanced diet, being smoke-free and getting at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week – you can reduce your risk for heart disease and lower your heart age,” Professor Jennings said.
The Heart Age Calculator can be found at: https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/your-heart/know-your-risks/heart-age-calculator