More than 107,000 Australians have seen their GP for a Heart Health Check since its addition to the Medicare Benefits Schedule thirteen months ago, but the Heart Foundation says an alarming 40 per cent drop in people having the check between February and May this year is cause for concern.
More than 11,000 Australians were seeing their GP for a Medicare-funded Heart Health Check in November last year, but April saw a dramatic decline of more than 8,000 fewer checks.
The number of Australians having a Heart Health Check nearly doubled in May, with more than 5,300 people having the check compared with April – an 86 per cent increase. But the Heart Foundation says there’s still a way to go to get Heart Health Check numbers back to pre-COVID-19 rates.
“Despite a very successful start to making Heart Health Checks a regular part of the routine for Australian adults, the numbers have taken a big hit due to COVID-19,” said Heart Foundation Group CEO, Adjunct Professor John Kelly.
“The decline leaves too many Australians unaware of their risk of heart attack and stroke. Not knowing your risk can be fatal.
“A Heart Health Check only takes 20 minutes and it does mean a patient must visit their doctor in person, but due to strict infection control measures, this is a safe thing to do right now.”
Professor Kelly said Medicare-funded Heart Health Checks were introduced on 1 April 2019 and represent a vital step in government’s investment in preventative healthcare.
“We would like to thank Federal Minister for Health, Greg Hunt for his support in achieving this, along with the Australian Labor party and Australian Greens who also backed this outcome.
“Medicare-funded Heart Health Checks offer tens of thousands of Australians at risk of heart attack and stroke the best opportunity to stay well, stay alive and stay out of hospital.”
If you are 45 years and over, or 30 years or over if you’re Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, you should see your doctor for a Heart Health Check to learn your risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the next five years.
Your GP will aim to identify risk factors through blood tests to look at your blood sugar and cholesterol levels, checking your blood pressure and talking to you about your lifestyle, and medical history.
A Heart Health Check can be repeated every twelve months, and the most important part of the process is working with your doctor to manage your risk of heart disease through lifestyle changes and possibly medications.