ALMOST 13 million adult Australians are at risk of heart disease.
New data released by the Heart Foundation to mark Heart Health Week (April 28 - May 4) shows that two thirds of Australians have at least three risk factors for the nation's biggest health killer.
The theme of this year's Heart Health Week is to urge people to get a Medicare-funded heart health check from their GP.
"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 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 a doctor involves an assessment of risk factors for heart disease (such as blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, diet and physical activity levels).
The doctor can then calculate how likely it is that a patient will have a heart attack or stroke in the next five years and will then work with the patient to manage the risk 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.
"No one wants a heart attack to be the first sign that something is wrong with their heart."
The Australian Bureau of Statistics 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.
Other disturbing findings from the survey about Australians' individual risk factors:
- 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," said Professor Jennings.
Call the Heart Foundation Helpline on 13 11 12 or visit heartfoundation.org.au/heartweek