Don't let COVID get in way of heart health

Medicare Benefits Schedule reports decrease in heart health checks

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CHECKS AND BALANCE: COVID has been the major health focus of most Australians in recent times, but don't forget your heart health.

CHECKS AND BALANCE: COVID has been the major health focus of most Australians in recent times, but don't forget your heart health.


Worrying data reveals heart health checks dropped by 20 per cent last year.


HEART health checks decreased by 20 percent from July to December last year, prompting fears of undiagnosed Atrial Fibrillation (AF).

Data from the Medicare Benefits Schedule revealed the worrying reduction in check ups and Hearts4Heart is urging Australians to get checked.

Hearts4Heart chief executive Tanya Hall said AF was the most common form of irregular heartbeat, but many had not heard of it.

"Although some people experience symptoms such as palpitations, dizziness, or feeling out-of-breath often, some people don't experience symptoms at all," she said.

"In some cases, people are only diagnosed when they have a stroke and AF is found to be the cause."

Ms Hall said COVID had been the primary health focus over the past year.

"As a result, people are forgetting about their heart health. With many people still in lockdown, we are concerned that this number may drop even more," she said.

Lockdowns have also decreased physical activity and led to weight gain in many Australians over the past 18 months. Lack of exercise and being overweight are known risk factors for AF.

Other risk factors include disrupted sleep, smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and being aged 65 or older.

AF causes the top chambers of the heart to beat fast and erratically and the condition can lead to stroke or heart failure if left untreated. A person with AF is five times more likely to have a stroke.

An estimated half a million Australians have an irregular heartbeat, but as many as 30 per cent of Australians with AF remain undiagnosed.

The risk of many common heart conditions increases with age, so heart health checks from a General Practitioner (GP) are important, even for people who feel well.

While nothing can substitute for a visit to the doctor, the new Feel the Beat app uses smartphone cameras to assess people's risks of AF and is available via the Apple store and Google Play.

"Anyone who is experiencing symptoms or has concerns about their heart health should not delay in seeking medical treatment," Ms Hall said.

Some people will experience no signs of AF. Those wo do have symptoms may experience: palpitations, dizziness, tiredness, shortness of breath, fainting, ankle swelling or chest pain.

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