Around two-thirds of people who are at risk of heart problems have not had their check-ups in the past two years.
Heart Week runs from 2 – 8 May and raises awareness about heart health and the importance of having regular check-ups for at-risk people.
Every four minutes an Australian has either a heart attack or a stroke.
A new survey has been released this week, which found that 64 percent of survey participants, between the ages of 45 and 74, who should be getting their heart checked regularly have not seen their GP for a heart health check in two years.
This is despite the cohort exhibiting risk factors for a heart attack or stroke, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes, or being told by their doctor that they have a high risk of heart disease.
Interim Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Heart Foundation, Professor Garry Jennings, says the results from the survey are really concerning and wants to encourage older Australians to get their hearts checked to prevent an increase in deaths and hospitalizations around the country.
“There has never been a more important time for Australians to come together and focus on heart health,” says Professor Jennings.
“Heart disease is still Australia’s leading cause of death – we already lose more than 18,000 lives to it each year.
“Knowing that people have deferred their heart health during the pandemic despite having significant risk factors is something we find very concerning.”
On top of that, recent studies have shown that COVID-19 can actually increase a person’s likelihood of developing heart disease.
At the moment, one-fifth of Australians between the ages of 45 and 74 have a high risk of having a heart attack or stroke within the next five years.
A heart health check involves a doctor and nurse checking your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels to determine your risk for developing heart disease, then working with you to create a plan that will lower the likelihood of you developing the disease.
The Heart Foundation encourages people at risk of heart disease to get a check-up once every year, and the appointments take no longer than 20 minutes.
With the upcoming Federal Election around the corner, the Heart Foundation wants to make sure that both political parties will commit to extending the Medicare subsidy on heart health checks past the current expiry date of June 2023.
The Heart Foundation believes this will ensure heart check-ups with GPs are accessible to people who are at risk of heart disease and other heart problems.
Professor Jennings wants to see heart health checks as a permanent and ongoing subsidy in the health care system to reduce the risk of serious heart problems across Australia.
“The warning signs of a heart attack are tragically often the first indication that someone is at risk, and by then it is too late to prevent,” explains Professor Jennings.
“[An] ongoing subsidy under Medicare will help Australians to take action before it is too late, and save their families the unnecessary heartache.”
To learn more about Heart Week visit the Heart Foundation’s website or contact your doctor to book your next heart health check.