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Heart Health Checks – your questions answered



Heart Health Checks – your questions answered

Blog: 28 April, 2024

Did you know that every 4 minutes, a person living in Australia has a heart attack or stroke?

It is a scary statistic, but there are things you can do to help lower your risk of having a heart event. One of the first, and most important, things you can do is take steps to know your risk.

Luckily one of the easiest things you can do to find out your risk is simply booking a Heart Health Check with your GP!

But what exactly is a Heart Health Check? What does it involve? Is it expensive? Let us fill you in with answers to our most commonly asked questions about Heart Health Checks!

What is a Heart Health Check?

A Heart Health Check is a 20-minute check-up with your GP. It can help you understand your chance of having a heart attack or stroke in the next 5 years and what you can do to reduce your risk.

What does your GP do in a Heart Health Check?

First, they will ask you about your medical background and family history of heart disease. They will also ask about your lifestyle, including your diet, physical activity, if you smoke or drink alcohol and whether you have a healthy weight.

Then your GP will check your blood pressure. They will also look at your cholesterol and blood sugar levels, which is done separately by a blood test.

Your GP will put this information into a calculator that will estimate your risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the next five years. They will then work with you to develop a personalised management plan to help you take steps to lower your risk.

It sounds expensive, can I afford it?

If you are aged 45 and over and do not already have heart disease, you are eligible for an annual Heart Health Check under Medicare. Some people may be eligible earlier, including at 30 years for First Nations peoples, and 35 years if you are living with diabetes.

That means that if you attend a bulk billing clinic, the Heart Health Check can be done with no cost to you at all! Speak to your GP about any out-of-pocket costs before you book.

I heard I should do a calcium score instead; can I do that?

A coronary artery calcium score uses a CT scan to see if any (or how much) plaque has built up in the blood vessels around your heart. It is an important tool that your GP (or specialist) can use to measure your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

Your doctor might recommend you have one based on the results of your Heart Health Check – but they are not needed for everyone.

The cost of a coronary artery calcium score is not currently covered by Medicare.

I asked my GP about Heart Health Checks, and they weren’t sure what I meant – what should I do?

Your GP might be more familiar with another way of describing a Heart Health Check. They might know it as a cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk assessment. Whatever term they use, your GP is perfectly placed to do all the things needed for a Heart Health Check!

The Heart Foundation is committed to making it easy and quick for GPs to introduce Heart Health Checks into their clinics. This includes running education programs and awareness programs like Heart Week.

 Heart Week 2024 promotional banner

Clinicians can check out all of the available resources on our website!

Can I have a Heart Health Check at my local pharmacy?

You can visit your pharmacy to have your blood pressure checked, however this isn’t a replacement for having a full Heart Health Check with your GP. Although knowing your blood pressure levels is important to understanding your risk of heart disease, there are many other risk factors your GP will collect as part of a comprehensive Heart Health Check, that will help to determine your risk.

With a Heart Health Check – you are already at your GP! By collecting more information in a personalised setting (including up-to-date blood tests), your GP can give you the most accurate estimation of your heart health. It also gives you an opportunity to speak to your GP or nurse about any lifestyle changes you can make to help lower your risk.

So, what are you waiting for?

Since being introduced in April 2019, over 600,000 Heart Health Checks have been performed by GPs around Australia. Book yours in with your GP today!

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Last updated02 May 2024