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Tens of thousands of Aussies missing tests for silent killers
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

Tens of thousands of Aussies missing tests for silent killers

Media Release - 16 November 2020

More than a third of Australians aged 45 and over have not had up-to-date tests for high blood pressure and high cholesterol, two leading risk factors for coronary heart disease, which kills on average 50 Australians every day.

Data unveiled by the Heart Foundation today reveal that more than 61,000 eligible Australians (36%) in the at-risk age group of 45-74 failed to have both their blood pressure and cholesterol recorded within the recommended timeframes.

While 15 per cent of eligible Australians (25,315 people) missed having their blood pressure checked in the last two years, nearly double that number, 29 per cent (50,501 people), went more than five years without having their cholesterol recorded by their GP.

Heart Foundation Risk Reduction Manager Natalie Raffoul, who is presenting the data at the virtual GP20 conference, said the results were a wakeup call and revealed too many Australians are missing out on the checks needed to protect their heart health.

“High blood pressure and cholesterol are often silent or symptom free, yet they are two of the biggest risk factors for heart attack and stroke. Too many times, we hear of people who think they’re fine but don’t realise they’re a ticking time bomb.

“It’s not uncommon that a heart attack or stroke is the first sign that something is wrong. It’s devastating because these conditions are largely preventable and can be treated if they’re picked up and managed.”

The Heart Foundation recommends all Australians aged 45 and over, and 30 and over for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, see their GP for a Heart Health Check covered by Medicare.

“A Heart Health Check can save your life – it takes 20 minutes including a blood test, and it’s your best opportunity to take control of your heart health and reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke.”

The data also found that nearly one in four eligible Australians, more than 26,000 people, are at high risk of a heart attack or stroke due to a combination of risk factors and or their age.

“This is important, because we know that the more risk factors you have, the greater your risk of heart attack and stroke.

“Some people are automatically at high risk of developing heart disease because of their co-existing conditions, such as diabetes or kidney disease. These people in particular should have regular heart health check ups with their GP.”

A Heart Health Check is performed by your doctor to assess how likely you are to have a heart attack or stroke in the next five years. As part of a Heart Health Check, your doctor will take blood tests for blood cholesterol and blood glucose levels, measure your blood pressure, BMI (body mass index) and  waist size, and talk to you about your family’s medical history and your lifestyle.

The results, drawn from an analysis of national general practice MedicineInsight data, looked at 172,366 deidentified patient records to assess the number of Australians whose necessary risk factors were recorded.

The Heart Foundation is unveiling the results today at the virtual GP20 conference, the annual conference for GPs run by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP).

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