Many Aussies have poor understanding of heart disease risk factors

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Many Australians don’t know about the risk factors for developing heart disease, which means they do not understand how best to protect their heart health, a Heart Foundation and Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute study has found.

Many Australians don’t know about the risk factors for developing heart disease, which means they do not understand how best to protect their heart health, according to a new study from the Heart Foundation and the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute.

The study, based on a survey of 8000 adults, found three-quarters of participants didn’t know heart disease was a leading cause of death in women* and only half knew it was the number one cause of death for men.

Co-author of the study, Professor Garry Jennings, said while most people could identify poor diet, smoking and sedentary lifestyle as risk factors for heart disease, only 6 per cent recognised high blood pressure and only one in 10 identified high cholesterol as clinical risk factors.

“Also of great concern was the lack of awareness of clinical risk factors among people taking medications for heart disease, and those who had a history of heart attack or angina,” said Professor Jennings.

The study found people mistakenly believed that breast cancer was the leading cause of death for women.

“We advise all adults aged 45 and over to have regular heart health checks with their health professionals, and to be aware of their blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It’s important to know your numbers,” Professor Jennings said.

“The health system alone cannot achieve national and international targets for disease prevention without understanding and engagement in the general community. We need more national campaigns on clinical risk factors for heart disease to make sure Australians are getting the message.”

Although heart disease is the single leading cause of death for Australian men and women combined, the findings published this month show it is still largely misunderstood.

“Overall the lack of understanding in all groups suggests the need for a comprehensive national campaign reaching schools and the adult population.”

Read the report

*Since the study was undertaken, dementia has overtaken heart disease as the leading cause of death in women.

For media enquiries, contact Liselotte Geary, Senior National Media Adviser, Heart Foundation, 0411 310 997.