Half a million Aussies at increased risk of heart attack or stroke

The Heart Foundation is pleading with those at risk of heart disease to continue check-ups.

Man clutching his chest from acute pain

The Heart Foundation is pleading with people at risk of heart disease not to skip critical check-ups during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The call comes on the back of research revealing that many of the people most at risk are likely to be the ones putting off critical check-ups because of fears surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

A survey of more than 5000 Australian adults found that people with heart disease, or at a high risk of heart disease, were more likely to miss or delay an appointment with their GP between April and August than other Australians (27 per cent versus 17 per cent).

With 2.1 million Australians living with heart disease, or at high risk of heart disease, the Heart Foundation has calculated more than 500,000 of these patients are skipping potentially life-saving check-ups or ongoing management of their condition during the pandemic.

The survey also suggests that the situation may yet worsen with about one in five people at highest risk saying that they are unlikely to attend future appointments with their GP due to concerns about the risks of COVID-19.

While people with heart disease are more vulnerable to experiencing severe complications if infected with the virus, the Heart Foundation’s general manager of heart health, Bill Stavreski, urged Australians not to let COVID infection fears stop them from seeking care for their heart conditions.

“Heart disease doesn’t stop during a pandemic. It’s alarming to see the people who most need to stay in touch with their doctor are the ones missing out,” Mr Stavreski said.

“Australians are understandably worried about COVID-19, but looking after our hearts has never been more important. It is vital that you continue to monitor your heart health and stay in contact with your GP, and there are options to do this safely via telehealth or in person.

“We’re concerned about the implications of this neglect for the future heart health of Australians. We don’t want to see a stalling of the progress we have made in lowering heart disease death rates.”

Even though most states and territories around Australia began easing restrictions as the spread of COVID-19 was contained, the number of people skipping check-ups remained high.

In August, about 30 per cent of people with heart disease surveyed said that they were avoiding GP appointments.

The Heart Foundation also explained that fewer people were speaking to doctors about risk factors and heart health generally compared with pre-COVID-19 levels.

The biggest dip was in people discussing their blood pressure or cholesterol with their GP, despite millions of Australians having high blood pressure (6.2 million) and high cholesterol (7.1 million).

“Getting your blood pressure and cholesterol checked is an essential part of managing your risk of heart disease, so we would urge Australians not to put it off any longer,” Mr Stavreski said.

“Heart disease is still the nation’s single biggest killer, but it’s fallen off the radar for many Australians.”

An estimated 1.2 million (6 per cent) of Australian adults aged 18 and over had one or more conditions related to heart or vascular disease, including stroke, in 2017–18, based on self-reported data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2017–18 National Health Survey.

Are you at a high risk of heart disease? Have you delayed or cancelled heart check-ups with your GP due to fear about the coronavirus?

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    To make a comment, please register or login
    30th Sep 2020
    Yep the GP's are taking a hit $$$$$ wise so some scare stories on the news and here to get ya going for your checkups...

    LOL typical
    30th Sep 2020
    That is really cynical and unhelpful. Most GPs have been pretty busy with phone consultations during the virus time.
    People with heart, or any other life-threatening illness do need regular personal checks. Obviously you are not one of them so you can cackle from the sidelines.
    1st Oct 2020
    Its not just people with heart problems missing appointments, people with many other chronic diseases are too. Whilst telehealth has been well used by both health professionals and patients (29.5 million services to 10 million patients by 9 September) many people have not been maintaining regular tests and checks even though those services were maintained throughout even the harshest lockdowns. In fact if GPs offered telehealth services, they were required to also maintain face to face consultations for those conditions that could not be managed over the phone or internet.

    Even hospital emergency departments saw a drop in walk-ins from injury and sickness partly because people were either not injured (think weekend warriors and kids sport) or dealt with their more minor illnesses through telehealth. This was a good thing of course because many people go to emergency when there is no need to and a GP would surfice.

    Make the appointment, wear a mask, use the hand sanitiser and wash your hands when you get home.

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