Call for action to address low awareness of heart failure

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A leading patient group is calling for unified action as Australia marks the inaugural Heart Failure Awareness Week.

“Unfortunately, dangerously low levels of awareness about heart failure are leaving Australians vulnerable,” said hearts4heart CEO Tanya Hall, who lost her father to heart failure when he was just 59.

“To help patients affected by heart failure to feel better and live longer, healthier lives, GPs need to recognise heart failure symptoms and know the appropriate clinical pathway for diagnosis,” she said.

Heart failure affects 1-in-50 Australians and claims the lives of around 61,000 people every year. It is the number one cause of hospitalisation in people over age 65. Around 30 per cent of patients admitted to hospital with heart failure are readmitted within 60-90 days and around 1-in-3 of those admitted will die within one year of being diagnosed.

It is also becoming increasingly common with incidence expected to rise, as more people survive heart attacks, live longer, and experience issues that lead to this potentially debilitating and long-term condition.

Cardiologist Associate Professor John Amerena said, “Delayed diagnosis and upward trends in Australian heart failure admissions are reasons for concern.

“When left untreated, heart failure progressively worsens,1-6 but with early diagnosis, treatment and lifestyle changes, a person with heart failure can reduce their risk of hospitalisation and improve their quality of life.”

Ms Hall said hearts4heart has worked with its Medical Advisory Committee to develop a new tool based on the Australian consensus of the recent European Society of Cardiologists (ESC) heart failure guidelines.

The association has also launched Australia’s first Heart Failure Patient and Caregiver Charter with the support of Parliamentary Friends of Heart and Stroke, clinicians, patients and caregivers.

“Through improved education and shared decision making between clinicians, patients and caregivers, we can disrupt the cycle resulting in thousands of hospitalisations each year, but it will require a commitment from all Australians,” added Ms Hall.