New data reveals Australians most at risk of heart attack and stroke

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New data released by the Heart Foundation show Australians who left school early, Tasmanians, South Australians and those living in regional and remote areas are more than twice as likely as other Australians to have a high risk of heart attack or stroke in the next five years.

The Heart Foundation said the figures have been released to support a new online Toolkit for GP practices. It said the toolkit aims to integrate Heart Health Checks into routine patient care to identify people at risk of heart disease.

The data identify Australians with a high absolute cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk score, defined as greater than 15 per cent risk of a heart attack or stroke in the next five years. The findings come from an analysis of Australian Bureau of Statistics health survey results to derive absolute CVD risk scores among Australians aged 45 to 74.

Heart Foundation risk reduction manager Natalie Raffoul said, “This data reinforces that disadvantaged Australians are worse off when it comes to CVD risk.

“This combined with our knowledge from primary care data that tens of thousands of eligible Australians are not having their CVD risk assessed in line with guidelines shows that people at risk are falling through the cracks."

“The Heart Health Check Toolkit enables general practice teams to work to their full potential and make the most out of their time with patients.” 

The data shows the proportion of Australians at high risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the next five years is at least 2.3 times higher for those living in the most disadvantaged areas compared to those in the least disadvantaged.

The proportion of Tasmanians aged 45 to 74 at high risk is 20 per cent higher than the national average.

Australians aged 45 to 74 who did not finish high school are 65 per cent more likely to be at high risk than those who finished school while people living in outer regional and remote areas are at high risk – 15 per cent more compared to Australians living in major capital cities.

The Heart Foundation said the new toolkit was developed with input from a primary care Expert Advisory Group and general practice validation group with GP, practice nurse, practice manager and representatives of Primary Health Networks.

The toolkit offers pre-populated assessment and management templates for Heart Health Checks that make it easier for GPs and practice nurses to collect CVD risk factor information and support patients to manage their CVD risk. It also includes a range of resources that can be used by general practices to engage patients in their heart health.