Shock for many Aussies who have a heart older than they are
Thousands of Australians have been told they have a heart age up to six years older than their biological age and could be at risk of a heart attack.
The depth of Australia's heart disease crisis has been further exposed as more than 143,283 Australians used the Heart Foundation's Heart Age Calculator to check their heart health in response to a campaign by the foundation and News Corp Australia.
The test takes less than two minutes and gives an initial indication of the condition of one's heart; a very serious health issue that should in addition be discussed with a doctor.
More than 7,500 of those who have so far taken the test provided the Heart Foundation with their results - and eight in ten of them had a heart age older than their actual age.
One in fourteen had a heart age identical to their biological age; and one in ten had a heart that was younger than their actual age.
The Governor-General and patron of the Heart Foundation Peter Cosgrove urged people to get onto the online calculator.
"When the Heart Foundation was formed, around 1 in 3 died of heart disease. Today it has improved to 1 in 10. But for all the progress, for all the lives saved, there is more to be done.
Heart disease is still the leading cause of death in this country - claiming the life of one person every half-hour. I encourage all Australians to use the calculator and take steps to
reduce their own risk."
Bill Stavreski, the Heart Foundation's General Manager of Heart Health and Research said on average, these people have hearts that are six years older than their real age.
A large portion of people who undertook the Heart Foundation's Heart Age Calculator test did not know their blood pressure and/or cholesterol levels.
"This is concerning, because BP and cholesterol are leading risk factors for heart disease. They are also invisible. We urge these people to go for a Heart Health Check - knowing your numbers could save your life," said Mr Stavreski.
You can try the calculator at the Heart Foundation's website.
The sobering results come after News Corp Australia secured a major win in the #ShowSomeTicker campaign by getting both sides of politics to agree to Medicare funding for a new heart health check.
The check, which is carried out by a GP to assess a person's risk of having a heart attack in the next five years, is a vital step in the battle against heart disease, which as Australia's biggest single killer causes 51 deaths a day.
The Morrison Government will introduce the checks from April 1 and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has pledged to provide $170 million for the measure if he wins government. The Greens also back the initiative.
The Morrison Government will also provide $220 million in new funding for research into heart disease and new treatments.
During a Heart Health Check a patient's GP will check their blood pressure, cholesterol, lifestyle factors and smoking status and family history then estimate their risk of a heart attack in the next five years.
It is hoped those found to be at risk will be prescribed medication to prevent a heart attack and that they will take steps to modify their lifestyle by eating better and exercising more.
Having a family history of heart disease elevates a person's risk of developing heart disease themselves and two in five people reported this risk.
"If they haven't done so already, we urge these people to have a heart health check with their GP to determine their overall risk and have it managed appropriately," Mr Stavreski said.
The foundation's CEO, Adjunct Professor John Kelly AM, hailed impressive successes in cutting the death rate from heart disease by 62 per cent over six decades - but warned "we have become complacent as a community".
He added: "Heart disease is still Australia's leading cause of death, killing one Australian every 28 minutes. The truth is that with an ageing population, increasing obesity rates and declines in physical activity, we have a lot more work to do to reduce the impact of heart disease on the Australian community."
Having secured a commitment to a Medicare-funded heart health check, News Corp Australia and the Heart Foundation now asking political leaders to consider a further six steps to contain the scourge of heart disease.
Improved access to rehabilitation programs after a person has a heart attack is essential in preventing them from having a second heart attack.
Australia's guidelines for heart disease are out of date and $500,000 is needed to update them.
Women experience heart attacks differently to men and our health system has been found to discriminate against them so we need a national women and heart disease campaign.
More action is also needed to curb tobacco use and improve the nation's diet and exercise habits and we need to end rheumatic heart disease in at-risk communities.