New tool released to measure stroke and heart attack risk

The Heart Foundation Australia has launched a new online tool to help people understand their risk of having a heart attack or a stroke. Source: Shutterstock

Each day in Australia, 21 people die as a result of a heart attack, while 22 lives end because of a stroke. Heart attacks impact 430,100 people, or 1.9 per cent of the population each year, affecting their health for at least six months.

While heart attacks can and do impact people of all ages, the reality is the risk of an attack increases significantly from the age of 45. As a result, Heart Foundation Australia has launched a new online tool to help people understand their risk of having a heart attack or a stroke.

Most people are already aware of heart attack warning signs including chest pain, chest pressure and discomfort, but the new Heart Age Calculator differs by comparing a person’s heart age to their actual age.

The tool is a new way to help people aged between 35 and 75 understand their own risks and offers advice on what they can do next. It’s designed for people who don’t have a known history of heart issues and works by asking questions around their age, gender, smoking and diabetes status, BMI, blood pressure levels, medication use, cholesterol levels and family history of stroke and heart attack.

The answers help determine a person’s heart age and whether it’s above, equal or below their actual age. This then lets them know what measures they need to put in place to avoid a heart attack or stroke.

“Alarmingly, one in five Australians aged 45 to 74 have a moderate to high risk for heart attack and stroke in the next five years,” Garry Jennings, Heart Foundation Chief Medical Advisor, said in a statement. “Don’t wait for a heart attack to be your first sign of trouble. Knowing your risk is the first step towards avoiding a heart attack or stroke.”

The higher a person’s heart age compared to their actual age, the greater their risk of experiencing a heart attack or stroke. People with a higher heart age are advised to book an appointment with a doctor or health professional as soon as possible for a heart health check. The test also helps people understand some of the leading risk factors for heart disease.

Read more: ‘My dog warned me I was having a heart attack’

“High blood pressure or high cholesterol are some of the leading risks for heart disease, which remains the biggest killer of Australians,” Jennings explained. “These conditions often have no obvious symptoms, yet they can be a ticking time bomb for people’s heart health. Critically, too few people understand the significant impact these risks have on their heart health.”

In Australia, close to 40 per cent of adults have three or more risk factors, putting millions of people at risk of premature death or chronic ill health. Because there is no one cause for heart disease, the more risk factors a person has increases their risk of developing it. While the new Heart Age Calculator is an effective tool, it doesn’t replace the need for people to speak to a health professional in person.

“Filling out the Calculator does not replace the need to see your doctor for a Heart Health Check,” Jennings said. “We recommend having a regular heart health check if you’re 45 years old and over, and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, from 35 years and over.”

Other lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy and balance diet, quitting smoking and participating in at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week can reduce the risk of heart disease and lower heart age.

The Heart Age Calculator test can be accessed on the Heart Foundation website.

Read more: Intimacy, mood and lifestyle: How a heart attack could affect your partner

What are your thoughts on this? Do you know someone who has been impacted by a heart attack or stroke?

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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