It’s never pleasant to think about but the reality is that heart disease is killing more Australians than ever, according to new research.
The study published in the Medical Journal of Australia has found that 20 per cent of Australians between the ages of 45 and 74 are at high risk of having a heart attack or stroke over the next five years.
But there’s hope: the ABC reports the study’s authors said those at high risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) could benefit greatly from being prescribed a mixture of blood pressure and cholesterol-lowering medications.
Despite this, Australians are ignoring their risk of heart disease and are not taking the steps to ensure their longevity.
Professor Anthony Rodgers from the George Institute for Global Health said the findings were a “real wake-up call”.
“These drugs … we know a lot about them. In the large majority of cases they’re very safe and cause little to no side effects, but they’re not being used as widely as they should be,” he said.
“[Cardiovascular disease] is our biggest killer, but there a lot of moderate to high risk people walking around unprotected in Australia.”
“The leading [risk factors] are your age, your sex, what your blood pressure is, what your level of cholesterol is, whether you smoke and whether you’ve got diabetes.”
To find out your risk, visit your GP – they’ll ask about your lifestyle, check your blood pressure and order a blood test to check your cholesterol and to see whether you have diabetes.
“Once you’ve got your risk estimated, the doctor will tend to think about it in categories and in general, they will regard over 15 per cent over five years as a high risk,” Professor Rodgers said.
Heart Foundation guidelines state that if you are over 45 years of age you should have your absolute risk (or heart health) checked. If you’re at a high risk, you may be prescribed medication.
The fact is that many people over 60 are walking around with a high risk of heart disease but aren’t taking medication or improving their lifestyle.
“Most people [at risk of CVD] have blood pressure or cholesterol that’s too high,” Professor Rodgers said.
“Unless your blood pressure levels are low or your cholesterol levels are low, it’s likely that you’re going to benefit from getting those levels down with [statins or other medication]”
“Improving physical activity levels, reducing salt in your diet, reducing saturated fat in your diet etc … those are the ways to prevent heart disease in the long term”.