More than a quarter of heart attack survivors were not provided with any resources to help them understand their condition or to support them in their recovery after they left hospital, according to new data released by the Heart Foundation.
The organisation says the findings, from a survey of 400 people who survived a heart attack, highlight the need for greater investment in patient support for the country’s single biggest killer, heart disease.
Despite the fact that such patients are at a much greater risk of a repeat heart attack in the first year, the survey found that nearly one in five people who survived a heart attack left hospital feeling uncertain about how to manage their condition or recovery.
A further 27% were not provided with any material to help them understand their condition when they left hospital.
Each year, an estimated 57,000 Australians are hospitalised for a heart attack and about 30% of those admitted to hospital each have already had a previous heart attack.
Heart Foundation General Manager of Heart Health, Bill Stavreski, says people who have had a heart attack often underestimate the support they need and may not know that educational resources can help them achieve a better quality of life.
“A heart attack is a confronting, life changing experience,” he says.
“Many people report feeling confused, scared and emotional after their heart attack and are often concerned about having another event or even dying.
“If you’ve had a heart attack, you are at a much greater risk of a repeat event. The risk of another heart attack is highest in the first year – one in 10 people who have had a heart attack will have another event within one year.
Mr Stavreski says survivors often need to make significant lifestyle changes to help in their recovery and manage their condition to limit the risk of another heart event. However, they cannot do this alone.
“There is an opportunity to make sure heart attack survivors are being given the best resources to support their recovery, prevent them ending up back in hospital and help them feel empowered, connected and understood.”
Between November 2019 and June 2020, the Heart Foundation piloted a new patient support program called My Heart My Life, which was tested in partnership with 38 hospitals nationally. The free, six-month program, which has since been launched nationally this year, offers practical advice and assistance to help people understand and manage their heart health following a heart event.
Since its launch in March, nearly 5,000 people have signed up to the My Heart My Life program to improve their quality of life and reduce their risk of a repeat event.
The program, also available to family members and carers, provides detailed booklets about heart attacks and angina that discuss risk factors, as well as the importance of attending cardiac rehabilitation and taking prescribed medications.
The program is available to patients from the moment they enter hospital or after their return home. In partnership with Westmead Applied Research Centre, regular educational prompts are sent to participants of the program via text message, as well as emails with helpful information and links to Heart Foundation website resources such as, fact sheets, videos, walking plans and recipes.
Participants of the program have reported feeling more confident in managing their heart condition, and taking action to reduce their risk factors. Similarly, health professionals have said that they now have the peace of mind in knowing their patients were receiving this much-needed support.
A survey of more than 200 people who completed the six-month pilot program showed many had developed and maintained significant health and lifestyle changes including:
- 80% reduced smoking
- 84% had regular blood pressure checks and 67% had regular cholesterol checks
- 73% increased physical activity
- 64% lost weight
- 84% improved their diet
- 74% reduced salt in their diet
- 69% reduced their alcohol intake
For more information on the My Heart My Life program visit myheartlife.org.au