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More than two thirds of Australian adults, almost 13 million people, have at least three risk factors for heart disease, new data has revealed.

Sourced from the Australian Bureau of Statistics National Health Survey 2017/18, the data was released by the Heart Foundation to mark this year’s Heart Week (28 April to 4 May).

In 2019, GPs are being called on to deliver Medicare-funded Heart Health Checks, known as the absolute cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk assessment, to tackle the nation’s biggest killer.

Newly available on the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS), item 699 can support health professionals to carry out the risk assessments, Heart Foundation chief medical advisor Professor Gary Jennings said.

The item involves collecting patient history aimed at identifying CVD risk factors, a physical examination that must record blood pressure, initiating interventions and referrals, and implementing a management plan for the treatment of identified risk factors.

Absolute CVD risk looks at the combined risk of multiple CVD risk factors to estimate the likelihood of a heart attack or stroke in the next five years.

“Existing items have not adequately addressed guideline assessment and ongoing management of patients with CVD risk factors,” Professor Jennings said.

“The new item number emphasises, for the first time, the clinical importance of CVD assessment. We know that assessing and managing absolute CVD risk has the potential to prevent twice as many deaths from coronary heart disease when compared to treating individual risk factors.”

Professor Jennings said Australia had come a long way from treating single risk factors for CVD yet there was more work to be done to address the significant under-treatment gap.

Up to 70% of high-risk Australians, aged 45-74 are not receiving guideline-recommended blood pressure and lipid-lowering therapy.

It is estimated the widespread uptake of Heart Health Checks to people at absolute risk of a CVD event could prevent 76,500 CVD events over the following five years.

Learn more about Heart Week –