At-risk Australians missing out on CVD assessment

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Fewer than one in five Australians aged 45 and over are having their cardiovascular disease risk assessed in line with guidelines, new research reveals.

The Heart Foundation is pushing for more eligible Australians to see their doctor for a Heart Health Check, as the new primary care data shows only about 17% of adults 45 and over without CVD have had all the necessary CVD risk factors recorded as frequently as recommended.

The Heart Foundation will unveil topline results on Friday at the annual GP 19 conference, which brings together GPs from across the country to share the latest clinical research and practice updates.

Heart Foundation Risk Reduction Manager, Natalie Raffoul, says the results, drawn from an analysis of national Australian general practice MedicineInsight data, highlight the need to place a greater emphasis on absolute CVD risk assessment and the primary prevention of CVD.

“We looked at how often CVD risk factors are being assessed in more than 350,000 Australian patients aged 45 and over without heart disease and found too many are missing out on the vital checks needed for comprehensive CVD risk calculation,” Ms Raffoul said.

“Assessing CVD risk in the primary prevention setting requires up-to-date blood pressure and cholesterol levels, yet close to half (46%) of Australians 45 and over did not have a cholesterol recorded in the last five years, and a third didn’t have a blood pressure recorded in the last two years.”

According to the data, about 20% of people 45 and over had their diabetes status checked through ordering of HbA1c tests in the last two years, but close to 80% had their smoking status recorded.

“It’s concerning to see that overall, fewer than one in five adults within this at-risk group had all four of the necessary risk factors recorded to enable absolute CVD risk calculation – blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and smoking status,” Ms Raffoul said.

“Heart disease is Australia’s leading single cause of death, so if you are 45 and over, or 30 and over if you are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, the best chance of reducing your risk starts with seeing your GP for a Heart Health Check.

“The Medicare-funded Heart Health Check provides GPs and practice nurses with an opportunity to regularly assess and manage CVD risk factors within this population.”

During a Heart Health Check, GPs and practice nurses aim to identify risk factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes status, lifestyle and other relevant medical or family history to inform absolute CVD risk calculation.

“Absolute CVD risk assessment is the most effective, evidence-based approach to guide decision making around initiating medicines and ensures that high-risk patients are getting the right support they need to lower their risk of CVD.”

More detailed findings on CVD risk assessment and management, based on this national primary care data, will be released next year.

The GP 19 conference, run by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, is being held in Adelaide from 24-26 October 2019.

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