‘Most Australians unaware of key heart failure risks’

By Our Reporter
"The latest research around awareness of comorbidities among Australian adults is very concerning,” said Hearts4heart CEO Tanya Hall

Heart failure affects approximately half a million Australians, with over 67,000 new cases diagnosed each year. These figures are expected to rise as the population ages. Patients often contend with multiple other health conditions, such as high blood pressure, kidney disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

A recent survey by YouGov, commissioned by Hearts4heart, reveals a troubling lack of awareness among Australians about these comorbidities. Over four million Australians are unaware of the conditions that can increase their risk of heart failure. Hearts4heart CEO Tanya Hall finds these statistics alarming. Hall, who lost her father to heart failure at 59, highlighted the particularly low awareness of kidney disease and its link to heart failure. Only 32% of Australians know that kidney disease can elevate their heart failure risk, even though it affects 44% of Australians over 75.

Type 2 diabetes, impacting 1.2 million Australians, is another significant concern. Despite its prominence on the national health agenda, less than half of the population recognises its connection to heart failure. Heart failure remains the leading cause of hospitalisation for those over 65, costing the health system $3.1 billion annually. Hall emphasised the importance of increasing awareness to reduce this burden.

Professor Andrew Sindone from Concord Hospital and Ryde Hospital explains that heart failure doesn’t mean the heart has stopped working, but that it struggles to meet the body’s demands. Comorbidities exacerbate this issue if not managed properly. Effective management, including early detection and treatment, is crucial for improving outcomes and quality of life. Sindone urges individuals to discuss their risks with their GP, as this can help in early detection and prevention of severe complications like heart attacks and strokes.

Heart failure symptoms vary and can include breathlessness, sudden weight gain, tiredness, dizziness, confusion, swelling, and irregular heartbeats. These symptoms can appear suddenly or worsen over time. Early stages might be symptom-free, making awareness and regular health checks vital.

Heart Failure Awareness Week, an initiative by Hearts4heart, aims to raise awareness about the prevalence of heart failure, its symptoms, and the importance of early detection. This initiative aligns with the recent extension of the Medicare-subsidised Heart Health Check program. This program allows individuals aged 45 and over, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 30 and over, to assess their heart disease risk in a 20-minute consultation with a medical practitioner.

For those concerned about heart failure symptoms or seeking more information, Hearts4heart provides resources and support on their website. The organisation continues to advocate for better awareness and management of heart disease, striving to reduce preventable deaths and improve the quality of life for patients and caregivers.

If you are concerned about yourself, a friend or loved one who may be showing symptoms of heart failure, or to access resources and information, visit www.hearts4heart.org.au.

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