Researchers from Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute warn about heart disease

Awareness raising: Heart Support - Australia Port Macquarie Hastings Branch Healthy Heart Support service manager Max Heslehurst promotes the benefits of diet and exercise.

Awareness raising: Heart Support - Australia Port Macquarie Hastings Branch Healthy Heart Support service manager Max Heslehurst promotes the benefits of diet and exercise.

DON’T become complacent about heart disease, experts warn in the wake of a new report.

The report shows Australia in on the brink of reversing the gains made in combating cardiovascular disease over the past half century.

Researchers from Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute warn that a deadly combination of obesity and type two diabetes - combined with growing rates of irregular heartbeat and heart failure - is fuelling “a new era of heart disease across all generations”.

The report, Change of Heart - Time to End Cardiovascular Complacency, calls for cardiovascular health to be prioritised among community, health professionals and governments.

Heart Support - Australia Port Macquarie Hastings Branch Healthy Heart Support Service manager Max Heslehurst said it was worrying to a degree that after so many years we were not progressing as well as we should be in the fight against cardiovascular disease.

The branch is doing its bit to put heart health front and centre at a community level.

Mr Heslehurst said the branch promoted the benefits of exercise and a healthy diet.

The branch runs walking groups at Port Macquarie and Laurieton and its Healthy Heart Support Service volunteers visit cardiac patients in hospital.

Baker IDI director Professor Tom Marwick the report was a wake-up call to end cardiovascular complacency.

“We have the tools at our disposal to treat Australians at risk better, and to tackle the root causes of obesity and type 2 diabetes,” he said.

Report co-author and head of population health at Baker IDI Professor Jonathan Shaw said their analysis revealed the decline in the death rate from cardiovascular disease had flattened over the past five years.

“This stagnation was being fuelled by rising rates of type 2 diabetes and obesity and a new epidemic of age-related heart conditions,” he said.

Professor Marwick said adding further fuel to the fire, too many Australians with risk factors for heart disease such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes remained untreated or not treated to recommended targets.

“There are many actions that government can take but the cost of ignoring these challenges will be increasing health costs and more strain on the hospital system,” he said.

The report warns cardiovascular disease affects more than 3.7 million Australians, accounts for more than 45,000 deaths each year and is Australia’s most costly health condition.

Professor Marwick said there was a perception that cardiovascular disease was under control in Australia, but there was a “new face of heart disease” with an alarming increase projected in the number of Australians affected by irregular heartbeat, known as atrial fibrillation, and heart failure.

Heart Foundation chief medical adviser Professor Garry Jennings said the report’s findings provided further evidence that governments, healthcare professionals and the community needed to be reminded of the need for action.

“For the first time in nearly 10 years, we’ve seen a rise in heart disease deaths this year, which tells us that this is no time for complacency,” he said.

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