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Study reveals early heart disease risk for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people


Paul Hayes


26/06/2018 1:35:46 PM

Experts are advising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to have a heart check following evidence they face a high risk of cardiovascular disease earlier than previously thought.

Federal Minister for Indigenous Health Ken Wyatt believes this type of research can help to close healthcare gaps through greater levels of preventive health. (Image: Richard Wainwright)
Federal Minister for Indigenous Health Ken Wyatt believes this type of research can help to close healthcare gaps through greater levels of preventive health. (Image: Richard Wainwright)

‘Most heart attacks and strokes are preventable and we can do so much more to improve heart health for [Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people],’ Professor Emily Banks from the ANU Research School of Population Health said.
 
Professor Banks led the new study, ‘Absolute cardiovascular disease risk and lipid-lowering therapy among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians’, which involved more than 2800 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from all over Australia.
 
The study found up to half of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged in their 40s, 50s and 60s are at high risk of a future heart attack or stroke, and significant numbers aged in their 20s are also at risk. The study also found the risk of cardiovascular disease increases substantially with age.
 
‘We find that high levels of risk are occurring in people aged younger than 35, the recommended starting age for heart health screening in national guidelines,’ Professor Banks said.
 
‘The study provides us with reliable firsthand information that doing more screening to identify people at high risk of heart attacks and strokes, along with appropriate management, is necessary and we know that will save lives.’
 
Federal Minister for Indigenous Health Ken Wyatt said this type of ‘ground-breaking’ research can help to close healthcare gaps through greater levels of preventive health.
 
‘Heart checks may need to start earlier in order to protect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, but the good news is most heart attacks and strokes can be prevented,’ he said. ‘Critical to this is knowing who is at risk and encouraging lifestyle changes, including quitting smoking, and lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
 
‘The study also found that many people at high risk of heart attacks or strokes are not aware of it and most are not receiving currently recommended therapy to lower their cholesterol.’
 
Professor Banks said she is concerned that most people at high risk of cardiovascular disease are not receiving recommended treatment.
 
‘This new evidence shows the huge potential of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people working together with health professionals and policy makers to guide best practice heart health screening and treatment,’ she said
 
‘We are working with communities and health professionals to support more health checks and guideline-developers to incorporate it into best-practice care.’
 
Vicki Wade is an Aboriginal expert on cardiovascular health who lives with heart disease. She cited her own experiences when urging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to undergo a heart check.

Vicki-Wade-Article.jpgVicki Wade, with her granddaughter Heidi, said she is able to better manage her heart disease after it was discovered following a health check.
 
‘I had a health check at my local doctor’s, who sent me off to the cardiologist,’ she said. ‘I had an angiogram that showed heart disease.
 
‘I feel I am one of the lucky ones, as I have no damage to my heart.
 
‘I had heart disease and I didn’t even know. Now I know I can do something about it.’

RACGP resources



aboriginal and torres strait islander health australian national university heart disease national guide





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