Heart disease remains the nation’s single biggest killer but has fallen off the radar for many Australians amid the pandemic, the Heart Foundation says.
A survey released on World Heart Day on Sept. 29 revealed that over 5,000 Australian adults, those with heart disease or at high risk of heart disease, were found to be more likely to have missed or delayed an appointment with their GP between April and August than other Australians.
Statistics place the number at 27 percent of Australians with or at risk of heart disease in comparison to 17 percent of those not at risk.
Over 2 million Australians are living with heart disease or at high risk of heart disease and the Heart Foundation has calculated over 500,000 individuals have skipped potentially life-saving check-ups during the pandemic.
Roughly one-in-five people at highest risk said they were unlikely to attend future appointments with their GP citing concerns about COVID-19.
Those with heart disease are more vulnerable to severe complications if infected with COVID-19.
Bill Stavreski, the general manager of heart health at the Heart Foundation, urged Australians not to let the “fear factor” of COVID-19 stop their regular check-ups.
“Heart disease doesn’t stop during a pandemic,” Stavreski said.
“It is vital that you continue to monitor your heart health and stay in contact with your GP, and there are options to do this safely via telehealth or in person.”
Restrictions in most states and territories have been lifted since August, but around 30 percent of people with heart disease surveyed continue to avoid GP appointments.
There has also been a drop-off in people speaking to doctors surrounding risk factors in comparison with the pre-COVID-19 environment.
Blood pressure or cholesterol discussions have taken the biggest dip despite 6.2 million Australians reporting high blood pressure and 7.1 million Australians with high cholesterol.
These conditions are often known as ‘silent killers’ as there is often a lack of obvious signs and symptoms, yet put you at a higher risk of heart attack or stroke.
“Getting your blood pressure and cholesterol checked is an essential part of managing your risk of heart disease, so we would urge Australians not to put it off any longer,” Stavreski said.
“We don’t want to see a stalling of the progress we have made in lowering heart disease death rates.”