What are the risks of getting heart disease?
According to the Australian Heart Foundation* cardiovascular disease, that is diseases that affect the blood circulation system in the body, is responsible for the death of around 45,000 people every year, which equates to someone dying from cardiovascular disease every 12 minutes. It continues to be a major health problem in Australian and around the world.
Coronary heart disease itself (which is a form of cardiovascular disease) is the leading single cause of death in Australia, responsible for 12% of all deaths. One person dies of coronary heart disease every 27 minutes and around 23 people die every day from a heart attack.
How do you measure cardiac risk?
Medical science can now give a reasonably accurate measure of how likely you are to suffer from cardiovascular and heart diseases based on a number of factors. Based on this knowledge you can make change in your lifestyle to minimise the chances of contracting these diseases, or at the very least ensure that you have regular medical checkups. The following factors are taken into account in measuring cardiac risk...
- Age (cardiac risk increases with age)
- Gender (men are more likely to have heart disease than women)
- Blood pressure (high blood pressure = higher risk)
- Blood cholesterol levels (high blood cholesterol levels = higher risk)
- Smoker or non-smoker (smokers are at higher risk)
...and whether you have any possible precursors to cardiac conditions such as...
- Chronic kidney disease
- Heart arrhythmia (irregular heartbeats)
- A family history of cardiovascular disease (ie having a parent or brother/sister who developed heart disease before the age of 55 [in men] or 65 [in women])
- A family history of high blood pressure
These factors are then fed into a cardiac risk calculator which calculates a 'risk score' for you. This score indicates the likelihood of you developing a cardiovascular condition within the next 5 years, divided into three risk categories - low, moderate and high risk.
The risk calculator gives an accurate risk assessment for adults aged 45-74 and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders from 35 years of age**.
For recommendations on changes of lifestyle to minimise cardiac risk, visit our page on Nutrition and Exercise.
*based on statistics from 2015
**National Vascular Disease Prevention Alliance and the National Health and Medical Research Council