HCF urges Australians to put their heart health first in 2018 following release of new data

Sydney, 1 February 2018 – One Australian dies from cardiovascular disease (CVD) every 12 minutes. It is Australia’s leading cause of death[i]. HCF, Australia’s largest not-for-profit health fund, has today released new data showing how Australia’s heart health is tracking.

In partnership with the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, HCF has been testing its members for risk factors related to heart health since 2012. Newly released data shows that of those members who visited a Health Check Booth in 2017, only 38% were aware of their blood pressure (3175 of 8299 tested members), 24% were aware of their cholesterol (2025 of 8299) and 11% were aware of their blood sugar levels (921 of 8299).

At the same time, a number of those screened have high blood pressure (10%), high cholesterol (36%) and high blood sugar levels (8%). Based on their results, nearly half of all tested members are being referred to see a general practitioner (GP) for a follow up consultation (37%).

To date, nurses from the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute have tested more than 55,000 Australians through its Health Check Booths. The booths, which can check blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels, operate in various HCF branches across the country year round and are aimed at empowering members with personalised, immediate feedback about the basic risk factors that could affect their heart and overall health.

HCF’s Medical Director, Dr Andrew Cottrill, says CVD and diabetes are growing health concerns in Australia, which is why HCF encourages Australians to put their health first and understand the risk factors.

“National data tells us that more than one million hospitalisations are associated with CVD each year (11% of all hospitalisations), about one in five Australians self-reported to have had CVD in 2014-15, and cases of CVD are on the rise. The number of hospitalisations where CVD was the principle diagnosis increased by 7% between 2005-06 and 2014-15[ii].

“At the same time, we know that many cases of heart disease, and related heart attacks, can be prevented. Many sufferers have modifiable risk factors, such as smoking, being overweight and high blood pressure. The results from the 2017 Health Check Booths are worrying, and should be better. The checks help members track their heart health, and learn ways to keep a healthy heart.”

“HCF also offers a range of weight loss programs for members with heart conditions or type 2 diabetes, helping to improve the long term health outcomes for Australians,” said Dr Cottrill.

HCF member Michael Anderson, 62, from Strathmore Victoria, joined HCF’s Healthy Weight For Life (HWFL) program following his doctor’s recommendation. Michael had been obese or overweight for more than 35 years and was suffering from several associated health problems, including Atrial Fibrillation, prostate cancer, Severe Obstructive Sleep Apnoea and high cholesterol.

Upon completion of the 18 week program, Michael lost 22kg and decreased his waistline by nearly 30cm. After continuing with the healthy eating and exercise habits for a further six months, today, Michael has lost a total of 27.5kg, 35cm off his waistline, and reduced his BMI by nearly 25%. For the first time in nearly four decades, Michael says his BMI is now in the healthy range (23.5) and his cholesterol and blood pressure have also dropped to a more ideal level as a result.

“Thanks to the HWFL program and supportive staff, I started walking every day, eating healthier meals and having smaller portions. I definitely exceeded my own goals, but you get back what you put in. It’s about having the discipline to stick to the changes, to see the results and experience the long term health benefits.

“Importantly, I now have the skills, knowledge and confidence to imbed healthy eating habits and exercise into my lifestyle moving forward. Time will tell, but I’m confident that I won’t be returning to the 110kg and 31.2 BMI former me,” said Michael.

Test results from the Victor Chang Health Check Booths varied across the country. In 2017, 48% of those tested in the Melbourne area were recommended to see their GP for follow up, compared to 85% in Sydney’s Liverpool area, 43% in Sydney’s Burwood area, 32% in Sydney’s Campbelltown area, and 28% in the Sydney city area.

This year’s results also showed that while 51% of those tested in the Melbourne area had high cholesterol, the figure increased to 75% in Sydney’s Liverpool area and decreased to 41% in Sydney’s Brookvale area, 30% in the Sydney city area and 28% in Sydney’s Bondi area.

In sharing these results, HCF hopes to help raise more awareness of the risk factors that can affect the heart, and the benefit of leading a healthy lifestyle and health checks in preventing disease. In partnership with the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, HCF is urging Australians to put their heart health first.

Siroun Woods, a Health Check Booth Coordinator with the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, says there are some simple ways that Australians can maintain a healthy heart.

“Making some simple lifestyle changes, like eating a well-balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables and choosing lean meats and poultry, cutting down on your salt and alcohol intake, aiming for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day, and not smoking, all play an important role in helping to maintain a healthy heart and reducing your risk of heart disease and stroke,” said Siroun.

More than 30,000 HCF members have claimed for heart related procedures in the last five years.

For more information about cardiovascular disease or to get checked for key risk factors contact your GP.

The heart health checks are free for HCF members with extras cover thanks to HCF’s ongoing partnership with the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, a not-for-profit charity dedicated to fighting cardiovascular disease through research. The HCF website has information on when the Victor Chang Health Check Booths will be visiting selected branches in 2018. Go to: www.hcf.com.au


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About HCF

HCF, Australia’s largest not-for-profit health fund protecting people since 1932, covers around 1.5 million members with health and life insurance, community care, travel and pet insurance. On average over the last five years, HCF has paid out more cents in every dollar in premiums to members as benefits than the industry average. With over 35,000 specialists participating in its Medical Gap Cover Scheme and approximately 10,000 providers participating in its 100% back More for You programs, HCF gives members access to quality healthcare with no gaps or minimal costs compared to non-participating providers. To empower members to put their health first, HCF also offers a range of health and lifestyle services including its My Health Guardian health management program, mobile Victor Chang Heart Health Checks and My Global Specialist second opinion service. HCF’s national network of retail outlets and Australian-based call centres have earned multi-award winning status. HCF members also have access to low cost, high quality services at HCF Dental Centres. Having contributed $50 million to support the health services research funded by the HCF Research Foundation, HCF is devoted to investing in the future of Australia’s health. To learn more about HCF go to hcf.com.au/about-us

[i] Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, 2017

[ii] Cardiovascular health compendium, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2016 https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/heart-stroke-vascular-disease/cardiovascular-health-compendium/contents/how-many-australians-have-cardiovascular-disease