” Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who experience and die from cardiovascular disease at much higher rates than other Australians.
What you don’t know can hurt you. Heart disease and strokes are the biggest killers of Australians, and the biggest risk factor for both of them is high blood pressure.
But high blood pressure – known to doctors as ‘hypertension’ – is a silent killer because there are no obvious signs or symptoms, and many people don’t realise they have it. “
John Kelly CEO-National, Heart Foundation see Press release below
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, when compared with other Australians, are:
- 1.3 times as likely to have cardiovascular disease (1)
- three times more likely to have a major coronary event, such as a heart attack (2)
- more than twice as likely to die in hospital from coronary heart disease (2)
- 19 times as likely to die from acute rheumatic fever and chronic rheumatic heart Disease (3)
- more likely to smoke, have high blood pressure, be obese, have diabetes and have end-stage renal disease.(3)
This year, the Heart Foundation’s annual campaign, Heart Week, will shine a spotlight on the importance of diagnosing and treating high blood pressure. In particular, the campaign encourages health professionals to get acquainted with the Heart Foundation’s new hypertension guidelines.
The guidelines recommend:
- that the management of patients with hypertension should also consider absolute cardiovascular disease risk
- different treatment strategies for individuals at high risk of a cardiovascular event to those at low absolute cardiovascular disease risk even if they have similar blood pressure readings
- blood pressure-lowering therapy for patients with uncomplicated mild hypertension (systolic BP, 140–159 mmHg)
- the benefits of lower targets of < 120 mmHg systolic for patients with at least moderate cardiovascular risk (10-year risk, 20%)
- a healthy lifestyle, including not smoking, eating a nutritious diet and regular adequate exercise for all Australians.
Did you know that the Heart Foundation in partnership with NPS MedicineWise has produced a collection of hypertension resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, and that health professionals can obtain them for free?
The resources include a flipchart for educational sessions, a patient brochure on high blood pressure and flyers on the following medicines:
- ACE inhibitors
- angiotensin receptor blockers
- beta blockers
- calcium channel blockers
- thiazide diuretics.
For more information about high blood pressure and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, see the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet web resource about cardiovascular disease.
John Kelly CEO-National, Heart Foundation Press release
New research by the Heart Foundation, released for Heart Week, has found that of the six million Australians who have high blood pressure, more than 2.7 million have high blood pressure that is not treated at all, and 1.4 million have high blood pressure that is treated but not controlled.
This is a recipe for tragedy for individuals and families, too many of whom will have to cope with sudden death or life-long disabilities. Even in young Australians, high blood pressure can cause serious long-term damage; it is linked to chronic kidney disease, as well as Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
The prevalence of uncontrolled high blood pressure is a ticking time-bomb in terms of our already overstretched health system. Each year, heart disease and stroke are responsible for more than 30,000 deaths and $3.1 billion in direct health costs, and their incidence is rising.
At the moment, most people do not realise how crucial blood pressure is to their health. Only seven percent of Australians know that hypertension is a risk factor for heart disease (it causes half of all heart disease deaths), and only two per cent would focus on lowering blood pressure as a way of reducing their heart disease risk. People are much more likely to nominate stress and alcohol as key triggers.
Perhaps surprisingly, the problem of lack of treatment is more common in the cities than in regional Australia. More adults in regional and rural Australia have high blood pressure (39 percent vs 31 percent in the cities). But their city cousins are much more likely to have untreated, uncontrolled high blood pressure (52 per cent vs 37 percent). This might be because people in the regions tend to have more health problems and are more likely to be seeing their GPs regularly.
All adult Australians should have their blood pressure checked by a doctor at least every two years. Every GP should be routinely checking the blood pressure of adult patients who present to them for any kind of problem.
High blood pressure can be managed and controlled. Your eating patterns, alcohol intake, weight and level of physical activity have a strong influence on your blood pressure.
Many people need to take blood pressure-lowering medicine. You should work closely with your doctor to find the medicine that works best for you.
If you are among the one in 11 Australians who has not had a blood pressure check in the last two years, make that appointment today. Then urge the people you love to do the same. Consider it a heartfelt gift.
The Heart Foundation is a co-signatory to the national Close the Gap campaign. We are committed to improving the life expectancy and quality of life of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. No plan or strategy can successfully address these health challenges unless it specifically addresses heart, stroke and blood vessel disease.
For more than a decade, the Heart Foundation has been building knowledge and experience in improving the cardiovascular health of Indigenous Australians.
The Heart Foundation has worked with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to identify the following seven priorities that need to addressed to tackle the unacceptable disparity in health outcomes suffered by the first Australians. The following documents outline how health practitioners can help reduce disparity.
- Reduce consumption of tobacco and make healthy lifestyle choices easy (PDF)
- Improve early identification and ongoing management of cardiovascular risk factors (PDF)
- Improve access to timely and culturally appropriate diagnostic services (PDF)
- Strengthen the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of rheumatic heart disease (PDF)
- Improve in-hospital disparities in care for patients experiencing acute coronary syndrome (ACS) (PDF)
- Improve participation in cardiac rehabilitation and ongoing care (PDF)
- Improve access and adherence to medication across the continuum of the patient journey (PDF)
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Cardiovascular disease and its associated risk factors in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples 2004 05, Cat. No. CVD 29, June 2008.
- AIHW: Mathur S, Moon L, Leigh S. 2006. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with coronary heart disease: further perspectives on health status and treatment. Cardiovascular disease series no. 25. Cat. No. CVD 33. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Heart, stroke and vascular diseases Australian facts 2004. AIHW Cat. No. CVD 27. Canberra: AIHW and National Heart Foundation of Australia (Cardiovascular Disease Series No. 22).
Guidelines, tools and position statements
- A framework for overcoming disparities in management of acute coronary syndromes in the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, 2014
This consensus statement calls for reforms to the health system to provide pathways of care that help eliminate the differences in diagnostic investigation rates, cardiac intervention rates and outcomes compared with non-Indigenous patients. Published in the Medical Journal of Australia.
- Better hospital care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experiencing heart attack, 2010 (PDF)
This report addresses the disparities in hospital care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with acute coronary syndromes (ACS) and makes practical recommendations to close the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heart health.
- Position statement: Indigenous tobacco control, 2011 (PDF)
- Buyer’s guide for managers of remote Indigenous stores and takeaways, 2008 (PDF)
- Acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease
- Strengthening Cardiac Rehabilitation and Secondary Prevention for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples (NHMRC website)
Source: Heart Foundation and Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet