Cholesterol plan could save thousands

Two Australians could be saved every day if the federal government implements measures to better identify and treat cholesterol problems, cardiovascular experts say.

One person dies every 12 minutes from cardiovascular disease in Australia, making it the nation’s biggest killer.

But many of those deaths are avoidable, finds a new report, authored by cardiovascular experts and launched by the Parliamentary Friends of Heart and Stroke on Thursday.

With those who have suffered a stroke or heart attack likely to experience another, managing cholesterol levels is critical.

For many cardiovascular disease sufferers, that is not happening, the report says.

It outlines five steps the government can take to better test and treat the cholesterol problems of people at high risk of cardiovascular disease.

High-risk Australians must know their cholesterol levels, they must get them checked annually, guidelines around the prevention of cardiovascular disease must be updated in line with best practice, and cholesterol profile reporting must be standardised nationwide.

Cardiovascular rehabilitation, which educates on how to improve heart health and return to a normal activity level, must also be offered to more heart attack or stroke sufferers.

Professor Garry Jennings, Flagship Director of the Cardiovascular Alliance, agrees that those who have already suffered a heart attack or stroke are being left behind by the system.

“Not everybody is seeking proper follow-up for the condition, not everybody’s taking medication that they’re prescribed, not everyone’s getting medication they need prescribed,” he told AAP.

“We just need to try a lot harder and we need to educate our patients better.”

The plan outlined in the report would go a long way to achieving that goal, he said, and there were no barriers to implementing it – it would be easy and affordable for the federal government to do.

Prof Jennings said $197 over five years per patient “is trivial compared with the cost of a heart attack or the cost of losing employment because of the heart attack, or the cost of some of the treatments that people receive”.

If the five measures detailed in the report are enacted, the cardiovascular experts estimate 7591 heart attacks or strokes will be avoided and 3221 lives saved in the next five years.

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