Is this the real reason heart attacks are soaring? Astonishing Covid data emerges after the sudden heart attack deaths of Shane Warne and Kimberley Kitching
- Warne and Kitching were both aged 52 when they suffered heart attacks
- Ex-AFL player Dean Wallis also suffered heart attack aged 52, but survived
- States least affected by Covid have highest rates of heart health checks
The sudden heart attack deaths of cricket legend Shane Warne and Senator Kimberley Kitching exposed how many people have missed out on getting health checks during the pandemic.
That they were both aged 52 and died within days of each other has made people in middle age take notice, added to by the heart attack also just suffered by ex-AFL player Dean Wallis.
Wallis, eerily also aged 52, survived and had emergency heart surgery. The two-time premiership footballer who played 127 games for Essendon is reportedly recovering well in Bendigo Base Hospital in Victoria.
But the Heart Foundation has been warning for months that more deaths from heart attacks in Australia were inevitable as 27,000 heart health checks were missed or delayed because of Covid-19’s affect on the medical system.
Australian cricket legend Shane Warne (pictured) died from a heart attack aged 52 on March 4, while on holiday in Thailand
The foundation’s research found that there will be 350 heart attacks, strokes or heart-related deaths over the next five years due to delayed or missed heart checks.
Heart Foundation chief medical adviser and interim chief executive Garry Jennings said delays in people having their risk assessed could be fatal.
‘People have been reluctant to seek routine medical attention during the pandemic and that includes having preventive health checks like a heart health check. This could have serious and even fatal consequences,’ Professor Jennings said.
‘Fewer people having a heart health check means that risk factors like high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which are generally silent or symptom free, go undiagnosed and potentially worsen, increasing people’s risk of a heart event in the future.’
Professor Jennings said a drop in heart health screening, coupled with the pandemic, could create a dangerous situation.
‘Having a heart health check gives you the best chance of preventing a heart attack or stroke. It’s a simple, painless check-up with your GP that could save your life.’
Labor Senator Kimberley Kitching (pictured) died aged 52 from a heart attack on March 10
Dean Wallis (pictured in 2000 while playing for Essendon) suffered a heart attack aged 52 on March 12. He survived and had emergency surgery
The Heart Foundation’s study found that states least affected by the pandemic, including Western Australia and Queensland, had the highest rates of screening, averaging 30 heart health checks per 1,000 eligible adults, well above the national average of 25 checks per 1,000 adults.
A tale of three 52-year-olds and their heart attacks
Shane Warne: The cricketing legend died from a heart attack while on holiday in Thailand on March 4.
Kimberley Kitching: A Labor Senator for Victoria, she had a heart attack and dies on March 10.
Dean Wallis: The former Essendon player suffered a heart attack on March 12, but survived and had emergency surgery.
All three were aged 52.
Lockdowns, along with the resource-intensive roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccination and booster programs in GP practices, were linked to dramatic drops of up to 40 per cent in people having the check across the country.
A heart health check was added as a temporary item to the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) in 2019 following a campaign by the Heart Foundation.
The Heart Foundation is calling for the check to become permanent.
‘This concerning data reinforces the urgency of making heart health checks a permanent part of the MBS, as doctors will be dealing with a backlog of people who need preventative heart health care for years to come,’ Professor Jennings said.
Heart health check’s are designed for people who haven’t yet had a heart event but may be at risk of one and is available to Australians aged 45 years and over, and 30 years and over for Indigenous people.
Professor Jennings urged eligible Australians to speak to their GP about having a check.
‘Fewer people having heart attacks and strokes places individuals, communities and our health system in a much stronger position to fight Covid-19,’ he said.
‘That’s because we know people with heart disease, including heart attack and stroke survivors and people with underlying health conditions like high blood pressure, have a higher risk of becoming seriously ill and dying from Covid-19 compared to other people in the community.’
A heart health check was added as a temporary item to the Medicare Benefits Schedule in 2019 following a campaign by the Heart Foundation. Pictured is a doctor listening to a patient’s heart
A heart health check involves three key steps
1 Talk to your doctor
Your doctor will start your check by talking with you about your heart disease risk factors.
2 Learn about your risk
Once your doctor knows your risk factors, they will enter this information into a web-based calculator to understand your risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the next five years.
3 Manage your risk
Depending on your result, your doctor may encourage you to keep doing what you’re doing, or give you advice, information and support to make heart-healthy changes.
Source: Heart Foundation
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