The development of a heart risk tool will help GPs spread the word about good heart health.

West Australians who left school early or live in regional and remotes areas are more than twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke in the next five years, according to new data from the Heart Foundation.

People aged 45 to 74 who did not finish high school are 65% more likely to be at high risk than those who did and a higher proportion of people living in outer regional and remote areas are 15% more high risk than compared to Australians living in major capital cities.

GP toolkit

The figures were released to highlight a new online toolkit for GPs that aims to integrate Heart Health Checks into routine patient care to identify people at risk of heart disease.

The data identifies Australians with a high absolute cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk score, defined as greater than 15% risk of a heart attack or stroke in the next five years. The findings come from an analysis of ABS health survey results to derive absolute CVD risk scores among Australians aged 45 to 74.

The Heart Health Check Toolkit was developed with input from a primary care expert advisory group and general practice validation group with GP, practice nurse, practice manager and PHN representatives.

The toolkit offers pre-populated assessment and management templates for Heart Health Checks that make it easier for GPs and practice nurses to collect CVD risk factor information and support patients.

Engaging patients

It also includes a range of resources that can be used by GPs to engage patients in their heart health.

Heart Foundation Risk Reduction Manager Natalie Raffoul said the data reinforced that disadvantaged Australians were worse off when it came to CVD risk.

“This, combined with our knowledge from primary care data that tens of thousands of eligible Australians are not having their CVD risk assessed in line with guidelines, shows that people at risk are falling through the cracks,” she said.

Ms Raffoul said the toolkit also had a section on quality improvement and the PIP QI incentive launched by the Australian Government in 2019.


“The toolkit encourages a whole-of-practice approach so that general practice teams can improve heart health outcomes for their patients while maximising the financial incentives they can receive via the PIP QI,” she said.

“With better processes for engaging and recalling patients eligible for a Heart Health Check, we hope to boost CVD screening rates and reach more at-risk Australians.”

The Heart Health Check is the first preventative health assessment MBS item to incorporate absolute CVD risk calculation and facilitate yearly assessment. Absolute CVD risk brings together the combined risk of multiple CVD risk factors to estimate a person’s chance of heart attack or stroke in the next five years.

The burden of CVD remains high in Australia, causing one in four of all deaths, or one death every 13 minutes, and accounts for 1600 hospitalisations a day.

CVD burden in WA

In WA, coronary heart disease is estimated to account for 7.2% of all disease burden – the leading cause of burden. Taking into account population growth and ageing, hospitalisations in WA due to CVD are estimated to increase by 50% to 66,739 in 2025.

The largest increases are predicted to occur in the 65 years and over age groups for both men and women. 

ED: To download the Heart Health Check Toolkit