Now affecting 1 in 50 Australians, heart failure is becoming more common and is expected to increase as more people survive heart attacks, live longer and suffer from heart problems that lead to this potentially debilitating disease and long term, warns the charity hearts4heart.
Clinicians, patients, carers and politicians join the charity in urging Australians to be smart with their hearts, as they kick off Australia’s first Heart Failure Awareness Week (June 27- July 3).
“Unfortunately, dangerously low levels of heart failure awareness leave Australians vulnerable,” said hearts4heart CEO Tanya Hall, who lost her father to heart failure when he was only 59 years old.
“To help heart failure patients feel better and live longer, healthier lives, GPs need to recognize the symptoms of heart failure and know the appropriate clinical pathway for diagnosis,” Hall said. .
Cardiologist A/Prof John Amerena said: “The delayed diagnosis and rising trends in heart failure admissions in Australia are cause for concern.
“When left untreated, heart failure gets progressively worse, but with early diagnosis, treatment, and lifestyle changes, a person with heart failure can reduce their risk of hospitalization and improve their quality of life,” Amerena said.
To aid in the early identification of heart failure symptoms and provide guidance on the appropriate clinical pathway for diagnosis, hearts4heart’s medical advisory board has developed a new tool based on the Australian consensus of recent heart failure guidelines of the European Society of Cardiologists (ESC).
‘Recognizing Heart Failure’ can be used to guide GPs in their response to patients with symptoms of heart failure and is available to download from the charity’s website at hearts4heart.org.au.
“As health care providers, we play a vital role in encouraging people aged 65 and over to be aware of symptoms and to have their heart checked regularly. Be smart. Have regular conversations about heart health with your patients, talk about possible symptoms, and make sure you understand the proper diagnostic pathway,” Amerena said.
At $3.1 billion, heart failure is the leading cause of hospitalization for people over 65, with an estimated 1.1 million hospital days recorded each year, according to hearts4hearts.
Alarmingly, 30% of patients admitted to hospital for heart failure are readmitted within 60 to 90 days and approximately 1 in 3 of those admitted will die within a year of diagnosis.
To reduce avoidable hospital admissions, support shared decision-making between patients and clinicians, and improve the overall quality of life for heart failure patients and caregivers, hearts4heart is also launching Australia’s first Patient Charter and carers with heart failure with the support of Parliamentary Friends of Heart and Stroke, clinicians, patients and carers.
“Through better education and shared decision-making between clinicians, patients and carers, we can disrupt the cycle resulting in thousands of hospital admissions every year, but it will take commitment from all Australians,” said Lobby.