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Time to test your heart health

Australian cricketer Shane Warne

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Time to test your heart health

Shane Warne’s death was a reminder to all Australians over the age of 50 to check their heart health, and a local cardiologist has advice on how.

Sunshine Coast residents are being reminded to regularly check their heart health in the wake of the tragic and sudden deaths of Australian cricket legend Shane Warne and Labor senator Kimberley Kitching.

With both Warne and Senator Kitching aged 52, the warning is mostly aimed at any Australians over the age of 50, but health professionals are urging everyone to make heart health a priority.

Sippy Downs cardiologist and managing director at Heart HQ Dr Peter Larsen says one of the best ways for residents to monitor risk is by taking a simple test to calculate the coronary artery calcium (CAC) score.

The score works by looking at overall coronary artery plaque present around the heart and Dr Larsen says the test is the international gold standard for predicting heart attacks and strokes in patients over the age of 40.

“It’s the best predictor of your chance of a heart attack over the next 10 years,” Dr Larsen says.

“The CAC allows us to understand the relative risks of a heart attack or stroke to you as an individual. This gives us the opportunity to work together to minimise the chance of you having a cardiovascular event in the future.

“We can also use the information to decide which strategies you should adopt to reduce your risk if it’s found to be high.”

Dr Larsen says as we age, plaque can build up inside the arteries, often called hardening of the arteries, or atherosclerosis. It cannot be seen on most external x-ray tests, however over time, calcium is deposited into this plaque, which is visible on a CT scan.

The scan is performed by Heart HQ’s sister company EON Radiology, the Coast’s first dedicated cardiac CT Clinic.

From there a cardiologist can determine whether you are at low, normal or high risk of a future heart attack and give you guidance on how to reduce your risk.

“This may be by changing your diet and exercise, controlling blood pressure and diabetes, or stopping smoking and reducing cholesterol,” Dr Larsen says.

For more visit hearthq.com.au.

Fast Facts

  • A fifth of Australians aged 45 to 74 years have a high chance of having a heart attack or stroke in the next five years.
  • Twice as many men experience heart attacks as women.
  • Anyone 45 years and over or 30 years and over for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should have a regular heart health check with their doctor.

(Source: Heart Foundation Australia)

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