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New AUS data reveals alarmingly low community awareness for leading cause of cardiovascular morbidity & mortality

New Australian data just presented at the American College of Cardiology’s (ACC) annual scientific session in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, reveals limited understanding, alarmingly low community awareness, and concern for one of our nation’s leading causes of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality – heart valve disease (HVD).

Findings from the extensive Australian population survey designed to assess community knowledge of HVD, were just presented by Consultant Cardiologist, Cardiovascular Imaging Specialist, and Head of Cardiology, The University of Notre Dame, Perth, Australia, Professor David Playford, at the ACC.

According to Prof Playford, despite the growing prevalence of patients living with heart valve disease – more than half a million Australians – there nonetheless remains an unmet need for simple, cost-effective strategies designed to improve patient education, disease awareness, and community knowledge of when to seek a heart health check from a general practitioner (GP).

“Given more than a quarter of a million Australians are unaware they are living with HVD, and with these figures projected to increase to 435,000 by 2051, this disease represents a serious, emerging public health issue, that warrants urgent attention.

“Early detection, and intervention are critical for curtailing the rising rates of undiagnosed HVD, particularly given common symptoms – especially exercise intolerance – are often misattributed to ‘old age’, and with our research showing social and physical activities, such as walking, are important to older Australians,” said Prof Playford.

“To prevent symptom and disease progression, untimely death, or sudden deterioration requiring hospital admission, a timely diagnosis or HVD is essential. Fortunately, signs of HVD even before symptoms develop can be detected by performing a simple auscultation examination to assess for heart murmur, during a routine GP visit.

“Concerningly, only 14 percent of the 1,041 Australians aged 60+ years who participated in the population survey, rated HVD as a major health concern, while only 17 percent of respondents were able to explain HVD,” Prof Playford said.

“Based on the population survey, although almost 3-in-5 (58.4%) Australians aged 60 years and over said their GP checked their heart with a stethoscope either ‘every visit’, or ‘occasionally’, a significant proportion of the population – more than 2-in-5 (41.6%) – reported their GP listened to their heart either ‘rarely’, or ‘never’.

Without timely intervention, the HVD severe symptomatic aortic stenosis may cause death within two years, with the chance of survival without aortic valve replacement at only 50% in two years, and just 20% at 5 years.

“We know regular heart health checks for people aged 60 years and above may help to achieve an early HVD diagnosis, while increased treatment of HVD would contribute to a substantial reduction in cardiovascular disease mortality – the leading cause of death in both Australia, and worldwide,” said Prof Playford.

Interventional Cardiologist and Cardiac CT Specialist, Fiona Stanley Hospital, Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, Curtin University, Dr Abdul Ihdayhid, Perth, said given the majority (66.4%) of survey respondents visited a GP every 1-to-6 months, while 1-in-7 (13.6%) visited a GP every 7-to-12 months, the opportunity to perform regular heart health checks, heighten patient disease awareness and education, and conduct, or refer patients for an echocardiographic exam, is certainly achievable.

“Symptoms commonly associated with HVD, including chest discomfort, palpitations, dyspnea and feeling faint9 would prompt 86%, 74%, 73% and 51% of survey respondents, respectively, to visit their GP. These figures are promising, and denote a small improvement in community awareness, in comparison with a similar population survey performed in 2020,” Dr Ihdayhid said.

“It is, however, worrying that despite the majority of Australian respondents reporting these symptoms warrant a visit to their GP, there nonetheless, remains a distinct lack of understanding, and awareness of HVD.

“Heightening HVD awareness and education among GPs, healthcare workers, health advocacy groups and patients alike, while further reinforcing the prevalence of disease among older Australians, is crucial to ensuring early detection, and subsequent intervention,” said Dr Ihdayhid.

“The population survey results demonstrate the vast majority of older Australians wish to remain active in both their work and family life, and more importantly, to take proactive steps towards maintaining their health and wellbeing.

“Given age-related degenerative conditions represent one of the main causes of valvular heart disease, it is crucial Australians, particularly those aged 60 plus, are educated on the importance of acting as an advocate for their own heart health, and requesting regular auscultation examinations from their GP,” Dr Ihdayhid said.


The ‘Identifying Gaps in Detection of Heart Valve Disease: A Population Survey’ was performed online, between 8-14 September 2023. Edwards Lifesciences commissioned YouGov to conduct the 20-question, online survey involving 1,041 Australian respondents aged 60+ years, to assess awareness of aortic stenosis, general health concerns, knowledge of HVD, social and physical activity levels, and frequency of stethoscope checks performed by GPs. All participants were randomly chosen from the YouGov Australian panel of more than 71,000 individuals who had agreed to participate in surveys.

Image by freepik.

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