SummaryRead the full fact sheet
- People aged 45 years and over (or 30 and over for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people) are eligible for regular Heart Health Checks with their doctor (GP).
- As part of a Heart Health Check, your doctor will calculate your cardiovascular disease risk score. Your risk score estimates your risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the next 5 years.
- Your cardiovascular disease risk score combines your risk factors for a heart attack or stroke, including both modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors.
- Your doctor will discuss your risk score with you and will support you to make positive changes to lower your risk of a heart attack or stroke.
About heart attack and stroke
Coronary heart disease is the main cause of heart attacks. Every day, 45 Australians die from coronary heart disease.
High cholesterol and high blood pressure are risk factors for heart attack and stroke, along with other modifiable risk factors like physical inactivity and poor diet.
As part of a , your doctor will calculate your risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the next 5 years. This is called your cardiovascular disease risk score. By knowing your risk score, your doctor can support you to take steps to reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke.
What is a Heart Health Check?
A Heart Health Check is a 20-minute check up with your doctor which is subsidised by Medicare. You are eligible for a Heart Health Check if you:
- have not had a heart attack or stroke, and
- you are over 45 years of age (or over 30 years for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people).
As part of a Heart Health check, your doctor will:
- ask you about your medical and family history of heart disease
- ask you about your lifestyle, including your diet, physical activity, and if you smoke or drink alcohol
- check your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
Your doctor will then take this information and use it to calculate your cardiovascular disease risk score.
Knowing your risk score will help you and your doctor to make immediate decisions about the best action to take to improve your heart health. This can include lifestyle changes like following a and . Some people may also need to take to manage their blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
If you identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, it’s recommended you see your doctor or Aboriginal Health Practitioner from age 18 to identify any heart disease risk factors as early as possible.
Factors used to calculate your risk score for heart attack and stroke
Your doctor will calculate your cardiovascular disease risk score based on your modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors.
Modifiable risk factors are factors that you can change. Non-modifiable risk factors are factors you can’t change.
Heart attack and stroke risk factors that you can change include:
There are also some health conditions that increase risk:
Risk factors you can’t change include:
- your age
- whether you were born male or female (your sex)
- being post-menopausal
- having a premature family history of heart disease (where one or more of your immediate family members, such as a parent or sibling, has had a heart attack or stroke before the age of 65).
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and people from South Asian, Middle Eastern, Māori and Pacific Islander backgrounds are also at increased risk.
Calculating your risk score for heart attack and stroke
After considering your risk factors, your doctor will calculate your risk score, which is a percentage.
The percentage gives the probability of you having heart attack or stroke in the next 5 years. In other words, whether you are at low, intermediate or high risk.
Some people who have certain medical conditions do not need a risk score, because they are already at high risk. Your doctor will tell you if you are in this group and advise you about what to do to reduce your risk.
Making changes based on your risk score for heart attack and stroke
No matter what your risk score, there are changes that you can make to improve your heart health:
- Follow a , which includes:
- plenty of and
- a variety of – especially and seafood, legumes (such as beans and lentils), . Eggs and poultry can also be enjoyed as part of a heart-healthy eating pattern. If you eat red meat, choose lean cuts and limit to one to 3 times per week
- – if you have heart disease or high cholesterol, choose reduced fat varieties
- – choose nuts, seeds, avocados, olives and their oils for cooking
- add herbs and spices to flavour foods, instead of .
- Maintain a .
- Drink less alcohol.
- Look after your .
You may wish to participate in a formal health and exercise program. Ask your doctor about a suitable program or contact your local community health centre or council for more information.
Did you know walking is a great activity for heart health? Getting involved with a Heart Foundation Walking group is a fun and social way to be active. You can also register for a free Personal Walking Plan. Visit for more information.
Heart Age Calculator
The Heart Age Calculator estimates how your heart age compares to your actual age.
It only takes 3 minutes to find out and can help you understand your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
Your risk of a heart attack or stroke may be higher if your heart age is greater than your actual age.