In a pilot study, 42,000 text messages were sent to Australians aged 45 and above with no prior cardiovascular disease (CVD) history, through 200 GP clinics.
Prevention has always been the most powerful tool. When it comes to cardiovascular disease (CVD), the importance of prevention cannot be overstated. In Australia, CVD remains a leading cause of death, particularly among seniors. To combat this, a text-message-based heart health check-up program can be a game-changer.
The following explore the need for priority consultations for seniors regarding heart checkups, have a look at the Heart Foundation’s Heart Health Checks programme, and provide essential tips to preserve heart health.
Heart Health Check (HHC) Recall Program
Australia’s Heart Foundation ran a pilot programme in 2022, the Heart Health Check (HHC) Recall, wherein each of 200 member GP clinics would send text-message notifications to patients asking them to schedule a consultation. The programme is the continuation of an initial project made in 2021.
Patients for the programme were selected on certain markers such as:
- Between 45 to 74 years old
- Not diagnosed with CVD
- Had not had a health assessment in the past 12 months
- Cholesterol levels, including total cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, measured within the previous year
- Have visited their GP at least three times in the past two years.
The objective was to identify patients who may have developed potential signs of CVD, to help plan a prevention solution. Evaluations revealed that the HHC Recall increased HHC sessions by 14 per cent.
One of the participating GPs, Dr Raya Grishina-Gunn of NSW, said some patients who had consultations under HHC Recall were rapidly identified as having lingering CVD risks, which referred them to a cardiologist for further treatment.
Benefits of HHC Recall Program
Implementing a text-message-based heart check-up program like the HHC Recall, offers several advantages:
- Accessibility. Text messages are a familiar and accessible communication tool for seniors. They are more likely to read and respond to text messages compared to other forms of communication.
- Timely Reminders. Automated reminders ensure that seniors don’t miss their check-up appointments, increasing the likelihood of early detection and intervention.
- Personalisation. The system can tailor messages to individual health needs, making the communication more relevant and motivating for seniors.
- Cost-Effective. Compared to traditional outreach methods, such as phone calls or physical mail, text messages are cost-effective and efficient.
- Improved Health Outcomes. By facilitating timely check-ups and preventive measures, the program can lead to better health outcomes for seniors, reducing the burden of CVD.
Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) Prevention among Seniors
Cardiovascular disease (CVD), which encompasses conditions like heart disease and stroke, is a significant public health concern. While it impacts individuals across all age groups, seniors are notably at a higher risk.
Here are some key statistics:
- According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, in 2021, 42,700 deaths in Australia were attributed to CVD.
- As people age, their risk of developing CVD increases significantly.
- Many seniors may have risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes, making them more susceptible to heart-related issues.
Tips to Prevent Cardiovascular Diseases (CVD)
Preventing CVD is not only about early detection but also about maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle. The following are some tips for seniors to prevent CVD.
Eat a Balanced Diet
Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy items in your diet. Limit salt, sugar, and saturated fats.
Stay Physically Active
Engaging in consistent physical activity can assist in sustaining a healthy body weight, decreasing blood pressure, and mitigating the likelihood of heart disease. Seniors should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week.
Smoking is a significant risk factor for heart disease. Seniors who smoke should seek help to quit, and those who don’t should avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.
Chronic stress can contribute to heart disease. Seniors should explore stress-reduction techniques such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises.
Monitor Blood Pressure and Cholesterol
Regularly check blood pressure and cholesterol levels. High levels of both are risk factors for heart disease. Seniors should follow their healthcare provider’s recommendations for managing these conditions.
Limit Alcohol Intake
If seniors choose to drink alcohol, they should do so in moderation. This implies a maximum of one beverage daily for women and a maximum of two beverages daily for men.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Carrying excess weight or being obese elevates the probability of developing heart disease. Seniors should work with their healthcare providers to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
Get Quality Sleep
Strive for seven to nine hours of restorative sleep each night. Inadequate sleep can be a factor in heart-related issues.
Stay Socially Active
Maintaining social connections and engaging in hobbies and activities can support overall well-being and reduce stress.
Follow Medical Advice
Seniors should work closely with their healthcare providers to manage any chronic conditions like diabetes or hypertension. It is crucial to follow the prescribed medications and treatment regimens.
Implementing a text-message-based heart check-up programme can help seniors access timely care and information to reduce their risk of heart disease. Combining such proactive efforts with lifestyle changes and regular check-ups can go a long way in preserving heart health and improving the quality of life for seniors across the country.
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DISCLAIMER: This article is for informational purposes only. The Australian Seniors Advisory Group has no working relationships with the Heart Foundation.