Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2021) Heart, stroke and vascular disease—Australian facts, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 08 December 2022.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2021). Heart, stroke and vascular disease—Australian facts. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/heart-stroke-vascular-diseases/hsvd-facts
Heart, stroke and vascular disease—Australian facts. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 29 September 2021, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/heart-stroke-vascular-diseases/hsvd-facts
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Heart, stroke and vascular disease—Australian facts [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2021 [cited 2022 Dec. 8]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/heart-stroke-vascular-diseases/hsvd-facts
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2021, Heart, stroke and vascular disease—Australian facts, viewed 8 December 2022, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/heart-stroke-vascular-diseases/hsvd-facts
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Primary health care professionals, including general practitioners (GPs), practice nurses, nurse practitioners and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers are often the first point-of-care for people who have non-acute cardiovascular disease. Primary health care professionals deliver a range of services, from health checks, diagnosis and treatment to prevention and rehabilitation activities.
Primary health care professionals can also direct patients through the health system, including to specialised care when necessary.
Common actions by primary health care professionals when managing cardiovascular problems include undertaking checks, prescribing medicines, ordering pathology or imaging tests, and referral to specialists (AIHW 2011).
GPs manage a range of risk factors and conditions related to heart, stroke and vascular disease.
In a 2018–19 survey of GP practices, high blood pressure (hypertension) was the single most common chronic condition newly recorded for patients (5.7% of patients) (NPS MedicineWise 2020).
Abnormal blood lipids was newly recorded for 3.2% of patients, and cardiovascular disease (CVD) conditions (including coronary heart disease, PVD, AF, heart failure, stroke or TIA) for 1.1% of patients (Table 1).
The survey also measured condition prevalence, defined as patients who were recorded as having a condition at any time before or during 2018–19 (NPS MedicineWise 2020). Hypertension was the most common condition, with 16.3% of patients having a diagnosis of hypertension ever recorded at any time in their medical record. Dyslipidaemia was recorded for 13.7% of patients. The patient prevalence estimate for CVD was 4.9%, including atrial fibrillation (2.2%), heart failure (1.0%) and stroke (1.0%).
For every 100 GP clinical encounters during 2018–19:
% patients, recorded in 2018–19
% patients, ever recorded
Per 100 GP encounters, recorded in 2018-19
Per 100 GP encounters, ever recorded
CI: confidence interval.
CVD includes coronary heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, atrial fibrillation, heart failure, stroke and transient ischaemic attack.
Source: NPS MedicineWise 2020.
A Heart Health Check is a comprehensive assessment of CVD risk and management conducted by a GP or by a medical practitioner working in primary care. The 20-minute consultation includes the recording of patient’s blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood sugar, a discussion of health history and lifestyle, an absolute risk assessment, and if needed a management plan to improve risk factor levels, which may include blood pressure and cholesterol lowering medication for high risk patients.
Heart Health Checks help to address the high disease burden posed by CVD. They assist patients to better understand and lower their risk of heart attack or stroke. The Checks also promote the use of absolute risk calculators by health professionals, and the regular assessment and optimal treatment of at-risk patients.
Heart Health Checks have been covered by Medicare since April 2019 for eligible patients aged 45 and over and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 30 and over.
In 2019–20, almost 100,000 Heart Health Checks (males 49,000, females 49,000) were processed by Medicare. Checks were most commonly conducted among people aged 55–64 (35,200) and 65–74 (28,900) (Services Australia 2021).
As at June 2020, 34% of regular clients of Indigenous primary health care aged 35–74 had a CVD risk assessment result that classified them as being at high risk (AIHW 2021).
In a 2018–19 survey of GP practices, medicines for the cardiovascular system accounted for the largest proportion of prescriptions ordered for patients (31%) (Table 2). Note that medicines in this class may be used to help manage other conditions besides heart, stroke and vascular disease. The survey also found:
For every 100 GP encounters in 2018–19, 14 cardiovascular system prescriptions were ordered. When repeat prescriptions are added, the total rises to 76 per 100 GP encounters (NPS MedicineWise 2020).
ATC medicine class
% issued prescriptions
% total (issued + repeat)
C – Cardiovascular system
C10A – Lipid modifying agents, single agent
C09C – Angiotensin II receptor blockers, single agents
C09A – ACE inhibitors, single ingredient
C07A – Beta blocking agents
C09D – Angiotensin II receptor blockers, combinations
C08C – Selective calcium channel blockers with mainly vascular effects
C09B – ACE inhibitors, combinations
C10B – Lipid modifying agents, combinations
AIHW 2011. Cardiovascular disease: Australian facts 2011. Cat. no. CVD 53. Canberra: AIHW.
AIHW 2021. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-specific primary health care: results from the OSR and nKPI collections. Cat. no. IHW 227. Canberra: AIHW.
NPS MedicineWise 2020. General Practice Insights Report July 2018–June 2019. Sydney: NPS MedicineWise.
Services Australia 2021. Medicare statistics. Accessed January 2021.
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