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Australian Journal of Pharmacy : March 2005
cardiovascular health Dealing with our deadliest disease How can pharmacy maximise its ability to support treatment and reduce the impact of cardiovascular disease, the leading killer of Australians? Research is attempting to find an answer to this question, with most focus on scrutinising drug therapy and enhancing education on risk factors. KYMBERLY MARTIN investigates A CCORDINGto the National Heart Foundation of Australia, more than one million Australians have long-term disability caused by cardiovascular dis- ease (heart, stroke and blood vessel dis- ease), and there are an estimated 30,000 new cases of heart failure diagnosed annually. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the biggest cause of death in Australia, responsible for almost 40 per cent of all deaths. It is also the largest source of pre- mature death and disability in the com- munity, said Dr Peter Abernethy, Heart Foundation Director for Cardiovascular Health Programs–National. While there have been tremendous advances over the past three decades the burden of the disease is shifting, which is of major concern to the Foundation. Dr Abernethy said: ‘There is a percep- tion that heart disease has gone away because many people mistakenly view it as a disease that does not kill or disable prematurely.’ The risk factor profile of Australians is also of concern. Nine out of 10 adults have at least one modifiable risk factor for car- diovascular disease, while one in four have three or more risk factors. ‘Over the past 20 years, obesity levels have doubled and cholesterol levels have remained unchanged while physical activity levels have dropped since 1997. About 30 per cent of Australians have high blood pressure, despite a 50 per cent reduction since the 1980s. Smoking levels have fallen, but not as fast as we would like. Far too many Australians still die from smoking-related illnesses. ‘Being overweight and obese is affect- ing younger people, sowing the seeds for CVDand other conditions at a young age,’ Dr Abernethy said. The Heart Foundation will highlight these issues as part of a national action plan in 2005. Additionally, the Heart Foundation will launch a number of major guidelines and updates in 2005 to address major car- 170 ? THE AUSTRALIAN JOURNAL OF PHARMACY VOL.86 MARCH 2005 diovascular health issues, such as heart failure, rheumatic fever and lipids. ‘We will provide information and sup- port to health professionals. Additionally we will focus on those at high risk of CVD and push for policy changes that will encourage people to not only lead a healthier lifestyle but also to receive a bet- ter system of care when they are admitted to hospital and when they are discharged.’ The Heart Foundation is also assisting the Pharmacy Guild of Australia to mon- itor a project into the role of community based pharmacies and CVD. ‘One of the great strengths about phar- macy is that is has a cross-section of ages going through its doors, making it an ideal site for potential action in dealing with health issues. ‘We believe pharmacists, along with other key health professionals such as GPs, play an important role in delivering opti- mal care to people with or at risk of CVD. The Heart Foundation looks forward to working more closely with pharmacy in