Find out your risk score before it's game over

11 April 2011

Australians should pay as much attention to their heart and stroke risk score as the footy score this autumn, according to NPS MedicineWise, which has launched a new campaign focusing on cardiovascular disease.

Cardiovascular disease is Australia’s biggest killer, responsible for more deaths every year than either cancer or road accidents. It affects 1 in 6 people – a figure expected to increase to 1 in 4 by 2050.

A large number of Australians are thought to be living with undiagnosed high cholesterol putting them at risk of developing heart disease in the future. There aren’t always obvious signs of cardiovascular disease, making it a ‘silent killer’. An easy way to determine if you’re at risk of developing cardiovascular disease is by finding out your heart and stroke risk score.

“In Australia we tend to have a relaxed attitude towards our health, yet we place big importance on other things like the footy scores. While we can’t control how our footy team performs each weekend, we can influence our heart health by finding out our risk score earlier rather than later,” NPS clinical adviser, Dr Danielle Stowasser said.

The heart and stroke risk assessment done by your GP takes into account risk factors such as blood pressure, age, cholesterol, and smoking status. It tells you your risk of having a cardiovascular event, for example a heart attack, stroke or blockage in a blood vessel, within the next 5 years. A score of 15% and over puts you in the high risk category. The lower your percentage score, the less chance you have of getting cardiovascular disease.

Australians aged 45 years and older and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders aged 35 years and older are particularly at risk and most likely to benefit from a cardiovascular health check from their doctor.

“If you already have risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol, there are ways of preventing it from becoming worse. Your GP will prescribe lifestyle changes and possibly medicine to lower your cholesterol or blood pressure,” Dr Stowasser said.

“What’s critical is that people continue with the recommended lifestyle changes and take medicines as prescribed, even if they don’t feel unwell or they think their health has improved. Research shows one in four Australians stop taking cholesterol-lowering medicines within the first 12 months, often because they don’t realise it’s making a difference.”


  • Quit smoking and avoid second-hand smoke
  • Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day
  • Avoid adding salt to foods. Choose ‘no added salt’, ‘low salt’ or ‘salt reduced’ foods where possible
  • Eat a variety of foods. This includes vegetables, foods containing wholegrains, lean meats, oily fish, fruit, low fat dairy, vegetable/seed oils, nuts, seeds and legumes.
  • Instead of butter, choose spreads and margarines made from canola, sunflower or olive oil and dairy blends ‘Tick approved’ by the Heart Foundation.
  • Take your prescribed medicines as directed by your doctor.

Useful resources about your heart and stroke risk score are available at  


Independent, evidence-based and not-for-profit,NPS enables better decisions about medicines and medical tests.We are funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing.