Call for repeat heart attack, strokes plan

Greater "secondary prevention" could save more Australians from dying from heart disease.
Greater "secondary prevention" could save more Australians from dying from heart disease.

After learning he had five blocked arteries and undergoing triple bypass surgery, Rick Talbot wasn't expecting to be struck by a small stroke at the Melbourne Cricket Ground just a few years later.

"I was frightened to go to anything after that - I thought wow, how did this happen?" the 75-year-old told AAP of the mini-stroke four years ago.

"I didn't understand at all - I still don't. But what can we do?"

Mr Talbot was not told by the clinicians involved in his initial heart surgery that experiencing one cardiovascular issue puts you at a far greater risk of facing another one.

But with so much in his life to look forward to - including spending time with his three children, six grandchildren and wife of nearly 50 years - the Victorian has taken matters into his own hands.

He is determined to maintain a healthy lifestyle, including daily walks, in an effort to live as long as he can.

"Both my brothers died young, 75 and 77. I'm determined to be the Talbot that carries it through above 80," he said.

"There's not a lot that I need except ongoing good health."

Despite Mr Talbot's proactive attitude, a new report is urging Australian authorities to do far more to help prevent people who experience a heart attack or a stroke from suffering another one.

The report from Melbourne's Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, funded by Bayer, says greater "secondary prevention" could save more people from dying from heart disease - the nation's biggest killer.

People who have had a heart attack are twice as likely to die prematurely than those who haven't, the report highlights.

One in 10 people who have had a stroke also have a second within a week.

Baker Institute chief executive Professor Tom Marwick says ramping up secondary prevention will help Australia reduce its rates of cardiovascular disease, which are at risk of creeping higher.

"Unless we get our act together soon, we'll see this going in the wrong direction. We'll be losing ground that we've already won," he told AAP.

The report recommends governments create a national strategy to address primary and secondary prevention of heart disease, with clear targets.

It has also called for more funding to improve cardiac rehabilitation services and programs to help Australians keep to their medication schedules, such as mobile devices that give people reminders.

Australian Associated Press