The term heart disease refers to a group of conditions that affect the heart. These include coronary heart disease and heart failure. If you have the early stages of heart disease, you may not notice any symptoms at all. Understanding your risk of heart disease can help you take steps to reduce it and to protect your heart.
Am I at risk of heart disease?
You can estimate your risk of getting heart, stroke and blood vessel disease in the next 5 years using an online calculator.
Your risk of heart disease is increased if you:
- have high blood pressure
- are a smoker
- have high cholesterol
- have diabetes
When you find out your score, you should discuss it with your doctor and act to reduce your risk of heart disease.
Who should have a heart disease test?
If you are aged 45 years or above (or 35 years or above for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples), it’s recommended that you have your risk of heart disease assessed. Speak to your doctor about getting this done.
What happens during a heart disease test?
Your doctor may do a few things to assess your heart health. These include:
- measuring your blood pressure
- measuring your cholesterol level
- measuring your weight
- recording your age – the older you are, the higher your risk of heart disease
- finding out if you have a family member with heart disease – if you do, this increases your risk
- asking you about your lifestyle, such as your diet and physical activity
If your doctor suspects a heart condition, they may also arrange a number of tests, including:
- an electrocardiogram – to show how well your heart is beating
- blood tests
- echocardiogram (heart ultrasound) – this gives a picture of the structure of your heart, including the heart’s walls, chambers and valves.
- stress tests – to show how hard your heart works during exercise
- coronary angiogram or coronary computed tomography angiogram
What do heart disease tests cost?
Medicare will cover part or all of the costs of the above tests. Blood tests are often bulk billed, but other tests and doctor consultations may incur costs above the Medicare rebate.
What follow-up is involved?
You will usually need to see your doctor to get your test results. Ask your doctor how to reduce your risk of heart disease. You may want to use an action plan to improve your health.
Changes you might need to make include eating healthily (if you don’t already), being physically active, quitting smoking if you smoke, and reducing your alcohol intake. Your doctor can also advise you on how often you should test your blood pressure and cholesterol.
Last reviewed: November 2018