Call for rehab for heart attack survivors

Australian lives would be saved and health care costs cut if more heart attack survivors attended cardiac rehabilitation programs, new research shows.


Increasing participation rates from the current 30 to 65 per cent would result in annual $35.5 million savings in health care costs and 2100 fewer heart attacks nationally.

The Heart Foundation says 430,000 Australians are living having survived a heart attack, but around 300,000 have not completed any form of the rehab programs on offer.

These may include physical activity, health education, counselling, behaviour modification strategies and support for managing a heart condition.

“Of the 55,000 heart attacks that will occur this year, each will cost around $30,000 in healthcare costs,” says the foundation’s chief medical advisor, Professor Garry Jennings.

“In stark contrast, a cardiac rehabilitation program costs the health system an average $885 per person to attend.”

Studies show that heart attack survivors who have taken part in a program are 40 per cent less likely to be readmitted to hospital and 25 per cent less likely to die from another heart attack.

“While the benefits are clear, many people aren’t referred to or don’t attend cardiac rehabilitation, leaving them at real risk of having another heart attack,” he said.

About 80 per cent of people advised to attend do so.

“A third of people being admitted to hospital for a heart attack have been there before – it isn’t their first heart attack but their second or third, putting major drain on our health services.”

The foundations wants the federal government to fund a national audit to highlight and overcome barriers to program participation.