GPs are helping to reduce and delay the onset of more serious cardiovascular conditions in many of their patients, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
Patients are seeing GPs more often for cardiovascular check-ups and there has been a decline in GP management of serious cardiovascular problems. This indicates that GPs are raising awareness of the risk factors and helping to modify them.
About 1 in 4 patients at GP consultations have cardiovascular-related conditions.
Many GP patients diagnosed with these problems are also overweight, have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoke cigarettes and drink too much alcohol.
More than 15% of all GP patients have hypertension, around 4% have ischaemic heart disease or heart attacks, about 2% heart failure, another 2% arrhythmias, and nearly 2% 'other vascular diseases'.
Of those GP patients with a cardiovascular problem, more than half had hypertension, around 11% also had diabetes, and a further 11% high cholesterol-a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
The report, Cardiovascular problems and risk behaviours among patients at general practice encounters in Australia 1998-00 presents an overview of general practice care of cardiovascular problems. It is based on information drawn from about 200,000 doctor-patient encounters between April 1998 and March 2000.
GPs recorded at least one cardiovascular problem at more than 31,000 of these encounters, and prescribed medication for just over 60% of these cases. Patients diagnosed with cardiovascular problems were more likely to be male and significantly older than other patients.
In a smaller sample of about 11,500 cardiovascular patients, 1 in 10 smoked tobacco, almost two-thirds of these patients were either overweight or obese, and 1 in 5 patients reported high levels of alcohol consumption.
Co-author of the report, Joan Henderson, from the AIHW's General Practice Statistics and Classification Unit at the University of Sydney, said that males aged 18-44 years, who already have a cardiovascular problem, were of particular concern. One in four continue to carry excess weight and drink at-risk levels of alcohol.
'The good news is there has been a decline in the rate of cardiovascular problems managed by GPs for patients in all age groups since 1990-91, ' Mrs Henderson said.