Cardiovascular risk perception and evidence-practice gaps in Australian general practice (the AusHEART study)

Emma Heeley, David Peiris, Anushka Patel, Alan Cass, Andrew Weekes, Claire Morgan, Craig Anderson, John Chalmers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Objective: To examine the perception and management of cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk in Australian primary care.

Design, setting and participants: The Australian Hypertension and Absolute Risk Study (AusHEART) was a nationally representative, cluster‐stratified, cross‐sectional survey of 322 general practitioners. Each GP was asked to collect data on CVD risk factors and their management in 15–20 consecutive patients aged ≥ 55 years who presented between April and June 2008, and to estimate each patient's absolute risk of a cardiovascular event in the next 5 years.

Main outcome measures: Estimated 5‐year risk of a cardiovascular event, proportion of patients receiving appropriate treatment.

Results: Among 5293 patients, 29% (1548) had established CVD. A further 22% (1145), when categorised according to the 2009 National Vascular Disease Prevention Alliance guideline, to 42% (2211), when categorised according to National Heart Foundation (NHF) 2004 guideline, had a high (≥ 15%) 5‐year risk of a cardiovascular event. Of the 1548 patients with established CVD, 50% were prescribed a combination of a blood pressure (BP)‐lowering medication, a statin and an antiplatelet agent, and 9% were prescribed a BP‐lowering medication and a statin but not an antiplatelet agent. Among high‐risk patients without established CVD, categorised using NHF 2004 adjustments, 34% were prescribed a combination of a BP‐lowering medication and a statin. GPs estimated 60% of patients with established CVD as having a risk of less than 15%. The GPs’ estimates of risk among patients without established CVD agreed with the centrally calculated estimate (according to the NHF 2004 guideline) in 48% of instances (κ = 0.21).

Conclusions: These data confirm substantial undertreatment of patients who are at high risk of a cardiovascular event. We recommend that GPs assess absolute risk for older patients and ensure that high‐risk patients receive evidence‐based pharmacotherapy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)254-259
Number of pages6
JournalMedical Journal of Australia
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2010
Externally publishedYes


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