Heart attack survivors are at extreme risk of dying within five years, say doctors who have teamed up in an attempt to revamp the way they are looked after.
They want the government to introduce mandatory care after a patient is discharged from hospital.
The aim would be for GPs to reach out to patients to ensure they take their medicine, exercise and maintain a healthy weight.
Smoking is out of the question.
An ad-hoc approach does not work, says Dr Julie Redfern, a spokesperson for the group, which calls itself the Secondary Prevention Alliance.
Survivors need care for life, not only when they feel unwell or something has changed, she says.
GPs should receive a financial incentive to ensure this happens, similar to the way they are incentivised to manage people with asthma and diabetes, says the alliance, which includes the Heart Foundation, universities and doctors’ groups.
It wants GPs to initiate a life-long plan, which should include regular appointments and visits to other health professionals, says Dr Redfern, of Sydney’s George Institute for Global Health.
“One of the things that we want to promote is the awareness that people don’t have a heart attack or a stent put in and get better and go home.
“In actual fact that is the first sign that they need to make significant changes to their life.
“They need to keep taking their medicine and have regular checkups. Doctors need to encourage this.”
About a third of heart attacks are repeat events, says the alliance. And a second attack is more deadly than the first.
“People who don’t change their lifestyle are very likely to have another heart attack and it is very likely to kill them,” says Dr Redfern.
“The sad part about this is that there is strong scientific evidence that adherence to medication and a healthy lifestyle reduces risk.
“We know what to do. But we don’t have a systematic approach to support people to actually do it.”