Concerningly, Australian GPs may be inadvertently placing themselves at increased risk of heart attack and stroke, according to new findings from the GP Health Initiative Report released this week, revealing one in seven (14%) GP respondents are not self-monitoring their blood pressure (BP) each year.

According to the Servier-commissioned, quantitative, online survey conducted by Metis Research, involving 301 GPs nation-wide, one in four (26%) respondents delivered a BP reading above 130/85.

“While the GP respondents estimate they measure BP in 3 in 5 adult patients, and perform an average of 17 patient heart health checks a month, only 10% are monitoring their own BP once a year,” said GP, Clinical Director for NSW, and Head of GP Education and Supervision, ForHealth, Dr Praveen Devineni.

He said the findings shed light on potentially devastating areas of concern regarding GP heart health, reflect the sustained pressure primary care physicians are experiencing in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and also closely mirror the prevalence of high BP in the general Australian population.

“It is well documented that GPs operating at the frontline of community healthcare are facing increasing burn-out rates, and mounting mental health issues. However, these findings are shedding light on potentially devastating areas of concern regarding GP heart health,” Dr Devineni said.

“GPs constitute our nation’s primary healthcare backbone, so their personal health and wellbeing is fundamental to the overall health and wellbeing of the community at large.”

“Coronary heart disease is Australia’s leading cause of death, with 43% of deaths caused by hypertension alone,” according to Cardiologist at Concord Hospital and Canterbury Hospital, and The George Institute for Global Health, Dr Sonali Gnanenthiran.

“Regular BP monitoring is the first critical step in detecting hypertension. A failure to do so is a missed opportunity to prevent heart attacks and strokes in the community.”

Professorial Fellow in the Cardiovascular Division at The George Institute, and Principal Theme Lead of Cardiac, Vascular and Metabolic Medicine at UNSW Medicine & Health, Professor Alta Schutte, Sydney explained Australia lags significantly behind the rest of the world in both managing, and controlling blood pressure.

“Blood pressure control rates in men are sitting at 28%, compared with 68% in Canada, and 49% in the US, respectively. Blood pressure control rates for women are also much lower, currently sitting at 38% in Australia, compared with 58% in Germany, and 54% in the US.

“It is crucial that the guidelines around the detection, management and control of blood pressure are updated in Australia, to ensure these control rates improve in line with countries such as Canada – a global leader in blood pressure control.”

Northern Hospital Interventional Cardiologist, Dr Om Narayan, Melbourne, published a compelling opinion piece in MJA Insight+ this week, reflecting on the “worrying” new research findings, and emphasising the challenges that medical practitioners face in both seeking, and obtaining routine medical care.

“These findings are an indicator of the pressures faced by our frontline doctors, who are perhaps, placing their own health and wellbeing secondary to that of their patients,” he argued.

“GPs and other medical practitioners should be supported to ‘put their seat belts on first’.

“A recent article published in the MJA by Wijeratne and colleagues highlights the prevalence of psychological distress across the medical profession. One could argue that a national health strategy promoting the cardiovascular health of medical professionals would be just as important,” Dr Narayan said.

To read Dr Narayan’s article, click here.