Heart Attack

New George Institute study using big data to help reduce repeat heart attacks

If you’ve had a heart attack your risk of having another is high. It is critical to keep taking medications normally prescribed afterwards to keep your blood cholesterol and blood pressure - and therefore your risk - down. But evidence has shown that less than 50 percent of heart attack survivors are sticking to their medication regime in the long term.

A new study by George Institute researchers will analyse a large data set to try and identify the personal characteristics of those likely to struggle, so that strategies can be developed to support them to keep taking their medication.

Heart attacks (or acute myocardial infarctions) account for around 60,000 hospital visits each year in Australia, and they were estimated to cost $1.17 billion in 2017-2018.

Project lead and Biostatistician at The George Institute Dr Anna Campain explained that current clinical guidelines recommend heart attack survivors take lipid-lowering and blood pressure medications for life. But 12 months after leaving hospital too many have stopped taking them, with many flow-on effects for the individual and health systems.

“Although adherence to medication has been researched in the past, a major limitation has been that it is so complex – a person’s behaviour can be linked to past illness and comorbidities and personal beliefs and health seeking habits like diet, as well as access to health care or if they have a relationship with a consistent GP,” she said.

The researchers aim to use the breath of information available in the 45 and Up study to create predictive models with a scope beyond what has previously been investigated.

“We are finally at a place - because of the wide range of data available through surveys and health data - where we can look at this problem in-depth as one big interconnected web. So if we can identify patients who might benefit from additional support in taking their medications, it could potentially result in much better outcomes and fewer repeat heart attacks,” Dr Campain added.

The researchers aim to develop gender sensitive predictive models that can be used in clinical practice to highlight those who might benefit from support.

This research opportunity is a new initiative formed through a partnership with the Heart Foundation, Sax Institute, and the NSW Cardiovascular Research Network. It provides early to mid-career researchers access to the unique 45 and Up Study survey data along with other key datasets.

The George Institute project team also includes Dr Carinna Hockham and Professor David Peiris.