Blood vessel health in older people study

A new Edith Cowan University research project worth almost $300,000 will give Australians a crucial glimpse into the health of their blood vessels.


It’s hoped that providing people with knowledge of their level of disease will compel them to make healthy diet and lifestyle changes to prevent heart disease and stroke.


Heart disease and stroke are responsible for around one in every three deaths globally.


The project has been funded by a Medical Research Future Fund Preventive and Public Health grant and will be led by ECU’s Professor Jonathan Hodgson and Associate Professor Josh Lewis.


“We know that by improving diet, increasing physical activity and stopping smoking, we can prevent most heart attack and stroke events and deaths,” Professor Hodgson said.


“The problem is that your first symptom of a problem is often your last, with about one third of all events being fatal. Therefore, early detection is critical.


“This world-first randomised controlled trial will test whether a novel way of detecting and providing information to older Australians about their blood vessel disease can lead to meaningful diet and lifestyle changes.”


The project will use a simple scan from bone density machines to identify the build-up of calcium in the abdominal aorta. Presence of calcium in the aorta is an indicator of increased risk of heart attack and stroke.


Associate Professor Lewis said the information provided to participants will give a visual cue to the damage already done to their blood vessels.


“We’re confident this will prompt better diet and lifestyle choices to prevent future heart attack and stroke,” he said.


According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics:

  • 95 per cent of Australians don't eat enough fruit and vegetables.
  • More than 80 per cent of Australian adults don't do enough exercise.


Professor Hodgson and his team are recruiting older Australians who will receive their imaging results with standardised dietary and lifestyle advice (videos) developed by dieticians, exercise physiologists and clinicians.


As well as Professor Hodgson and Associate Professor Josh Lewis from ECU, the project team includes Professor John Schousboe (University of Minnesota), Professor Richard Woodman (Flinders University), Associate Professor Ben Jackson (University of Western Australia), and Professor James Dimmock (James Cook University).


At this stage the study is only recruiting from a clinic in Perth at St John of God Hospital.


28 July 2020.