Around half a million Australians with heart disease have skipped critical check-ups during the COVID-19 pandemic, putting them at risk of a heart attack or stroke.
While heart disease remains the nation's single biggest killer, it's fallen off the radar for many Australians, the Heart Foundation says.
Its survey of more than 5000 Australian adults, released on World Heart Day on Tuesday, found people with heart disease, or at high risk of heart disease, were more likely to have missed or delayed an appointment with their GP between April and August than other Australians (27 per cent versus 17 per cent).
With 2.1 million Australians living with heart disease or at high risk of heart disease, the Heart Foundation has calculated more than 500,000 of them have skipped potentially life-saving check-ups during the pandemic.
About one-in-five people at highest risk said they were unlikely to attend future appointments with their GP because of concerns about COVID-19.
People with heart disease are more vulnerable to severe complications if infected with COVID-19.
Heart Foundation general manager of heart health, Bill Stavreski, urged Australians not to let the COVID-19 "fear factor" stop them from getting check-ups.
"Heart disease doesn't stop during a pandemic," Mr Stavreski said.
"It is vital that you continue to monitor your heart health and stay in contact with your GP, and there are options to do this safely via telehealth or in person."
Restrictions were lifted in most states and territories in August but about 30 per cent of people surveyed with heart disease were still avoiding GP appointments.
There had also been a drop-off in people speaking to doctors about risk factors compared with pre-COVID-19 levels.
The biggest dip was in people discussing their blood pressure or cholesterol with their GP, despite 6.2 million Australians having high blood pressure and 7.1 having high cholesterol.
These conditions are known as 'silent killers' because there are often no obvious signs or symptoms, yet they put you at higher risk of a heart attack or stroke.
"Getting your blood pressure and cholesterol checked is an essential part of managing your risk of heart disease, so we would urge Australians not to put it off any longer," Mr Stavreski said.