Heart attacks costing economy billions

Marnie Banger

Walking from a local park to a cafe with his wife and young daughter, Paul Edwards did not expect to be brought to his knees by a heart attack.

But nor did he expect that a few years later, having lived through the terrifying experience in mid-2014, it would have cost him and his family at least $250,000 in lost income.

"You try and put it in perspective, and say you can always earn more money, but you can't earn another life," Mr Edwards told AAP.

"But then you get down to practicalities, which is well, living is great - but how do you actually support your life?"

The financial burden Mr Edwards, now 50, has faced is not uncommon, according to new data from the Heart Foundation.

It pits the average cost to a person and their family of experiencing acute coronary syndrome - which includes heart attacks and unstable angina - at $68,000.

For Mr Edwards, costs included taking months off to recover from his heart attack, needing to change jobs to a role involving less travel, and dialling back his working hours from five days a week to three.

The Victorian also had to sell off his three investment properties to support his recovery, and his wife has taken on a role involving less stress and travel to better support him.

According to the foundation's report on the cost of acute coronary syndrome, the average heart attack survivor is out of pocket for at least $3100 of the costs they have been dealt a year after the experience.

Such expenses helped make up the whopping $6.8 billion that the syndrome cost the Australian economy in 2017-18, according to a second report by the foundation.

Its general manager of heart health, economist Bill Stavreski, said cardiovascular disease is the costliest condition to the healthcare system.

And while the cost of dealing with a heart condition may not change, he said people can help prevent them by having regular health heart checks.

"There are preventative measures and actions that people can take."

That's something Mr Edwards said he wished he had done.

"It would've picked up that I had a blockage, but it would've been treatable, I wouldn't have had to go through the trauma," he said.