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What is a heart check?

A heart check is a way to find out your risk of a heart attack or stroke. We explain what happens at a heart check and how you can lower your risk.

At a heart check, your doctor or nurse works out how likely you are to have a heart attack or stroke in the next five years.

It's also called:

  • a heart risk assessment 
  • a cardiovascular disease risk assessment (CVDRA)
  • a heart and diabetes check (because it also tells you if you have diabetes or pre-diabetes).

We have an online heart check tool which will estimate your heart attack risk and your 'heart age'. It will tell when to visit your doctor for a heart check and gives tips on how to lower your risk of heart attack and stroke.

Try My Heart Check

What happens at a heart check?

You can book a heart check with your doctor or nurse. Together you will identify things in your life that put you at risk of a heart attack or stroke. These risk factors include your:

  • age
  • height and weight
  • blood pressure
  • cholesterol
  • personal medical history
  • family medical history
  • smoking status.

Your doctor or nurse will then look at all the factors together to give an overall view of your risk of heart attack and stroke. This is called your 'combined risk'.

Understanding the results of your heart check

Your heart check result will be given as a percentage (%).

If you have a 10 per cent risk, it means that out of 100 people like you, about 10 will have a heart attack or stroke in the next five years.

As a rough guide:

  • ˂5% is low risk
  • 5 – 10% is moderate risk
  • ˃10% is high risk

Your doctor will then discuss ways you can lower your risk of heart attack and stroke.

When should I have a heart check?

The age you should start having heart checks depends on your ethnicity, and other risk factors, such as personal and family health history and if you smoke.

If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetesYearly from time of diagnosisYearly from time of diagnosis

If you’ve been diagnosed with a serious mental illness, including:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizoaffective disorder

If you’re not sure if this applies to you, contact your GP before booking an appointment.

From 25 years oldFrom 25 years old
If you’re Māori, Pacific or South Asian (including Indian, Fijian Indian, Sri Lankan, Afghani, Bangladeshi, Nepalese, Pakistani and Tibetan).From 30 years oldFrom 40 years old

If you’ve got other known risk factors.

  • You smoke
  • You have a parent, brother or sister who had a heart attack or stroke before the age of 50
  • You have a parent, brother or sister with diabetes
  • Familial hypercholesterolaemia (genetic high cholesterol as diagnosed by a doctor)
  • Had diabetes during pregnancy
  • Have been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation
  • You’ve got a BMI of over 30, or the measurement around your waist is ≥ 102 cm in men or ≥ 88 cm in women
From 35 years oldFrom 45 years old
You don’t have any known risk factorsFrom 45 years oldFrom 55 years old

How often do I need a heart check?

This will depend on your personal risk of heart attack and stroke. Your doctor will talk with you about this after you’ve had your first heart check. 

What can I do about my risk?

You have an important role to play in your health. The choices you make every day can change your risk of heart disease.

Although there are a few heart disease risk factors you can’t change (like age and ethnicity), there’s more that you can change. These include your blood pressure, your cholesterol, what you eat and drink, whether you smoke, and how much you move.

Knowing your risk can help you to decide to make some positive lifestyle changes.

Even a small change can have a positive impact on your risk of heart attack and stroke. The more you change, the better. 

Learn more about heart attacks

Read more about lowering your risk