What’s my risk of a heart attack or stroke?

Find out what your current risk is and what you can do to lower your risk

Your risk is an estimate of how likely you are to have a heart attack or stroke in the next five years. If you have a 10% risk, it means that if there were 100 people with the same risk as you, we'd expect 10 of them to have a heart attack or stroke in the next five years. For more information about stroke, visit the Stroke Foundation's website.

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. There are many risk factors that work together to influence your risk of heart disease. Some of these risk factors can be changed, while others cannot.

Your age, gender, ethnicity, and family history of heart disease are beyond your control. However, there are some factors that you can change, such as your blood pressure, your cholesterol, what you eat and drink, if you smoke, and how much you move. Knowing your risk can help you to decide to make some positive lifestyle changes. 

No matter how high or how low your risk of heart disease is, there are always choices you can make to manage your risk and improve your heart health. It is important to consider your own (and your family’s) personal beliefs and concerns when deciding what you would like to do to manage your risk.

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

*Please talk to your doctor before exploring this option

How to find out what your risk is

Ask your doctor or nurse for a heart and diabetes check. 

Together with your health professional you will identify what things in your life (risk factors) might be putting you at risk for a heart attack, stroke, or of developing diabetes.

In the past, your doctor may have treated each one of these things separately. A heart and diabetes check looks at all the risk factors together, a bit like putting all the pieces of a puzzle together so you can see the whole picture.

The result of a heart and diabetes check is like looking at the whole picture (combined risk), rather than each piece (individual risk factor) of the puzzle on its own.

When should I have a heart and diabetes check?

The age when you are advised to start having heart and diabetes checks changes, depending on your age, ethnicity, and other risk factors.

  • People without known risk factors:
    • Men from 45 years
    • Women from 55 years.
  • Māori, Pacific or South Asian people:
    • Men from 30 years
    • Women from 40 years.
  • People with other known risk factors or at high risk of developing diabetes
    • Men from 35 years
    • Women from 45 years
  • People with Type II diabetes:
    • As part of the annual diabetic review
  • People with severe mental illness:
    • From 25 years

Tips to help you decide what you want to do about your risk

There are many beliefs associated with the heart; it is often believed to be the centre of our emotions, our inner being, our spirituality. This may be an important consideration for you when thinking about your risk of heart attack and stroke. Other things you might like to think about include:

  • What risk factors you have and what your risk level is (talk to your doctor if you are not sure)
  • Understanding all the options you have available
  • The pros and cons of any treatments or changes you might like to make
  • What you think might be the best option(s) for you to manage your risk
  • What you think would happen if you followed your doctor’s recommendations to manage your risk
  • Any barriers (if any) to following your doctor’s recommendations
  • What kind of support from family/whanau, community, church, health professionals would be most useful in helping you manage your risk
  • Any concerns or worries you have about making changes
  • The wider benefits of making lifestyle changes, not only for you, but also your family/whānau. 

You may like to write down any concerns you may have, and take them to your next appointment to discuss with your doctor or nurse.

What if I don't want to do anything about my risk right now?

You may choose to take a watch and wait approach to managing your risk of heart disease. This means choosing not to take medication or make any lifestyle changes.

If you do take this approach, you will most likely be advised to have your blood pressure and/or cholesterol monitored regularly, to make sure it’s not risen to dangerously high levels. If your health or lifestyle changes, you may decide at a later date to make changes to lower your risk and manage your risk factors.

Over time, without treatment or making lifestyle changes, it’s likely that your risk, blood pressure and/or cholesterol levels will increase, which increases your risk of heart attack or stroke.

Learn more about heart attacksRead more about lowering your risk