The Heart Foundation says heart issues will cost the Australian economy $6.8 billion in 2017-18.

The foundation has issued a new report on the total economic cost of acute coronary syndrome (ACS), which includes heart attack and unstable angina.

The largest share of this figure is the loss of income for individuals who experience an ACS event, estimated at $3.5 billion. This is followed by the $1.9 billion on healthcare expenditure associated with ACS events, such as hospital stays.

ACS events also place a large financial cost on households, with recent studies finding that 92 per cent of patients who experience an ACS event incur out of pocket expenses, such as medications, driving to appointments and rehabilitation costs.

While there is variation across people, on average, a survivor will be out of pocket $3,100 in the 12 months after their ACS event.

“These figures are concerning as more than 1.4 million Australians are at high risk of having their first heart attack or stroke in the next five years,” says Heart Foundation national CEO, Adjunct Professor John Kelly AM.

“Preventing heart attacks and strokes from happening in the first place and improving outcomes for those who have these life-threatening heart events needs to be a high priority for all governments and the community.

“A heart attack is not a one-off event. It’s a life changer, with long term after-effects. The average cost of a heart attack to an individual and their family over a lifetime is $68,000.

“This includes lost income, out of pocket expenses like rehabilitation and medication and informal care from family and friends such as the time taken to provide basic nursing.”