Health experts are dropping the recommended age Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should have their heart checked from 35 to 18.
Indigenous nurse Vicki Ward says the move is about finding heart disease risks in young Aboriginal people sooner.
Ms Ward said it was easy for indigenous Australians to be “fatalistic” about their heart health as they faced a higher risk of heart disease.
“What this is saying is no, we don’t need to have a crook heart because this is a preventable disease,” Ms Ward told AAP.
“Heart attacks and strokes are preventable.”
The decision is based on research from the Australian National University released on Monday, prompting health bodies to reassess their advice.
Three out of four Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people under 35 have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Ms Ward said young people often felt “bullet proof” against heart disease because of their age.
“These are the people that really do need to have a look at their risk and manage their risk early,” she said.
“It’s not just the biomedical risks, you need to look at the social and environmental factors that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live in.”
The research looked at other indigenous groups across the world, including New Zealand and Canada.
She hoped more resources could be pumped into providing rural and remote screening services, as well as training non-Aboriginal people in culturally appropriate care.
“You’ll find that a lot of our mob, they’ve almost got one foot in the grave before the enter into a hospital,” Ms Ward said.
“They’re just too scared to seek that early intervention (but) this is all around prevention.”
Ms Ward said screening would include blood samples and blood pressure readings, but also look at lifestyle factors with GPs to advise patients how to avoid a high risk.
The university’s lead researcher Dr Jason Agostino said heart disease was one of the leading causes of death among indigenous Australians.
“Just about every Aboriginal person I know has a family member or a community member who’s died young from a heart attack or stroke. We need to change that,” he said.
Australian Associated Press