Heart Disease Facts

“Awareness is a powerful catalyst for positive change.”

Do you know heart disease kills more Australians than anything else?

Heart, stroke and blood vessels diseases are our number one killers. What the medical industry collectively terms cardiovascular heart disease.

Every few minutes, another Australian dies from the complications of heart disease. Every nine minutes, someone dies from a heart attack. Heart disease affects millions of Australians.

Cardiovascular heart disease narrows or blocks blood vessels that lead to heart attack, angina or stroke. (In 2012/13 it was the main cause for 518,563 hospitalisations and played an additional role in another 680,000 hospitalisations.)

Other heart conditions, such as those that affect your heart’s muscle, valves or rhythm, are also considered forms of heart disease.

Below you’ll find a range of heart disease statistics. They reveal the sum total of heart disease in Australia. More than few figures are alarming. Some are frightening.

What you won’t find is the fact that deaths from heart disease are largely preventable.

Most medical literature on heart disease focuses on the illness and treatment post heart attack or stroke. All good and well, but too little too late.

Positive mental health, physical activity, and nutrition are critical in reducing the risk of heart disease, heart attacks and strokes. Positive changes in how you think, move and eat will help you prevent heart disease.

As you read through the statistics below, remember they’re the past. They’re not the future. With heart health, you can play a role in making them history.

You can enjoy a healthier and happier life, free of heart disease.

Heart Disease – Implications

Mortality statistics alone are inadequate to understand the impact of heart disease.

Heart disease creates a significant burden on both the health system and society in Australia.

Many people may live with heart disease for extended periods, which has a major impact on quality of life for them and their family, friends and coworkers, and creates significant demands on the health system.

Heart Disease – Implications Key Facts

– Total hospital treatments due to heart disease increased by approximately 23 percent between 1998–1999 and 2011–2012.

– Three to four times more men than women aged 30–64 suffered heart attacks

– More than four in every ten Australians aged 85 years and over live with heart disease.

Heart Disease – Mental Health

Depression is a major risk factor in the development of heart disease.

Heart disease and depression form a mutually reinforcing negative cycle. Diagnosis of heart disease is itself a risk factor for depression.

Depression also acts as a risk factor for stroke, peripheral artery disease, and heart failure.

Heart Disease – Mental Health Key Facts

– Almost five in ten Australians with heart disease suffer depression.

– Depressed people are twice as likely to suffer a heart attack.

Heart Disease – Physical Activity

Physical inactivity doubles the risk factor for heart disease.

There is strong, clear evidence that increased physical activity lowers the risk of heart disease and a range of other diseases including type 2 diabetes, colon and breast cancers, and depression.

The Australian Government Department of Health recommends that Australian adults between the ages of 18 and 64 years engage in a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity every week, and activity should be spread over most, preferably all, days of the week.

Heart Disease – Physical Activity Key Facts

– Almost six in ten Australians are either sedentary or undertake low levels of physical activity.

– Australians on average spend nearly 39 hours a week in sedentary behaviour, including at work.

Heart Disease – Nutrition

The easiest way to lower your risk of heart disease is to change what you eat and drink.

Dietary factors are both direct through specific nutrients and food components, and indirect through excess weight gain and obesity.

Meals high in saturated fat, added sugars or sodium increases your risk of heart disease. On the other hand, eating fresh fruit and vegetables protects you against heart disease.

Heart Disease – Nutrition Key Facts

– Less than one in ten Australians meet the National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines for vegetable consumption.

– More than four in ten Australian secondary students consume fast food at least once a week.

Heart Disease – Overweight and Obesity

The rates of obesity among Australian adults have almost tripled in the last two decades.

25 percent of Australian children aged 2–17 years are now overweight or obese.

Heart Disease – Overweight and Obesity Key Facts

– Almost seven in ten Australian men and six in ten women are overweight or obese.

– Overweight and obesity increase with age, particularly after the age of 18.

Heart Disease – Cholesterol

High blood cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease.

At high levels in the bloodstream, cholesterol can cause plaques to form in blood vessels, leading to clogged vessels.

Eating snacks and meals high in saturated fats is the main factor contributing to raised blood cholesterol.

Heart Disease – Cholesterol Key facts

– More than three in ten Australians have high blood cholesterol levels. Slightly higher in women than in men.

– Almost eight in every ten Australians with high blood cholesterol levels are not receiving treatment for it.

Heart Disease – Diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic and progressive metabolic disorder characterised by abnormally high blood glucose levels.

It causes long-term damage, dysfunction, and failure of various organs and tissues. If you have diabetes, you’re susceptible to multiple complications including vision loss, amputations, renal disease and heart disease

Heart disease causes between 50 percent and 80 percent of deaths in people with diabetes.

Heart Disease – Diabetes Key Facts

– Diabetes affects more Australian men than women.

– Diabetes increases with age to almost one in ten Australians aged 55–64.

Heart Disease – Smoking

Tobacco smoking is the single most preventable cause of death and disease globally.

It’s a major risk factor for death from heart disease and stroke. All levels of cigarette smoking are associated with increased risk, even if you smoke fewer than five cigarettes a day.

Heart Disease – Smoking Key Facts

– In Australia only 18 percent of men and boys, and 14 percent of women and girls are daily smokers.

– Smoking increases the risk of heart disease by 2 to 4 times.

Heart Disease – Alcohol

High levels of alcohol consumption – whether over the long term or binge drinking – cause stress to the heart, and increases your risk of heart disease.

Alcohol can raise blood pressure and increase the risk of arrhythmias, certain types of cardiac failure and stroke.

But low to moderate alcohol consumption has been consistently shown to offer protection from heart disease.

Heart Disease – Alcohol Key Facts

– Risky drinking is highest in Australians aged 55-64. More than one in ten reported drinking alcohol at levels likely to risk health.

– Total per capita alcohol consumption fell between the early 1970s and the early 1990s but has been relatively stable since then. Most of the earlier declines were due to a decrease in beer consumption. Wine consumption has steadily increased since 1970.

Heart Disease – Blood Pressure

Raised blood pressure is called hypertension.

It causes stress to the heart and blood vessels, leading to damage over time and an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

An estimated 45 percent of heart disease deaths and 51 percent of stroke deaths are attributable to hypertension.

In Australia in 2010, 48 percent of our cardiovascular disease burden was due to high blood pressure.

Heart Disease – Blood Pressure Key Facts

– High blood pressure increases substantially with age, from less than one in ten in Australians aged 25-34 to almost five in ten in those aged 75 years and over.

– More men than women have high blood pressure until age 45. From ages 45–64, the percentage of men and women is similar. After 65, a much higher proportion of women than men have high blood pressure.

Heart Disease – Treatment

A major burden caused to individuals and society by heart disease arises from the costs of providing treatment and care to patients.

These financial costs incurred by the healthcare system, which provides primary, secondary and tertiary prevention and cares to the population.

A large proportion of prescriptions issued for heart disease are written with primary prevention in mind – for patients with identified risk factors for heart disease but without clinical disease.

Heart Disease – Treatment Key Facts

– The number of major cardiovascular procedures performed in Australian hospitals is increasing steadily, particularly among men.

– In 2012–2013, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) paid $1.8 billion for cardiovascular medicines, representing 21 percent of total PBS benefits paid in that year.

“Awareness is a powerful catalyst for positive change.” Cheryl Richardson


Australian Bureau of Statistics: Profiles of Health

Australian Health Survey: Biomedical Results for Chronic Diseases

Health Direct Australia: Heart Disease Statistics

Health Direct Australia: Coronary Heart Disease and Atherosclerosis

National Heart Foundation of Australia: Australian Heart Disease Statistics