At first glance the human heart might appear like just a pump to move blood around the body. But it’s far more important than that. Beating on average 72 times a minute (every minute of our lives), our hearts pump blood that carries vital materials to help our bodies function, while simultaneously removing the waste products we don’t need.
When our heart ceases to pump blood, our body begins to shut down. Then, after a very short period of time... we die.
Yes, hearts matter... a lot.
What is cardiovascular disease?
Cardiovascular disease refers to all the diseases of the heart and circulation including coronary heart disease, angina, heart attack, congenital heart disease and stroke. The primary cause of cardiovascular disease is atherosclerosis – the narrowing and eventual blockage of arteries by the deposition of fatty plaques on the walls of the artery. Eventually these plaques can rupture – thrombosis – and the resultant blood clot deprives vital tissues of oxygen. If this happens in the major blood vessels supplying the heart, you have a heart attack. In the brain, you have a stroke. In the peripheral arteries, crippling pain can result in the chest, arm, neck or jaw (angina).
By understanding the causes of atherosclerosis (diabetes, cholesterol, smoking, high blood pressure and family history) we can better improve human health.
Risk factors for cardiovascular disease
90 per cent of Australians have one modifiable risk factor for heart disease.
Much of the burden caused by cardiovascular is preventable. The major modifiable risk factors include smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, insufficient physical activity, obesity, diabetes, poor nutrition, and excessive intake of alcohol. Other risk factors that are beyond our control include age, gender, family history and ethnicity.
Find out about Women and Heart Disease & Heart Disease in Indigenous Communities.
How our research is saving lives
The Heart Research Institute is a medical research institute whose mission is to improve health by understanding the causes and complications of cardiovascular diseases.
Although we have made great inroads in the 25 years since the Heart Research Institute was established, the job is not done yet. We are still striving for our ultimate goal of reducing the number of people who die from cardiovascular disease and to offer a better life for those who already suffer from the disease.
Heart research costs millions. No research costs more.