Heart and circulatory conditions contribute most to the disease burden of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and are major contributors to the gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and other Australians. Research evidence shows that, as well as having higher rates of cardiac conditions, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have poorer access to health services aimed at preventing and treating cardiac conditions.1
Much of the burden caused by cardiovascular is preventable. Major major modifiable risk factors include tobacco smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, insufficient physical activity, overweight and obesity, diabetes, poor nutrition, and excessive intake of alcohol. Other risk factors that are beyond our control include age, gender, family history and ethnicity.
High levels of smoking, alcohol misuse, physical inactivity, excess body weight and diabetes result in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a higher risk of developing heart disease than the non-Indigenous population.
Among Indigenous Australians, smoking directly causes about one-third of the burden from cancers and cardiovascular disease and around 1 in 5 deaths.
Increasing rates of obesity is creating a virtual tsunami of cardiovascular disease in the years to come.
High blood pressure, also referred to as hypertension, is a major risk factor for stroke, coronary heart disease, heart failure and kidney disease.
Of those with diagnosed diabetes, 61% had high blood sugar levels indicating that the condition was not well managed, while 14% did not know they had the condition.3
The Heart Research Institute works to prevent death and suffering from cardiovascular disease, by understanding the causes of atherosclerosis (diabetes, cholesterol, smoking, high blood pressure and family history). While advances in medical research continue to create the potential to increase life expectancy and quality of life... the community at large isn’t playing their part. Increasing rates of obesity and diabetes in the community are creating a virtual tsunami of cardiovascular disease in the years to come.
1 Better Cardiac Care measures for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, first national report 2015, 2, 3 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, 2014