Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

and Cardiovascular Disease.
Indigenous Australians are around twice as likely to be affected by heart disease as other Australians

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

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Some sobering statistics

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, when compared with non-Indigenous Australians, are:

 

Twice as likely to have a heart attack

 

Hospitalised for acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease at 7 times the rate

 

10.5 times more likely to die from coronary heart disease

   

1.2 times more likely to have high blood pressure

2

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. 

Know the risk factors

44% of of Indigenous Australians aged 15 years and over are smokers, 2.5 times the non-Indigenous rate.

Among Indigenous Australians, smoking directly causes about one-third of the burden from cancers and cardiovascular disease and around 1 in 5 deaths.

66% of Indigenous Australians aged 15 years and are overweight or obese.

Increasing rates of obesity is creating a virtual tsunami of cardiovascular disease in the years to come.

20% of Indigenous adults have high blood pressure and more than 75% do not know that they have it.

High blood pressure, also referred to as hypertension, is a major risk factor for stroke, coronary heart disease, heart failure and kidney disease.

11% of Indigenous adults have diabetes, three times the rate of non-Indigenous Australians.

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

About our work 

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.

Footnotes

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

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