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Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is an umbrella term for conditions that affect your heart or blood vessels. CVD includes coronary heart disease (blocked arteries) along with heart attack, stroke and heart failure.

Here at the Heart Research Institute (HRI), we conduct cutting-edge research into a range of CVDs and keep abreast of the latest statistics and facts.

This data is drawn from official sources such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). It includes vital information about the prevalence, deaths and hospitalisation rates of CVD, as well as the burden on our health system and economy.

We also explore the incidence of CVD in relation to women and Indigenous Australians.

Here are the latest statistics and facts about one of Australia’s biggest health challenges.

Death and overall numbers

  • CVD is Australia’s – and the world’s – number 1 killer. In 2021, the leading cause of death in Australia was ischaemic heart disease (17,331 deaths), accounting for 10.1% of all deaths.1
  • CVD kills one in every four Australians. In 2021, it was the underlying cause of death in 42,700 deaths (25% of all deaths).
  • Every 12 minutes, one Australian dies from CVD. That’s 118 deaths every day.
  • Heart disease kills more men than any other disease. In 2021, the leading cause of death for males was coronary heart disease, accounting for 10,371 (12%) deaths, with death rates twice as high for males as for females.
  • CVD kills 17.9 million people around the world every year – representing 32% of all global deaths.2
  • People in the lower socioeconomic groups, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and those living in regional and remote areas, generally have higher rates of death resulting from CVD than other Australians.3

Prevalence

  • One in six Australians are living with CVD, accounting for more than 4 million Australians.4
  • Over 6% of adult Australians have one or more conditions related to CVD. That’s 1.2 million Australians.
  • The prevalence of CVD has been decreasing over time (declining approximately 80% since the 1980s), due to research into risk factors, medications and interventions.5

Hospitalisation

  • CVD is responsible for 1.2 million hospitalisations every year.
  • Someone is hospitalised for CVD every minute, equating to a total of 1,619 hospitalisations per day.6
  • In remote and very remote areas in Australia, hospitalisation rates due to CVD are 35% higher than in major cities.7

Expenditure and burden

  • CVD costs the Australian health system $12.7 billion every year.8
  • It is responsible for 11% of all hospitalisations.
  • CVD has the second highest expenditure in the Australian health system.
  • In 2023, Australians lost an estimated 666,000 years of healthy life due to all forms of CVD.9
  • Coronary heart disease was the leading single cause of burden for males, and sixth leading single cause for females in 2023. Note: Burden of disease is a measure of the years of healthy life lost from living with, or dying from, disease and injury.10

Heart attack

  • Heart attack is a leading cause of hospitalisation and death in Australia, claiming on average 19 lives every day. That’s one person every 74 minutes.
  • An estimated 430,000 Australians have had a heart attack at some point in their lives, and every year, 57,000 Australians suffer a heart attack.
  • Every nine minutes, one person is hospitalised due to a heart attack.
  • One in three Australians personally knows someone who has had a heart attack.
  • Twice as many men experience heart attacks compared to females.
cardiovascular disease infographic

Stroke

  • Every 19 minutes, one Australian experiences a stroke for the first time.11,12
  • One in four people globally will have a stroke in their lifetime.
  • Almost half a million Australians are living with the effects of stroke.
  • Around one in five people will die within 28 days of a stroke, and one in three people will die within a year.
  • Stroke is a lead­ing cause of dis­abil­i­ty in Australia.
  • More than 80% of strokes can be prevented.
  • Stroke places a huge burden on the healthcare system – the financial cost of stroke in Australia is estimated to be $6.2 billion each year, and a further $26 billion in mortality and lost wellbeing.13
  • Without action and further research into preventing and treating stroke, by 2050 it is predicted that the number of first-ever strokes will increase to one stroke every 10 minutes.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, causing over one in 10 deaths.14
  • Indigenous Australians are almost twice as likely to die from CVD as non-Indigenous Australians.
  • Heart disease can occur 10 to 20 years earlier among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
  • Hospitalisation rates for rheumatic heart disease are more than six times higher in Indigenous than in non-Indigenous people.

Women

  • CVD is a leading cause of illness and death in Australian women.
  • Heart disease kills more than three times as many women as breast cancer.
  • Over half a million Australian women have CVD, equating to almost one in every 20.
  • Increasing numbers of young Australian women are being hospitalised for CVD.
  • Women with CVD often have different symptoms that may not be recognised as CVD, which increases the likelihood of a missed diagnosis.

References

1. Australian Bureau of Statistics; 3303.0 - Causes of Death, Australia, 2021. https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/health/causes-death/causes-death-australia/latest-release#australia-s-leading-causes-of-death-2021
2. World Health Organisation; Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) Fact sheet, update June 2021 https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/cardiovascular-diseases-(cvds)
3. Interactive Australian Heart Maps - https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/health-professional-tools/Interactive-Heart-Map-Australia
4. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2020, Causes of death 2019, cat. No. 3303.0, October.
5. Heart Foundation fact sheet: Cardiovascular Disease - https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/bundles/for-professionals/key-stats-cardiovascular-disease
6. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW); Hospital care for cardiovascular disease. www.aihw.gov.au/reports/heart-stroke-vascular-diseases/cardiovascular-health-compendium/contents/hospital-care-for-cardiovascular-disease
7. AIHW 2020, National Hospital Morbidity Database (NHMD)
8. AIHW, Heart, stroke and vascular disease - Australian facts: Expenditure https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/heart-stroke-vascular-diseases/hsvd-facts/contents/impacts/expenditure-cvd
9. Heart, stroke and vascular disease: Australian facts: Burden https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/heart-stroke-vascular-diseases/hsvd-facts/contents/impacts/burden-of-cvd
10. Heart Foundation Heart Attack fact sheet: https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/bundles/your-heart/heart-attack
11. Deloitte Access Economics. 2020. No postcode untouched, Stroke in Australia 2020
12. Stroke Foundation fact sheet: https://strokefoundation.org.au/about-stroke/learn/facts-and-figures
13. Deloitte Access Economics. The economic impact of stroke in Australia, 2020.
14. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Deaths in Australia: Variation in deaths between population groups: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/life-expectancy-deaths/deaths-in-australia/contents/variations-between-population-groups

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