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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.

Much of the burden caused by cardiovascular disease is preventable. Major modifiable risk factors include tobacco 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.

High levels of smoking, alcohol misuse, physical inactivity, excess body weight and diabetes result in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people having a higher risk of developing heart disease than the non-Indigenous population.

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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.

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 seven times the average rate.
  • 10.5 times more likely to die from coronary heart disease.
  • 1.2 times more likely to have high blood pressure.

Do you want to know more? Download your free information pack about Heart Disease in Indigenous Communities.

Two out of three families are affected by heart disease. Even if you are lucky enough not to be affected, it is likely you will know someone who is - a relative, a friend or a neighbour. No one can predict where the devastation of cardiovascular disease will strike next.

Richard Wylie
Fundraising Director, Heart Research Institute