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The number one killer of women

Heart disease is the number one killer of Australian women.1 In fact, heart disease kills three times as many women as breast cancer.2

Sadly, an Australian woman dies from heart disease every hour, and 50 women suffer a heart attack every day.3 More than 48,000 women are treated in hospital for heart disease every year.4

Research shows that complications such as preeclampsia or gestational diabetes during pregnancy can increase a woman’s risk of heart disease later in life.5

What is heart disease?

Heart disease refers to a range of conditions that affect the heart. The term ‘heart disease’ is often used interchangeably with the term ‘cardiovascular disease,’ which refers to all diseases of the heart and circulation. These include coronary heart disease, atrial fibrillation, heart attack, congenital heart disease and stroke.

Complications during pregnancy

Preeclampsia is high blood pressure that occurs during pregnancy and the postpartum period, affecting both the mother and unborn baby. It is associated with a number of serious effects, and is the leading cause of stillbirths and newborn deaths in Australia. It also doubles a woman’s risk of heart disease and stroke later in life.

Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy when the body cannot cope with the extra demand for insulin production, resulting in higher than normal blood glucose levels. It increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future for both mother and baby.

What can I do?

While there is no one cause of heart disease, there are several factors that increase risk. However, there are steps women can take to reduce their risk of developing heart disease, at any stage in their lives, including simple lifestyle changes such as eating a healthier diet and participating in regular physical activity. Download the free information pack for more information.


  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2018, Causes of Death 2017, ABS cat. no. 3303.0, September.
  2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2010. Women and heart disease: cardiovascular profile of women in Australia. Cardiovascular disease series no. 33. Cat. no. CVD 49. Canberra: AIHW.
  3. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Causes of Death 2014 (3303.0). March 2016.
  4. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, National Hospital Morbidity Database 2012/13
  5. Lowe et al. Society of Obstetric Medicine of Australia and New Zealand 2014. Guideline for the Management of Hypertensive Disorders of Pregnancy 2014. Sydney: SOMANZ.