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Death rates from cardiovascular disease (CVD) have fallen since 1987, with the greatest declines being among older people, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

The report, Cardiovascular disease mortality: trends at different ages, looks at trends in CVD deaths across different age and sex groups, and across the main individual diseases that make up cardiovascular disease.

It shows that death rates for CVD and each of its component diseases, including coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke, heart failure, rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease all fell between 1987 and 2006.

The main contributors to CVD trends were substantial falls in stroke and CHD death rates.

Declines in stroke and CHD death rates between 1987 and 2006 were greatest among people aged between 55 and 74 years.

Over the most recent decade, there has been an accelerated decline in death rates among people aged 65 years and over.

However, the report found that the decline in coronary heart disease death rates has slowed among people aged 35 to 54.

The decline in stroke death rates has also slowed among women aged 45 to 54 years.

'Even though death rates are declining, CVD is still a leading cause of death in Australia, and there is no room for complacency with these results', said Anne Broadbent of the Institute's Cardiovascular, Diabetes and Kidney Unit.

'Over the last two decades, trends in the prevalence of risk factors for cardiovascular disease have varied, with some being favourable and others not so good,' she said.

'For example, there have been favourable trends with falling smoking rates and blood pressure levels, but little evidence of national change in blood cholesterol levels.

'There have also been unfavourable trends in physical inactivity, obesity and diabetes prevalence.

'On the other hand, improvements in medical care and treatment have contributed to the declines in death rates from CHD and stroke,' Ms Broadbent said.

Friday 16 April 2010

Further information: Anne Broadbent, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1204, mob. 0447 014 123.

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1032.

Cardiovascular disease mortality trends at different ages