Cardiovascular disease claims fewer lives, but still a major killer

Death rates from cardiovascular disease are declining, but it still claims the lives of 55,000 Australians a year, according to a report to be released on Friday by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Reporting from a national system established to monitor cardiovascular disease and its impact, Surveillance of Cardiovascular Mortality Australia, 1983-1994 provides a detailed statistical profile for cardiovascular disease and its major components for Australia and for each State and Territory.

'Coronary heart disease and stroke alone claimed 43,000 deaths in 1994,' Dr Indra Gajanayake one of the report's authors said. 'Far too many Australians remain at a high risk of cardiovascular disease through cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, being overweight and lack of exercise.'

Dr Gajanayake said that while cardiovascular disease is still a big killer, it is causing fewer deaths per million population now compared to the early 1980s.

'Death rates from cardiovascular disease have declined annually by 3.5% in males and 3.2% in females, and more rapidly than death rates from all causes which are declining annually at 1.9% for males and 1.6% for females.' she said.

Coronary heart disease continues to account for the majority of deaths from cardiovascular disease and death rates are declining by 3.7% annually in males and 2.9% in females.

Other findings in the report include:

  • Death rates from cardiovascular diseases are declining in all age groups, but the decline is most rapid in the age range 35-69.
  • Among the States and Territories, death rates from cardiovascular disease are highest in the Northern Territory and Tasmania, and lowest in the ACT for males, and Western Australia for females.
  • Death rates from stroke are declining at 4% per year among males and females.
  • The Northern Territory is not experiencing the same declines in mortality from coronary heart disease and stroke as elsewhere in Australia.
  • 'The high death rates in the Northern Territory mainly reflect the higher proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Territory compared with the rest of Australia,' Dr Gajanayake said. 'Death rates from cardiovascular diseases are known to be three to four times higher for Indigenous people compared to non-Indigenous people.'
  • According to Dr Gajanayake, if current trends continue, Australian death rates for premature mortality from coronary heart disease will be close to the national targets set for the year 2000.


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