80% of adult Australians at risk of developing heart disease

Eight out of ten adult Australians are either physically inactive, overweight, have high blood pressure or smoke cigarettes-all risk factors for cardiovascular disease. In fact, about one in ten adult Australians have three or more of these major risk factors which greatly increases their chance of developing cardiovascular disease.

These facts and more can be found in a joint Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and Heart Foundation of Australia publication, Heart, stroke and vascular diseases: Australian facts 1999, to be launched on Monday to mark the beginning of National Heart Week.

Head of the AIHW's National Centre for Monitoring Cardiovascular Disease, Dr Stan Bennett, said that death rates among Indigenous Australians and people who are socioeconomically disadvantaged were considerably higher than other Australians.

'Indigenous Australians aged 25 to 64 die from cardiovascular disease at 7 to 9 times the rate of other Australians,' Dr Bennett said. 'But cardiovascular disease not only causes death, it places a heavy burden on all Australians in terms of illness and disability, and its health care costs are more than those of any other disease.'

Supporting Dr Bennett's comments, the Heart Foundation's Director of Health, Medical and Scientific Affairs Professor Andrew Tonkin said it was alarming that Australians in lower socioeconomic groups were twice as likely to have multiple risk factor abnormalities.

'Many people fail to realise that the public health problem is not so much individuals with one marked abnormality such as a cholesterol level of 10, or a blood pressure level of 200, as much as individuals with minor abnormalities in a number of risk factor areas,' Professor Tonkin said.

Other facts contained in Heart, stroke and vascular diseases: Australian facts 1999 include a dramatic increase in our proportion of overweight and obese adult Australians. Men in 1995 weighed 3.6kg more than their counterparts in 1980, and women 4.8kg more.

Other data show that currently a 40-year-old's risk of having coronary heart disease at some time in their future life is 1 in 2 for men and 1 in 3 for women. Similarly, men aged 45 have a 1 in 4 chance of having a stroke before the age of 85 and women have a 1 in 5 chance.

The report also indicates major changes in the treatment and care of the disease, with a dramatic increase in use of lipid lowering drugs and coronary stenting.

Heart, stroke and vascular diseases was produced under a new Memorandum of Understanding between the AIHW-Australia's national agency for health and welfare statistics and information, and Australia's leading agency in the continuing fight against cardiovascular disease-the Heart Foundation of Australia.

3 May 1999


Further information: Dr Stan Bennett or Sushma Mathur, AIHW, ph. 02 6244 1171, or Dr Paul Magnus, AIHW, Medical Adviser, ph. 02 6244 1149.
Media inquiries: Mr Nigel Harding, AIHW, ph. 02 6244 1025 or 04 0701 2520 (mobile), or Ms Anne Hayward, Heart Foundation, ph. 04 1466 7727 (mobile) or 04 1466 7729 (mobile).
For media copies of the report:
Mrs Lena Searle, AIHW, ph. 02 6244 1032.
Availability: Check the AIHW for details.