Cardiovascular disease affects half a million Aussie women

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a leading cause of illness and death among Australian women, according to a new report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Cardiovascular disease in women—a snapshot of national statistics (in focus), shows over half a million Australian women have cardiovascular disease, and that it accounts for almost one-third of all deaths among women.

‘In 2016, more than 22,200 women died of CVD—making it the most deadly disease group for women,’ said AIHW spokesperson Miriam Lum On.

CVD, which includes coronary heart disease, stroke and heart failure, is a largely preventable and treatable group of conditions.

‘Cardiovascular disease is often seen as an issue predominantly affecting men, but there is increasing recognition that aspects of its prevention, treatment and management are unique to women,’ said Ms Lum On.

Despite the impact of CVD on Australian women, rates of acute coronary events (heart attack or unstable angina) and deaths have fallen substantially over recent decades.

Between 2001 and 2016, the rate among women fell by 57%, from 465 to 215 events per 100,000.

‘There have been smaller improvements in the incidence of CVD for younger women, but hospitalisation rates have increased,’ said Ms Lum On.

In the decade to 2016, CVD hospitalisation rates rose among younger women—by 11% for women aged 25-34, and by 4.7% for women aged 35-44.

Although the overall incidence of stroke for women fell by 25% between 2001 and 2015, rates rose among younger women—by 16% for those aged 35-44, and by 12% for those aged 45-54.

Most chronic conditions, including CVD, share common risk factors that are largely preventable, such as tobacco use, risky alcohol consumption, overweight and obesity, physical inactivity, and high blood pressure.

A recent AIHW report, the Australian Burden of Disease Study 2015, found that cardiovascular diseases were one of the top two most burdensome disease groups in 2015.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women were almost twice as likely as non-Indigenous women to have CVD, and 4 times as likely to have a CVD-related hospitalisation.

A more detailed report will be released in the second half of 2019.