Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a leading cause of illness and death among Australian women. Nationally, there is increased recognition of gender differences in CVD risk factors, presentation, treatment and outcomes.

This report gives a statistical overview of the impact of common forms of CVD—coronary heart disease, stroke, heart failure and cardiomyopathy—on Australian women.

More than half a million women have CVD

An estimated 510,000 (4.8%) Australian women aged 18 and over reported 1 or more heart, stroke and vascular diseases in 2017–18.

Around 22,200 women had an acute coronary event (heart attack or unstable angina) in 2016, and 17,900 women had a stroke in 2015.

A major cause of illness and death

CVD accounted for 12% of the total burden of disease among Australian women in 2015, and caused 22,200 female deaths in 2016—more than any other disease group.

Lifestyle changes can reduce risk

The proportion of women who smoked daily has fallen from 24% in 1989–90 to 11% in 2017–18. However, 60% of women were overweight or obese in 2017–18.

Heart attacks and deaths have fallen

The acute coronary event rate among women halved between 2001 and 2016. Stroke incidence among women fell by 25% between 2001 and 2015.

The share of total female deaths due to CVD fell from 37% in 2006 to 29% in 2016.

Smaller improvements—and a rise in strokes—among younger women

From 2001 to 2015, the incidence of acute coronary events among women aged 35–44 fell by 22%, compared with 65% among women aged 65–74.

Between 2001 and 2015, stroke incidence increased among younger women by 16% for ages 35–44 and 12% for ages 45–54.

Between 2006 and 2016, CVD death rates fell by more than 40% for women aged 65–74 and 75–84 and 13% for women aged 45–54.

Hospitalisation rates rising for younger women

Between 2006–07 and 2015–16, CVD hospitalisation rate for females fell by 5.3%, but rates increased by 11% for ages 25–34, and 4.7% for ages 35–44.

Impact on Indigenous women

An estimated 12,500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women had a form of heart, stroke or vascular disease in 2012–13; of these, 7,100 had coronary heart disease.

Indigenous women were up to twice as likely as non-Indigenous women to have CVD, and to die from coronary heart disease or stroke.