How many Australians have cardiovascular disease?

All cardiovascular disease

An estimated 1.2 million (6%) Australian adults aged 18 years and over had 1 or more conditions related to heart or vascular disease, including stroke, in 2017–18, based on self-reported data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2017–18 National Health Survey.

Information based on self-reported data relies on survey participants being aware of and accurately reporting their health conditions. Estimates based on self-reported data are not likely to be as accurate as data based on clinical records or measurements. Note the ABS definition of heart, stroke and vascular disease for the National Health Survey refers to persons who reported having been told by a doctor or nurse that they had any of a range of circulatory conditions comprising: angina, heart attack and other ischaemic heart diseases; stroke and other cerebrovascular diseases; oedema; heart failure; and diseases of the arteries, arterioles and capillaries.

Age and sex

In 2017–18, the prevalence of heart, stroke and vascular disease among adults (based on self-reported data):

  • Was higher among men (6.5%) than women (4.8%).
  • Increased with age—more than 1 in 4 (26%) of those aged 75+ had heart, stroke and vascular disease (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Prevalence of self-reported heart, stroke and vascular disease among persons aged 18 and over, by age and sex, 2017–18

This column graph shows the increase in prevalence of self-reported heart, stroke and vascular disease with age. For males the prevalence of heart, stroke and vascular disease increased from 1%25 among those aged 18–44, to 32%25 among males aged 75 and older. For females the prevalence of heart, stroke and vascular disease increased from 1%25 of those aged 18–44 to 20%25 among females aged 75 and older.

Chart: AIHW. Source: AIHW analysis of ABS 2019 (Data table)

Variation among population groups

In 2017–18, the prevalence of heart, stroke and vascular disease (based on self-reported data) among adults did not vary significantly by remoteness area. However, the proportion of people who reported having heart, stroke and vascular disease was slightly higher among those living in the most disadvantaged areas compared to those in the least disadvantaged areas (6.4% and 4.8% respectively, Figure 2).

Figure 2: Prevalence of self-reported heart, stroke and vascular disease, among persons aged 18 and over, by remoteness and socioeconomic group, 2017–18

This bar graph shows the prevalence of self-reported heart, stroke and vascular disease, among adults did not vary significantly by remoteness area. However, the proportion of people who reported having heart, stroke and vascular disease was slightly higher among those living in the most disadvantaged areas compared to those in the least disadvantaged areas.

Note: Age-standardised to the 2001 Australian Standard Population.
Chart: AIHW. Source: AIHW analysis of ABS 2019. (Data table)

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

An estimated 24,500 (4%) Indigenous Australians had heart, stroke and vascular disease, based on self-reported data from the ABS 2012–13 Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (ABS, 2014).

After adjusting for age, there was no difference in the prevalence of heart, stroke and vascular disease among Indigenous males and females (7%). Indigenous Australians were more likely to report having heart, stroke and vascular disease than their non-Indigenous counterparts (7% and 4%, respectively).

Coronary heart disease (CHD)

An estimated 580,300 Australians aged 18 and over (3% of the adult population) reported having CHD at some time in their lives, based on self-reported data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2017–18 National Health Survey. Of those with CHD, 227,300 had experienced angina while 430,000 had a heart attack or another form of CHD (a person may report more than one disease).

Prevalence of CHD:

  • Was around twice as high among men (3.8%) than women (1.9%).
  • Increased rapidly with age—around 13 times as high in people aged 75 and over as in those aged 45–54.

In 2016, an estimated 62,400 people aged 25 and over had an acute coronary event in the form of a heart attack or unstable angina—around 170 events every day, based on hospitalisations and mortality data. Rates of acute coronary events:

  • Were twice as high in men than women (468 and 215 per 100,000 population) (Figure 3).
  • Have declined rapidly by 37% between 2007 and 2016 (from 534 to 336 events per 100,000) (Figure 3).
  • Were 2.8 times as high among Indigenous Australians compared with Other Australians (939 and 336 per 100,000).

Figure 3: Trends in acute coronary events, among persons aged 25 and over, by sex, 2007 to 2016

This line graph shows that the age-standardised rate of acute coronary events has declined between 2007 and 2016. For males, the rate declined from 729 to 468 acute coronary events per 100,000 population between 2007 and 2016. For females, the rate declined from 358 to 215 acute coronary events per 100,000 population between 2007 and 2016.

Note: Age-standardised to the 2001 Australian Standard Population.

Chart: AIHW. Source: AIHW analysis of the National Hospital Morbidity Database and AIHW National Mortality Database. (Data table)

Stroke

In 2015, around 394,000 Australians (1.7% of the population) had experienced a stroke at some time in their lives, based on self-reported data from the ABS 2015 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers.

Prevalence of stroke was:

  • Similar in both males and females (1.7%).
  • More common in older age groups—over two in three (67%) people who had a stroke were aged 65 and over. Proportions were highest for those aged 85 and over—3 times as high as for those aged 65–74 (15% and 4.6%, respectively).

In 2016, there were an estimated 37,800 stroke events in Australia—more than 100 every day, based on hospital and mortality data.

  • Males were more likely to have had a stroke event than females (151 and 114 per 100,000 population, respectively) (Figure 4).
  • The rate of stroke events fell by 22% between 2001 and 2016, from 169 to 132 events per 100,000 (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Trends in stroke events, by sex, 2001 to 2016

This line graph shows that the age-standardised rate of stroke declined between 2001 and 2013, with a slight increase in 2015 and 2016. For males, the rate of stroke event declined from 193 to 146 events per 100,000 population between 2001 and 2013, before increasing slightly to 151 events per 100,000 population in 2016. For females, the rate of stroke event declined from 148 to 112 events per 100,000 population between 2001 and 2014 before increasing slightly to 114 events per 100,000 population in 2016.

Note: Age-standardised to the 2001 Australian Standard Population.
Chart: AIHW. Source: AIHW analysis of the National Hospital Morbidity Database and AIHW National Mortality Database. (Data table)

Heart failure

An estimated 104,900 people aged 18 and over had heart failure in 2017–18, based on self-reported data from the ABS 2017–18 National Health Survey. This corresponds to approximately 0.5% of the adult population. Heart failure predominantly affects older Australians. Two-thirds of adults with heart failure (69,500 people) were aged 65 years and over.

Using self-reported data to estimate the number of people with heart failure may under estimate the true burden of this disease as the early stages are only mildly symptomatic. Heart failure and cardiomyopathy have a considerable impact on the health of Australians. For more information see Hospital care for heart failure and cardiomyopathy.

Rheumatic heart disease (RHD)

As at 31 December 2017 there were around 4,300 living registered cases of RHD recorded on state and territory registers in the Northern Territory, Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia combined. Indigenous people accounted for 87% of registered cases of RHD (3,690 diagnoses).

During the 4-year period 2013–2017, there were around 1,800 diagnoses for acute rheumatic fever (ARF) among Indigenous Australians (94% of all cases). In the same period, there were about 1,000 RHD diagnoses among Indigenous Australians in the Northern Territory, Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland combined. The NT had the highest rate and greatest number of new RHD diagnoses among Indigenous Australians. More than two-thirds of new RHD cases among Indigenous Australians were female and nearly 60% of cases were aged under 25 years at diagnosis (AIHW 2019).

Congenital heart disease

The most recent national data on the incidence or prevalence of congenital heart disease is from 2003. Over 2,000 babies are born with congenital heart disease every year—8 in every 1,000 live births. Among babies born in Australia in 2003 (excluding the Northern Territory), the most commonly reported congenital heart conditions included ventricular septal defect (630 cases), patent ductal arteriosus (406), atrial septal defect (402), pulmonary stenosis (134) and transposition of the great vessels (103) (Abeywardana & Sullivan 2008).

References:

Abeywardana S & Sullivan EA 2008. Congenital anomalies in Australia 2002–2003. Birth anomalies series no. 3 Cat. no. PER 41. Sydney: AIHW National Perinatal Statistics Unit.

ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2014. Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey: First Results, Australia, 2012-13. ABS cat. no. 4727.0.55.001. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics.

AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2019. Acute Rheumatic Fever and Rheumatic Heart Disease in Australia. Cat. no. CVD 86. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 14 June 2019, www.aihw.gov.au/reports/indigenous-australians/acute-rheumatic-fever-rheumatic-heart-disease/contents/summary