Heart, stroke and vascular disease – also known as cardiovascular disease (CVD) – is a broad term that describes the many different diseases and conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels.

Coronary heart disease, stroke and heart failure are common forms of CVD. Other forms include atrial fibrillation, peripheral arterial disease, rheumatic heart disease and congenital heart disease.

Some types of CVD are caused by atherosclerosis, a condition where deposits of cholesterol and other substances build up in the arteries to form plaque. Atherosclerosis can reduce or block blood supply to the heart (causing angina or heart attack) or to the brain (causing stroke).

A number of risk factors can increase a person's chance of developing CVD, including behavioural (for example, smoking, insufficient physical activity and poor diet), biomedical (for example, high blood pressure or abnormal blood lipids) and others that can't be controlled such as age and sex.

For more information, see:

How common is heart, stroke and vascular disease?

An estimated 1.3 million Australians aged 18 and over (6.7% of the adult population) were living with one or more conditions related to heart, stroke and vascular disease, based on self-reported data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2022 National Health Survey (ABS 2023c). This includes 600,000 adults (3.0%) who reported having coronary heart disease (including angina and heart attack).

CVD was more commonly reported by men than women (7.6% and 5.8%, respectively) and increased with age, affecting around 1 in 4 (28%) adults aged 75 and over in 2022. 

For more information, see How many Australians have heart, stroke and vascular disease?

Acute coronary events

There are no national data sources on the number of new cases of coronary heart disease. However, a proxy measure can be used as an estimate – the number of acute coronary events, which includes heart attack and unstable angina (AIHW 2022b).

In 2021, there were an estimated 57,300 acute coronary events among people aged 25 and over – equivalent to 157 events every day. Around 12% of these events (6,900 cases) were fatal.

After adjusting for age, rates of acute coronary events:

  • were 2.3 times as high in men than women
  • were 4.6 times as high among people aged 85 and over compared with people aged 55–64
  • were 2.8 times as high among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (First Nations) people compared with non-Indigenous people (men 2.5 times as high, women 3.7 times as high)
  • fell by 63% for women and 58% for men between 2001 and 2021 (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Acute coronary events among persons aged 25 years and over, by sex, 2001–2021

The line chart shows declines in age-standardised rates of acute coronary events between 2001 and 2021, from 912 to 386 per 100,000 population for men aged 25 and over, and from 462 to 171 for women aged 25 and over.

For more information, see Acute coronary events.


In 2018, an estimated 387,000 Australians aged 15 and over (1.6% of the population) had experienced a stroke at some time in their lives, based on self-reported data from the ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (ABS 2019b).

The prevalence of stroke in 2018 was:

  • higher in males (1.6%) than females (1.1%), after adjusting for age
  • more common in older age groups, with over 2 in 3 (71%) occurring in people aged 65 and over.

In 2021, there were an estimated 40,700 stroke events in Australia – around 112 every day. The rate of stroke events:

  • was 1.4 times as high among males as females, after adjusting for age
  • increased with age, being 6 times as high among people aged 85 and over as those aged 65–74
  • fell by one-quarter (27%) between 2001 and 2021, after adjusting for age.

For more information, see Stroke.

Heart failure

An estimated 144,000 people aged 18 and over (0.7% of the adult population) had heart failure in 2022, based on self-reported data from the ABS 2022 National Health Survey (ABS 2023c).

Heart failure was more commonly reported by men (1.0%) than women (0.5%). The prevalence of heart failure increases with age, affecting around 4.1% of adults aged 75 and over in 2022.

Using self-reported data underestimates the true burden of heart failure, as early stages are only mildly symptomatic, and many cases are undiagnosed. A 2016 review of studies reported the prevalence of heart failure in the Australian population as ranging between 1.0% and 2.0% (Sahle et al. 2016).

For more information, see Heart failure and cardiomyopathy.

Impact of heart, stroke and vascular disease

Burden of disease

Burden of disease refers to the quantified impact of living with and dying prematurely from a disease or injury and is measured using disability-adjusted life years (DALY). One DALY is equivalent to one year of healthy life lost.

In 2023, Australians lost an estimated 666,000 years of healthy life due to CVD (19 DALY per 1,000 population). CVD accounted for almost 12% of the total burden of disease (14% males, 10% females), ranking fourth behind cancer, mental and substance use disorders, and musculoskeletal conditions.

Coronary heart disease was the leading single cause of burden for males, and eighth leading single cause for females in 2023.

After adjusting for age, the rate of burden from CVD fell by 47% between 2003 and 2023 (AIHW 2023a).


In 2020–21, an estimated 9.5% of total allocated expenditure in the Australian health system ($14.3 billion) was attributed to CVD.

Nearly two-thirds (65%, or $9.2 billion) was spent on hospital services, with another 20% ($2.9 billion) related to non-hospital medical services (largely primary care) and 14% ($2.0 billion) spent on prescription medicines dispensed through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) (AIHW 2023b).


In 2022, CVD was the underlying cause of 45,000 deaths (24% of all deaths), a rate of 173 per 100,000 population. CVD was the second leading cause of death group, behind cancers (27% of all deaths).

The proportion of CVD deaths (as the underlying cause of death) by subtype in 2022 was:

  • coronary heart disease: 41%
  • stroke: 19%
  • heart failure and cardiomyopathy: 11%
  • hypertensive disease: 5.9%
  • atrial fibrillation: 5.7%
  • peripheral arterial disease: 4.3%
  • rheumatic heart disease: 0.8%.

In 2022, CVD death rates:

  • were 1.4 times as high among males as females, after adjusting for age
  • increased with age, with over half (52%) occurring in persons aged 85 and over.

After adjusting for age, the CVD death rate has declined by more than three-quarters for both males (79%) and females (77%) between 1980 and 2022 (Figure 2). This downward trend has been driven by major public health improvements with advancements in both prevention and treatment.

Although CVD mortality rates reached an all-time low in 2020 at 158 per 100,000 population (the first year of the pandemic), they increased year-on-year in both 2021 and 2022 (2.3% and 2.1%, respectively, after adjusting for age). The CVD mortality rate remains 3.4% below that recorded in 2019 and recent increases should be interpreted in the context of higher overall mortality in 2022, with two-thirds of excess deaths being associated with COVID-19 (ABS 2023b). People with pre-existing chronic conditions are also at higher risk of more severe outcomes from COVID-19 with chronic cardiac conditions being the most common pre-existing diseases among those who died from the virus (deaths registered to February 2023) (ABS 2023a).

Figure 2: Cardiovascular disease death rates, by sex, 1980–2022

The line chart shows the decline in age-standardised cardiovascular disease death rates between 1980 and 2022, from 700 to 148 per 100,000 population for males and 452 to 104 for females.

For more information, see Impacts and Death.

Treatment and management of heart, stroke and vascular disease

Primary care

Primary health care professionals, including general practitioners (GPs), are often the first point-of-care for people who have non-acute cardiovascular disease.

In a 2020–21 survey of GP practices, high blood pressure (hypertension) was the single most common condition recorded for patients (6.0%). Cardiovascular medicines were the largest proportion of total prescriptions ordered by GPs for patients (32%) (NPS MedicineWise 2022).

In 2023, over 188,000 Heart Health Checks were processed by Medicare (males 91,300, females 96,900). Checks were most commonly conducted among people aged 55–64 (58,500) and 65–74 (51,400) (Services Australia 2024).


Almost 120 million PBS prescriptions for cardiovascular system medicines were dispensed to the Australian community in 2022–23. These comprised 36% of total PBS prescriptions (Department of Health and Aged Care 2023).

Around two-thirds of these prescriptions (68%, 81 million) were PBS-subsidised, with the remainder being under co-payment.

Rosuvastatin (16.5 million) and atorvastatin (12.1 million), both lipid-modifying medicines, and perindopril (7.1 million), a blood pressure-lowering medicine, were among the most commonly supplied PBS medicines in 2022–23.

Emergency department presentations

In 2022–23, there were 331,400 presentations to hospital emergency departments with a principal diagnosis of CVD – a rate of 1,300 presentations per 100,000 population.

  • 17,100 (5.2%) were triaged as ‘resuscitation’ and needed immediate care, 145,900 (44%) as ‘emergency’ (should be seen within 10 minutes), 123,300 (37%) as ‘urgent’ (within 30 minutes), 40,600 (12%) as ‘semi-urgent’ (within 60 minutes) and 4,600 (1.4%) as ‘non-urgent’ (within 120 minutes).
  • 195,500 (59%) were subsequently admitted to the hospital they presented to; 109,300 (33%) departed without being admitted or referred; and 19,700 (6.0%) were referred to another hospital for admission (AIHW 2023c).


In 2021–22, CVD was recorded as the principal diagnosis of around 568,000 hospitalisations – 4.9% of all hospitalisations in Australia.

Coronary heart disease was the most common principal diagnosis among CVD hospitalisations (26%), followed by atrial fibrillation (13%), heart failure and cardiomyopathy (12%), stroke (12%), peripheral arterial disease (5.5%), hypertensive disease (2.4%) and rheumatic heart disease (0.8%).

After adjusting for age, rates of hospitalisation with CVD as the principal diagnosis were 1.6 times as high for males compared with females.

Acute care CVD hospitalisations as a principal diagnosis declined by 22% between 2000–01 and 2021–22, from 2,100 to 1,600 per 100,000 population, after adjusting for age.


CVD-related diagnostic or treatment procedures performed on hospital patients in 2021–22 included:

  • 131,700 coronary angiographies (88,000 males, 43,700 females)
  • 48,100 echocardiographies (32,600 males, 15,500 females)
  • 43,700 percutaneous coronary interventions (PCI) (32,800 males, 10,900 females)
  • 19,000 pacemaker insertions (11,600 males, 7,400 females)
  • 12,700 coronary artery bypass grafts (CABG) (10,600 males, 2,100 females)
  • 12,200 heart valve repair or replacement procedures (7,800 males, 4,400 females)
  • 3,800 cardiac defibrillator implants (2,900 males, 870 females)
  • 1,800 carotid endarterectomy procedures (1,300 males, 460 females)
  • 105 heart transplants (67 males, 38 females).

For more information, see Treatment and management.

Population groups

The impact of heart, stroke and vascular disease varies between population groups.

Rates of prevalence, hospitalisation, mortality and burden of disease are, on average, greater among First Nations people, people living in lower socioeconomic areas, and people living in Remote and very remote areas. For example:

  • Around 42,000 First Nations adults (8.6%) were living with heart stroke and vascular disease in 2018–19. First Nations adults were 2.1 times as likely as non-Indigenous adults to have heart, stroke and vascular disease, after adjusting for age (ABS 2019a).
  • CVD accounted for 10% of total disease burden among First Nations people in 2018 (24,600 DALY). The proportion attributed to fatal burden (86%) was higher than non-fatal burden (13%). The burden of disease from CVD was 2.4 times as high among First Nations people as non-Indigenous people (AIHW 2021, 2022a).
  • Among people living in the lowest socioeconomic areas, there were 31,200 deaths where CVD was the underlying cause in 2020–2022 – a rate of 202 per 100,000 population. The CVD death rate for this group was 1.5 times as high as for people living in the highest socioeconomic areas, after adjusting for age.
  • Among people living in Remote and very remote areas, there were 11,400 CVD hospitalisations in 2021–22 – a rate of 2,300 per 100,000 population. People living in these areas were 1.3 times as likely to be hospitalised for CVD as people living in Major cities, after adjusting for age.

Where do I go for more information?

For more information, see Heart, stroke and vascular disease: Australian facts.