Heart disease remains leading cause of death in Australia

Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in Australia, according to figures released this week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

The Causes of Death report, which is released once a year, showed that heart disease accounts for more than 18,500 (one in every 10) deaths annually, with more than 60 per cent of these being males.

According to Prof Andrew Coats AO, CEO and Scientific Director of the Heart Research Institute (HRI), these new data highlight the impact and burden of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and the importance of research in the area.

“Heart disease has been the leading cause of death in this country since 1968 (when data was first collected), and remains the leading cause of death globally,” Prof Coats said. “Our work here at HRI has never been more critical.

“The new report confirms the serious threat that CVD poses and how important it is for Australians to be aware of the signs of heart attack and stroke.

“We must also realise that CVD caus­es dis­abil­i­ty, and as our pop­u­la­tions age we will see ever more of the chron­ic effects of CVD, such as heart fail­ure and vas­cu­lar demen­tia,” said Prof Coats.

Prof Coats also reiterated the importance of people knowing the symptoms and risk factors of CVD and having regular heart health checks.

“It’s also vital that we prioritise tools and policies to protect people from CVD and that Australians are made aware that many of the major risk factors – including smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, insufficient physical activity and diabetes – are preventable.”

Heart disease was followed by dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease) with 17,106 deaths, and COVID-19 taking out third spot on the list, with 9,859 deaths.

It is the first time since 2006 that there has been a change in the top five causes of death thanks to the impact of the pandemic.

It is also the first time an infectious disease has been one of Australia’s leading causes of death in more than 50 years.

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Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)

“This marks the first time an infectious disease has appeared in the top five leading causes since 1970, when influenza and pneumonia was ranked fifth,” said ABS Head of Mortality Statistics, Lauren Moran.

The last time was back in 1968 and 1970, when influenza and pneumonia were deemed as the fifth leading cause of death.

Overall, there were 190,939 deaths in 2022, almost 20,000 more than in 2021.

In some positive news, while heart disease and stroke were among the leading causes of death, the rate of death has decreased by 6.1 per cent and 7 per cent respectively in the past 10 years, an indicator of the impact of medical research into improved preventatives and treatments for CVD.

The release of the data coincides with World Heart Day, a timely reminder about the importance of prioritising heart health.

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