Heart disease in Australia

Cardiovascular disease, heart disease and heart attack

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a major cause of death in Australia, with 43,603 deaths attributed to CVD in Australia in 2013. Cardiovascular disease kills one Australian every 12 minutes.

Cardiovascular disease is one of Australia's largest health problems. Despite improvements over the last few decades, it remains one of the biggest burdens on our economy.

Cardiovascular disease:

  • is heart, stroke and blood vessel diseases
  • kills one Australian every 12 minutes
  • affects one in six Australians or 3.72 million
  • CVD was the main cause for 518,563 hospitalisations in 2012/13 and played an additional role in another 680,000 hospitalisations
  • claimed the lives of 43,603 Australians (30% of all deaths) in 2013 - deaths that are largely preventable
  • lower socioeconomic groups, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and those living in remote areas had the highest rate of hospitalisation and death resulting from CVD in Australia.

Coronary heart disease or heart disease:

  • affects around 1.4 million Australians
  • is the single leading cause of death in Australia
  • claimed the lives of 19,766  Australians (13% of all deaths) in 2013
  • kills 54 Australians each day, or one Australian every 27 minutes.

Heart attack:

  • It is estimated over 350,000 Australians have had a heart attack at some time in their lives.
  • Each year, around 54,000 Australians suffer a heart attack.  This equates to one heart attack every 9 minutes.
  • Heart attack claimed 8,611 lives in 2013, or on average, 24 each day.

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Risk factors 

Risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, overweight and obesity, physical inactivity, low fruit and vegetable intake, alcohol and smoking. Nine in 10 adult Australians have at least one risk factor for CVD and one in four (25%) have three or more risk factors.

Below are some of the statistics on risk factors:

Clinical risk factors

  • In 2011/12, 4.6 million adult Australians (32%) aged 18 years and over had high blood pressure (systolic or diastolic blood pressure is equal to or greater than 140/90 mmHg or taking medication).
  • In 2011/12, one third of adult Australians aged 18 years and over had measured high cholesterol. This represents 5.6 million adult Australians.

Lifestyle risk factors

  • Smoking is the single most important cause of ill health and death in Australia. In 2011/12, one in six Australians aged 15 years and over smoked daily.
  • In 2011/12, close to two in every three (63%) adult Australians aged 18 years and over were overweight or obese, with 27.5% obese and 35.3% overweight. The prevalence of overweight and obesity since 1995 has increased by 12%. Adult males were more likely to be overweight or obese than adult females.
  • In 2011/12, more than a third (39%) of adult Australians aged over 15 do very little or no exercise at all.

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Heart Foundation publication

Australian heart disease statistics 2014

Documents the current and recent burden of heart disease, including risk factors and comorbidities. For the first time in Australia, national data relating to cardiovascular disease has been brought together in a single comprehensive resource.

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