Heart disease in Australia

Cardiovascular disease, heart disease and heart attack

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a major cause of death in Australia, with 45,392 deaths attributed to CVD in Australia in 2015. 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 4.2 million
  • CVD was the main cause for 480,548 hospitalisations in 2013/14 and played an additional role in another 680,000 hospitalisations
  • claimed the lives of 45,392 Australians (nearly 30% of all deaths) in 2015 - 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 1.2 million Australians
  • is the single leading cause of death in Australia
  • claimed the lives of 19,777 Australians (12% of all deaths) in 2015
  • kills one Australian every 27 minutes

Heart attack:

  • It is estimated over 400,000 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 10 minutes.
  • Heart attack claimed 8,443 lives in 2015, or on average, 23 each day.

More information

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 2014/15, 6 million adult Australians (34%) 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 seven Australians aged 15 years and over smoked daily.
  • In 2014/15, close to two in every three (63%) adult Australians aged 18 years and over were overweight or obese, with 27.5% obese and 36% overweight. 
  • In 2014/15, more two in every three (66%) of adult Australians aged over 15 do very little or no exercise at all.

More information


  1. National Heart Foundation of Australia, 2007 (Report by Vos T and Begg S, Centre for Burden of Disease and Cost effectiveness, University of Queensland School of Population Health). The burden of cardiovascular disease in Australia for the year 2003.
  2. National Heart Foundation, 2005. The shifting burden of cardiovascular disease in Australia. Report by Access Economics Pty Limited.
  3. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Causes of Death 2015 (3303.0) September 2016.
  4. AIHW 2014. Australian hospital statistics 2012–13. Health services series no. 54. Cat. no. HSE 145. Canberra: AIHW.
  5. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2008. Health care expenditure on cardiovascular diseases 2004-05. Cardiovascular disease series no 30. Cat. no. CVD 43. Canberra AIHW.
  6. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2011. Cardiovascular disease: Australian facts 2011. Cardiovascular disease series. Cat. no. CVD 53. Canberra: AIHW.
  7. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Australian Health Survey 2014/15.

For further information contact our Health Information Service on 1300 36 27 87 or email health@heartfoundation.org.au

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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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