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Drop in Deaths from Heart Disease Does Not Leave Room for Complacency

heart researchDeaths from heart disease have seen the biggest drop in 15 years, according to figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) today, but the National Heart Foundation of Australia says there is no room for complacency as more people are now living with the devastating consequences of this chronic disease.

Around 20,046 people died of heart disease in 2012 compared to 28,299 in 1998. The proportion of deaths caused by heart disease has fallen from 22.2% in 1998 to 13.6% in 2012.

Heart Foundation’s National Director of Cardiovascular Health Dr Rob Grenfell said while the drop in deaths was good news, the flip side is high survival rates mean more people are living with heart damage and disability.

“Heart disease remains the single biggest killer of Australian men and women,” Dr Grenfell said. “We know the advancements in early detection, better care, improved technologies, tobacco control, as well as the Heart Foundation’s public education about the warning signs of heart attack have contributed to the drop in deaths.

ABS data also showed a 40 per cent drop in heart attack death rates during the past 15 years – with 9,286 deaths in 2012, compared to 15,877 in 1998.

Dr Grenfell said our next task is to address the burden on our health system.

“Around 3.7 million Australians are living with cardiovascular disease, which includes heart, stroke and vascular diseases,” he said.

“Cardiovascular disease is the most expensive single disease group with around $7.6 billion a year or 12% of health care funding being spent on managing the disease. With more people surviving and living with chronic diseases these costs will only continue to grow unless we get on top of the problem.”

Cardiovascular disease killed 43,946 people (or 29.9% of deaths), closely followed by cancer claiming the lives of 43,505 (or 29.6% of deaths) Australians.

“As a group of diseases, cancers and cardiovascular diseases account for almost 60 per cent of the country’s deaths,” Dr Grenfell said. “Many of the chronic diseases have a common risk factors including smoking, poor nutrition, overweight/obesity and physical inactivity. If we were to have a coordinated approach to the management of these risk factors we would save more lives.”