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Hearts 'at far greater risk' in the bush: cardio snapshot

14 August, 2014

Australians living outside capital cities are at significantly greater risk (26 per cent) of the nation's biggest killer, cardiovascular disease (CVD), than their urban counterparts, according to a new study.

The National Heart Foundation of Australia has released the first of its kind geographical snapshot of CVD (including heart disease and stroke) which shows one in four people living in regional and rural areas are suffering from the disease compared to one in five in metropolitan areas.

Lifestyle factors

Heart Foundation's National CEO, Mary Barry said there were many reasons for the disparities.

"We know people living in regional areas have a greater risk of heart disease because they are more likely to be physically inactive, daily smokers and overweight or obese, than those living in major cities," Barry said.

"Country people are also often disadvantaged by difficulty in accessing medical services – getting a heart health check and managing CVD once you have it is more difficult.

"The reality is, if cardiovascular disease rates for Australians living outside capital cities were identical to that of their city cousins, 350,000 fewer adults would have cardiovascular disease.

"That represents almost 45,000 fewer hospital admissions each year and a saving to our health system of at least $420 million."

Greater emphasis on prevention

Barry said: "What we need is a greater focus on prevention and management of heart disease, particularly in rural Australia.

"Prevention programs work, simple early detection and heart health checks by doctors can help identify your risk of heart attack or stroke.

"For those with established heart disease, access to coordinated cardiac services will reduce hospital readmissions and the development of further chronic disease.

"It's also vital that we as individuals take important steps to protect our own health. So ask your doctor for a heart health check to find out your risk of having a heart attack or stroke, and what you can do to help prevent it."

Barry said she hoped the data will inform government policy and health programs into the future.

What the snapshot showed…

  • Of all the states and territories (noting there is insufficient data to map rates in NT), Tas has the highest rate of CVD in Australia at more than one in four.
  • Of all the regions, the Southern Highlands/Shoalhaven region in NSW tops the nation with more than one in three adults suffering CVD.
  • WA has the biggest gap in the prevalence of CVD between the city and the bush – one in six and one in four respectively.
  • Among the other regions with high rates of CVD are Ballarat in Vic, Weston Creek in the ACT, the Central Coast in NSW and the Hunter Valley in NSW, where around one in three people have CVD.
  • Cairns in Qld and the South East region of SA top their states for CVD prevalence with more than one in four people suffering the disease.

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