Heart attack fact sheet

Heart attack, also known as ‘acute myocardial infarction’ is a life-threatening event that occurs when a blood vessel supplying the heart itself is suddenly blocked completely, threatening to damage the heart muscle and its functions. (1)


Heart attack claimed 8,011 lives in 2016, or on average, 22 each day. (2)

In 2016, deaths from heart attack were at their lowest level in ten years, having decreased by 30 percent since 2007. (2)


Heart attacks were the main cause for over 54,000 hospitalisations in 2014/15. The number of hospital separations due to heart attack has increased by 15% from 2003/04 to 2014/15. (3)

The average length of stay has fallen by more than one day, from 6.1 to 4.6 days. (3)


It is estimated 430,000 Australians have had a heart attack at some time in their lives. (4)

More than 100,000 Australians who have had a heart attack are under the age of 65. (4)

Understanding heart attack

In 2017, one in three Australians were not aware of any typical signs or symptoms of a heart attack. Furthermore, half of all Australians (50%) believe that heart attack is personally relevant to them. (5)

More than one in two Australians (52%), are confident they would know what to do if they were suffering from a heart attack. (5)

In 2017, more than one in three (34%), Australians personally knew someone who had a heart attack. (5)

Told by a doctor

Eight per cent of Australians in the 30 to 65 age group have been told they are at high risk of having a heart attack in the next five years, representing close to 1 million people aged 30 to 65. (5)

Life after a heart attack

A study in 2016 revealed one in two Australians who have had a heart attack continue to smoke after their heart attack. Of these, close to 40% did not even attempt to quit. (6)

Another concerning outcome post heart attack is one in four are not regularly taking their medication, with an additional one in three not having regular cholesterol checks, and more than one in four also not having regular blood pressure checks. (6)

Around one in three tried to increase their physical activity levels or lose weight, however failed to maintain the changes. (6)


  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2011. Cardiovascular disease: Australian facts 2011. Cardiovascular disease series. Cat. no. CVD 53. Canberra: AIHW.
  2. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017, Causes of Death 2016, ABS cat. no. 3303.0, September;
  3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2015. Australian hospital statistics 2014–15. Health services series no. 54. Cat. no. HSE 145. Canberra: AIHW.
  4. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Australian Health Survey 2014/2015.
  5. Heart Foundation. HeartWatch Survey 2017.
  6. Heart Foundation. Heart Attack Survey 2016. 

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