Heart attack fact sheet

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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 7,813 lives in 2017, or on average, 21 each day. (2)

In the last 10 years (from 2008 to 2017), more than 92,000 Australians have lost their lives due to heart attack. (2)


Heart attacks were the main cause for over 57,000 hospitalisations in 2016-17. The number of hospital separations due to heart attack has increased by more than 1,000 between 2015-16 and 2016-17. (3)


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

More than 40,000 Australians under the age of 55 have had a heart attack. (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 2018 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 is despite the importance of having regular blood pressure checks for those who have had a heart attack, almost one in four have failed to regularly monitor their blood pressure levels.  More than a quarter are not having regular cholesterol 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 2018, Causes of Death 2017, ABS cat. no. 3303.0, September.
  3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, National Hospital Morbidity Database.
  4. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2016, National Health Survey: First results, 2014-15, ABS cat. no. 4364.0.55.001, March. Data customised using TableBuilder.
  5. National Heart Foundation, 2017. HeartWatch Survey. Customised data, April 2018.
  6. National Heart Foundation, 2018. Heart Attack Survey. Customised data, October 2018.