Heart disease fact sheet

Coronary heart disease (CHD), also known as ischaemic heart disease, is the most common form of cardiovascular disease. Its two major clinical forms are heart attack and angina. (1)


Heart disease is the single leading cause of death in Australia, with 19,777 Australian lives lost to the disease in 2015. On average, one Australian dies as a result of CHD every 27 minutes. (2)

CHD accounted for 12% of all deaths in Australia in 2015, including 14% for males and 11% for females. From 2006 to 2015, the number of CHD deaths has fallen by 15% from 23,132 to 19,777. (2)


CHD was the main cause for 146,000 hospitalisations in 2014/15. The number of hospital separations due to CHD has decreased by ten per cent from 2004/05 to 2014/15. (3)


In 2014/2015, three per cent of the population reported having a long term CHD condition, accounting for 591,800 Australians. (4)

CHD prevalence increases with age, with five per cent of Australians aged 55-64 reporting a long term CHD condition, increasing to 16% for Australians aged 75 and over. (4)

Overall, people in lower socioeconomic groups, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and those living in remote areas have higher rates of hospitalisation and death resulting from CHD than other Australians. Prevalence of CHD was higher amongst the lowest socioeconomic group and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. (1)

Lifetime risks of heart disease

At age 40 years, the lifetime risk of coronary heart disease was one in two for men and one in three for women. This risk lessens with age, but remains high at older ages (70 years). (5)

Burden of disease

The burden of CHD in 2003 was estimated to be the leading specific overall disease burden for males (11% of burden) and the second leading specific cause for females (9% of burden). (6)

CHD cost $2.03 billion in 2008-09, with hospital costs accounting for $1.52 billion. (7)

Days of reduced activity for people with heart disease were 2.3 times the average Australian. (8)

Awareness of heart disease as the leading cause of death

In 2016, approximately 2.5 million or 25% of Australians believe that heart related diseases are the leading cause of death for women. (9)

Awareness of heart related diseases as the leading cause of death was much higher for men, at 45%. (9)

Understanding heart disease

Overall, Australians are more likely to see lifestyle risk factors such as diet, lack of exercise or body weight as a risk factor for heart disease than high cholesterol or high blood pressure. In 2016, only 10% of Australians reported that high cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease, with only 7% reporting high blood pressure as a cause of heart disease. (9)

Told by a doctor

In 2015, 1.3 million or 12% of Australians aged 30 to 65 were told by a doctor that they have a high risk of developing heart disease. (9)


  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. Causes of death 2015 (3303.0). September 2016.
  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. DM Lloyd-Jones et al. Lifetime risk of developing coronary heart disease. The Lancet 1999 353: 89-92.
  6. Begg S, Vos T, Barker B, Stevenson C, Stanley L, Lopez AD, 2007. The burden of disease and injury in Australia 2003. PHE82
  7. AIHW. Health care expenditure on cardiovascular diseases 2008-09. Cardiovascular disease series . Cat.no. CVD 65.
  8. Access Economics, 2005. The shifting burden of cardiovascular disease in Australia.
  9. Heart Foundation. HeartWatch Survey 2016.

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