Heart disease fact sheet

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


Heart disease is Australia’s leading single cause of death, with 18,590 Australian lives lost to heart disease in 2017. (2)

Even though heart disease deaths have decreased by 22 percent in the past decade, in 2017, 51 Australians died from heart disease each day. Heart disease was responsible for a death every 28 minutes. (2)

Heart disease was responsible for 13 percent of deaths in Australian men, and 10 percent of deaths in Australian women. Whilst heart disease was the underlying cause of 18,590 deaths in 2017, as an underlying and contributing cause, heart disease was a factor in nearly one in four deaths in 2017 (22% or 34,827). (2)


CHD was the main cause for 160,400 hospitalisations in 2016-17. Over the past ten years, the number of heart attack separations have remained steady. (3)


In 2014-15, close to three percent of the population reported having a long-term heart disease, accounting for more than 620,000 Australians. (4)

CHD prevalence increases with age, with five per cent of Australians aged 55-64 reporting a long-term CHD condition, increasing to 17% 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) 


Burden of disease

In 2012-13, $1.5 billion was spent providing healthcare services to admitted patients with heart disease. This was a small decrease from 2011-12, however, on average, hospital admitted patient expenditure on heart disease patients has increased 1.9 percent per annum since 2004-05. (5)

The majority of patient admitted health expenditure is spent on males, accounting for over 70 percent of total patient expenditure in 2012-13. (5)

In a 2014 study focusing specifically on health expenditure on CVD, it found overall expenditure health expenditure on heart disease was $2,028 billion in 2008-09, with hospital admitted patient expenditure accounting for the majority (74.8 percent). Prescriptions were the next most expensive component (15.3 percent), followed by out of hospital medical services (9.9 percent). (6)

Awareness of heart disease as the leading cause of death

In 2017, approximately 2.5 million or 25% of Australians believe that heart related diseases are the leading cause of death for women. (7)

Awareness of heart related diseases as the leading cause of death was much higher for men, at 44%. (7)

Understanding heart disease

Overall, Australians are more likely to see lifestyle risk factors such as poor diet (51%), lack of exercise (41%), or being overweight (30%), as a risk factor for heart disease, rather than clinical risk factors such as high cholesterol (8%), or high blood pressure (6%). (7)

Whilst high blood pressure is the largest attributable risk factor for heart disease, in 2017, more Australians nominated stress (8%), and alcohol consumption (12%), as key risk factors in place of high blood pressure. (7) 

Told by a doctor

Close to three quarters (73 percent) of Australians aged 30 to 65 years reported having been told by their doctor they have at least one risk factor for heart disease. (7)

Find out more about risk factors for heart disease


  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. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2017, Australian Health Expenditure – demographics and diseases: hospital admitted patient expenditure 2004-05 to 2012-13, Health Expenditure and Welfare series no. 59, cat. No. HWE 69, Canberra.
  6. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2014, Healthcare expenditure on cardiovascular diseases 2008-09, cat. no. CVD 65.
  7. National Heart Foundation, 2017. HeartWatch Survey, customised data, April 2018.