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What's killing Australians?

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What's killing Australians?

Media release: 6 June, 2024

New health report reveals Australia's top 5 conditions involved in death - and they all share common, preventable risk factors

New report from AIHW shows more must be invested in prevention

The Heart Foundation says a new report released today showing Australia's leading conditions found in death is further proof that governments should invest more strongly in disease prevention to save lives and money.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's What Do Australians Die From? report released today shows how Australians die with multiple chronic conditions.

The top five conditions found in death in Australia are coronary heart disease (CHD) in 20%, dementia in 18%, hypertension in 12%, cerebrovascular disease in 11% and diabetes in 11%.

The Heart Foundation's Chief Medical Advisor, Professor Garry Jennings, said: "It is notable that all of these are either heart disease per se, or risk factors for cardiovascular disease (hypertension and diabetes) or include a high proportion of people with a vascular cause and common risk factors (dementia).

"When the underlying cause of death was examined, the list was similar (Coronary Heart Disease 10%, dementia 9%, cerebrovascular disease 5%, followed by COVID-19 and lung cancer, each 5%). This means coronary disease was not just lurking at the time of death but also the major underlying cause."

Prof. Jennings said this meant that the Heart Foundation's proposed National Screening Program for Cardiovascular Disease, combined with prevention earlier in life, would also help to identify and reduce the burden of a number of chronic diseases in the Australian population, making prevention much more affordable than treatment.

"Australia needs a comprehensive approach to health promotion, disease prevention and management," he said.

"This should include strategies and programs encouraging eating a healthy diet, participating in regular physical activity, limiting or eliminating alcohol consumption, quitting smoking, and seeing a doctor for regular health assessments, such as the Medicare-funded Heart Health Checks.

"This report, in drawing attention to multiple comorbidities at the time of death draws attention to the obvious. Treating 5 conditions in a quarter of the population who will die each year is expensive.

"These costs can be mitigated by better treatment of treatable and preventable conditions such as nicotine addiction, hypertension, diabetes etc. which appear much earlier in life.

"Keeping people alive and healthier for longer reduces the economic costs associated with dying."

Professor Jennings has authored a more detailed response to the report via The Conversation.

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Last updated06 June 2024