Heart, stroke and vascular disease – also known as cardiovascular disease or CVD – is a broad term that describe the many different diseases and conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels. The most common and serious types of CVD include coronary heart disease, stroke and heart failure. CVD remains a major health problem in Australia, despite declining mortality and hospitalisation rates.
Australian Centre for Monitoring Population Health
Latest data and information on the health of Australians
Heart, stroke and vascular disease – also known as cardiovascular disease or CVD – is a broad term that describe the many different diseases and conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels.
Common types of CVD in Australia include coronary heart disease, stroke and heart failure. These, and other cardiovascular conditions are described separately in this report.
Many forms of CVD are caused by atherosclerosis. This is a condition where deposits of fat, cholesterol and other substances build up in the inner lining of the arteries to form plaque. Atherosclerosis can reduce or block blood supply to the heart (causing angina or heart attack) or to the brain (causing stroke). The process leading to atherosclerosis is slow and complex, often starting early in life and progressing with age.
Coronary heart disease also known as ischaemic heart disease, is the most common cardiovascular disease. There are 2 main clinical forms – heart attack and angina. Heart attack – or acute myocardial infarction (AMI) – is a life-threatening event that occurs when a blood vessel supplying the heart is suddenly blocked, threatening to damage the heart muscle and its functions. Angina is chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart.
Stroke occurs when a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain either suddenly becomes blocked (ischaemic stroke) or ruptures and begins to bleed (haemorrhagic stroke).
Other common types of CVD:
- Heart failure occurs when the heart begins to function less effectively in pumping blood around the body. It can occur suddenly, although it usually develops slowly as the heart gradually becomes weaker.
- Cardiomyopathy is where the entire heart muscle, or a large part of it, is weakened. Causes of weakening include coronary heart disease, hypertension, viral infections and alcohol consumption above guideline levels. Cardiomyopathy and heart failure commonly occur together.
- Atrial fibrillation is a disturbance of the electrical system of the heart, where the heart beats with an abnormal rhythm, and does not pump blood regularly or work as efficiently as it should.
- Peripheral arterial disease also known as peripheral vascular disease, is the reduced circulation of blood to a body part outside of the heart or brain. It occurs most commonly in the arteries leading to the legs and feet.
- Hypertensive disease occurs when high blood pressure is severe or prolonged enough to cause damage to the heart or other organs. It can lead to coronary heart disease, heart failure and cardiomyopathy, stroke and chronic kidney disease.
- Acute rheumatic fever (ARF) is an autoimmune response to an infection of the upper respiratory tract by group A streptococcus bacteria. The infection can cause inflammation throughout the body including the heart, brain, skin and joints. Rheumatic heart disease is permanent damage of the heart muscle or heart valves as a result of ARF.
- Rheumatic heart disease (RHD) is permanent damage of the heart muscle or heart valves as a result of ARF. RHD reduces the ability of the heart to pump blood effectively around the body, leading to symptoms such as shortness of breath after physical activity, fatigue and weakness.
- Congenital heart disease is a general term for any defect of the heart, heart valves or central blood vessels that is present at birth. It can take many forms, such as holes between the pumping chambers of the heart, valves that do not open or close properly and narrowing of major blood vessels such as the aorta and pulmonary artery.
Heart, stroke and vascular disease
See the Heart, stroke and vascular disease: Australian facts online report for the latest statistics
61% of people with acute coronary syndrome initiated ≥3 of the 4 classes of CVD medicines within 40 days of discharge
Women and people aged under 65 were less likely to be dispensed the recommended medicines following hospitalisation
3 in 4 patients were still taking their medicines 1 year after leaving hospital
In 2018, there were around 29,000 new stroke events – around 79 events every day
In 2018, there were around 40,200 new acute coronary syndrome events – around 110 events every day
Stroke events estimated using the unlinked data were similar to estimates from linked data