The prevention and control of heart, stroke and vascular diseases remain a significant challenge for Australia. Despite major falls in death rates over the past 30 years and advances in treatment and care, heart, stroke and vascular diseases collectively are still Australia’s leading cause of premature death and disability. They are also the most expensive disease group in Australia in terms of health expenditure. Some groups within the community have much higher rates of illness and death from these diseases than others, especially Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and those who are at a socioeconomic disadvantage.

There is a continuing need to inform the public, health professionals and policy makers about the considerable scope for prevention, progress in treatment and care, and those people who may need extra attention. Heart, Stroke and Vascular Diseases—Australian Facts 2004 is the third report in a series by the National Centre for Monitoring Cardiovascular Disease. It aims to present information and statistics about:

  • patterns and trends in heart, stroke and vascular diseases
  • contributing risk factors and associated conditions
  • treatment and care.

A major theme in this edition is health inequalities. A table summarising available data on health inequalities is provided for each of the diseases and risk factors.