Regional Australians suffer higher rate of heart disease

Australians living in regional areas have a much higher risk of suffering from cardiovascular disease, according to a study by the National Heart Foundation.

The study is the first geographical snapshot of cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, that maps the country’s population against the propensity of cases.

The findings reveal one in four people living in regional and rural areas suffer from the disease compared to one in five for those living in metropolitan areas.

The data looked at heart disease and risk factors including hypertension, cholesterol, obesity, smoking and physical inactivity.

Of all the states and territories, Tasmania rated the highest for cardiovascular disease while regionally, the New South Wales areas of Shoalhaven and the Southern Highlands topped the nation with more than one in three adults suffering from the disease.

The Heart Foundation’s National CEO, Mary Barry, says there are many reasons for the disparities.

“We know people living in regional areas have a greater risk of heart disease because they are more likely to be physically inactive, daily smokers and overweight or obese, than those living in major cities,” she said.

“The reality is, if cardiovascular disease rates for Australians living outside capital cities were identical to that of their city cousins, 350,000 fewer adults would have cardiovascular disease.”

Some areas in country Victorian were also near the top of the national list, with Ballarat second on the list, and other Victorian areas including Bendigo, Shepparton, Warrnambool and the south west and Hume regions all ranking highly.

Heart Foundation Victoria’s chief executive, Diana Heggie, says people in regional areas have restricted access to health services.

“It puts a huge strain on hospital admissions,” she said.

“Sometimes they’re more disadvantaged in terms of accessing medical services, so getting a heart health check may be more difficult than in the cities.”

The Heart Foundation hopes the data will inform government policy and health programs into the future, including early detection and screening programs, to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Population Aged 18+ (‘000) % of people with diseases of the circulatory system
Total New South Wales 5,544.8 22.5
Sydney – Total 3,296.2 19.9
Rest of NSW – Total 2,248.6 26.3
Total Victoria 4,316.9 20.6
Melbourne – Total 3,013.3 19.3
Rest of Victoria – Total 1,303.6 23.6
Total Queensland 3,388.1 21.7
Brisbane – Total 906.4 18.1
Rest of Qld – Total 2,481.7 23.0
Total South Australia 1,260.7 22.6
Adelaide – Total 990.1 21.3
Rest of SA – Total 270.6 27.4
Total Western Australia 1,747.0 18.6
Perth – Total 1,331.0 16.8
Rest of WA – Total 416.0 24.4
Total Tasmania 382.3 28.0
Hobart – Total 166.6 27.6
Rest of Tasmania – Total 215.7 28.3
Total Australian Capital Territory 278.3 22.4
Australian Capital Territory 278.3 22.4
Total Australia 17,042.2 21.5