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AUS:Ministers Unite Against Cardiovascular Disease

Media Release

Australian Health Ministers Conference - Canberra

4 August 1999

Australia's Leading Killer: Health Ministers Unite Against Cardiovascular Disease

Australia's Health Ministers today united to combat the nation's leading fatal health problem - cardiovascular disease.

Four in five adult Australians are now at risk of heart disease, with .

Releasing a major report at the Australian Health Minister's conference in Canberra today, Federal Minister for Health and Aged Care, Dr Michael Wooldridge said heart; vascular disease and stroke continued to be the most common killers, together accounting for 42 per cent of all deaths in 1996.

Dr Wooldridge said they were also responsible for much ill health and disability, with an estimated direct cost of $3,719 million in 1993-1994.

"Heart disease is the most common cause of premature death, and stroke the major cause of serious long-term disability in Australians."

Dr Wooldridge added that Australians themselves could reduce their own risk through better diet, not smoking and taking more regular exercise.

"Over the last 30 years there has been a decline in death rates from stroke, heart disease and vascular disease in Australia which is the result of decreased prevalence of risk factors and better treatments available.

"However, comparisons with other countries suggest there remains further room for improvement in the cardiovascular health of Australians," he said.

Chairman of the Group who developed the report, the Heart Foundation's Professor Andrew Tonkin, said evidence showed that 80 percent of adult Australians had a modifiable risk factor.

"These include tobacco smoking, high cholesterol or blood pressure, diabetes, physical inactivity, a diet high in fats and being overweight.

"To further improve the cardiovascular health of Australians, it is particularly important that we continue to improve outcomes for those who have already suffered an event and target Australians who are at highest risk - the ten percent of Australians who have three or more modifiable risk factors," Professor Tonkin said.

Among the report's findings:

Death rates for coronary disease and stroke among people in severely socio-economically disadvantaged areas are twice as high as those of people in the highest socio-economic groups; and

Indigenous Australians die from stroke, heart and vascular disease at twice the rate of non-Indigenous Australians.

ACT Health Minister, Michael Moore, who is hosting the conference, said the report was one of three in a series developed under the National Health Priority Area initiative launched today, providing a valuable snapshot for governments, health professionals and the community to work Media Release

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