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Heart disease and the great divide

When it comes to heart health, where you live matters as much as how you live, according to new research from the Heart Foundation.

Recently, the Heart Foundation launched Australian Heart Maps which provides new data on heart-related hospital admissions that highlights the disturbing gaps between those living in the city and those in regional Australia.

Heart disease deaths are 50 per cent higher in disadvantaged, rural and remote areas, according to new data added to the Heart Foundation Heart Maps.

There's a great divide between regional and metropolitan Australia right across each state and territory.
Adjunct Professor John Kelly, CEO National Heart Foundation

Heart Foundation National CEO, Adjunct Professor John Kelly, said “while the Foundation encourages all Australians to manage heart disease risk factors, which also include high cholesterol and high blood pressure, the latest research shows the residential location of a person also has a big impact on their heart health.”

All heart admissions by Local Government Area, Australian Health Maps, Heart Foundation

For Australians living in rural and remote areas:

  • Deaths from heart disease are 60 per cent higher than for people in metropolitan areas.
  • Hospitalisations due to heart attack are double.
  • Hospitalisations due to heart failure are 90 per cent higher.

"There's a great divide between regional and metropolitan Australia right across each state and territory," Professor Kelly said.

These areas tend to have higher rates of smoking and obesity – two major factors for heart disease. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), more than 2 in 3 people living in outer regional and remote areas are overweight or obese (69%) and 1 in 5 people living in outer regional and remote areas smoke daily.

Queensland dominates the list of hotspots with 12 regions included in the top 20. This compared to four from New South Wales, two from Northern Territory and one each from Western Australia and Victoria.

The best regions are North Sydney & Hornsby and Sydney’s northern beaches area, with other inner city regions of Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane following.

Heart attack by Remoteness area (ASR (per 10,000 persons), Australian Health Maps, Heart Foundation

Adjunct Professor John Kelly, chief executive of the Heart Foundation told the Sydney Morning Herald, "Better heart health is associated with good education, reliable and secure employment, safe and affordable housing, accessible transport, affordable and healthy and food, and culturally appropriate health services and social support."

Professor Kelly said, “all Australians should have the opportunity to make choices that allow them to live a healthy life, regardless of who they are or where they live.”

“This begins with more heart health checks by GPs and preventative health measures.”

“Secondly, helping people better recognise the symptoms of a heart attack, and act on them immediately, would result in more people getting to hospital quicker,” Professor Kelly said. According to the National Rural Health Alliance, remote Australia has the lowest numbers of health professional providing health services which means education in recognising the symptoms of heart attack are crucial.

“Thirdly, greater access to cardiac rehabilitation programs is critical for people who have suffered a first heart attack, especially those in these rural and remote areas, as rehabilitation can help prevent a second heart event.”

According to Professor Kelly, “We all have a responsibility to take care of our own health, but it isn’t right when things outside our control impact on our heart health.”

More Information

Mapping Out Australia’s Heart Health, Heart Foundation,  https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/news/mapping-out-australias-heart-health

A quarter of heart-related hospital stays linked to disadvantage, Heart Foundation, https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/news/a-quarter-of-heart-related-hospital-stays-linked-to-disadvantage

Heart Foundation data shows which groups have the healthiest hearts in Australia, Sydney Moring Herald, http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/heart-foundation-data-shows-which-groups-have-the-healthiest-hearts-in-australia-20171009-gyx598.html

Physical Activity in Rural Australia, National Rural Health Alliance, http://ruralhealth.org.au/sites/default/files/fact-sheets/Fact-Sheet-26-physical%20activity%20in%20rural%20australia_0.pdf

The health of people living in remote Australia, National Rural Health Alliance, http://ruralhealth.org.au/sites/default/files/publications/nrha-remote-health-fs-election2016.pdf

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