Are you looking after your heart? How to reduce your risk of Cardiovascular Disease (CVD)

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) includes a range of conditions affecting the heart and blood vessels. The most serious types of CVD include coronary heart disease, stroke, and heart failure1 


CVD is a major cause of death in Australia, responsible for 118 deaths a day, with 1 person dying of CVD every 12 minutes2


Someone is hospitalised for CVD every minute, that's a total of 1619 hospitalisations per day. It's costing the Australian health service around $5 billion a year, the largest share of health expenditure of any disease group3


The more risk factors we have, and the greater the degree of each risk factor, the higher the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, including coronary heart disease, stroke, or angina (AIHW 20054, Poulter 19995).


The increased risk of CVD associated with multiple risk factors increases the risk of poorer health outcomes, reduced life expectancy and death (Li et al. 20186, Berry et al. 20127).


The good news is, that CVD is very preventable and we can do so much to mitigate and manage the multiple risk factors contributing to an increased chance of developing and suffering from severe disease and reduced quality of life.


O’Doherty et al. (2016)8 for example, found that men and women aged 50 who maintain a healthy lifestyle e.g., managing a healthy weight, drinking in moderation, being a non-smoker and participating in vigorous physical activity, lived between 7 and 15 years longer than those with an unfavourable lifestyle. Further, Ebrahim & Davey Smith (2000)9 report that interventions that reduce levels of multiple risk factors help to prevent cardiovascular disease in high-risk groups.


The consensus in the health and medical spheres on managing CVD is by prevention and early detection i.e., living healthily e.g., not smoking, consuming a balanced diet, taking regular physical exercise, detecting, and monitoring early signs of risk of disease, and using appropriate medications to help manage risk factors such as high blood pressure and abnormal blood lipids (WHO 2007)10 

4AIHW 2005. Living dangerously: Australians with multiple risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Cat. No. AUS 57. Canberra: AIHW.

5Poulter N 1999. Coronary heart disease is a multifactorial disease. American Journal of Hypertension 12:92S–95S.O’Doherty et al. (2016)

6Li Y, Pan A, Wang DD, Liu X, Dhana K, Franco OH et al. 2018. Impact of healthy lifestyle factors on life expectancies in the US population. Circulation 138: 345–55.

7Berry JD, Dyer A, Cai X, Garside DB, Ning H, Thomas A et al. 2012. Lifetime risks of cardiovascular disease. New England Journal of Medicine 366: 321–9.

8O’Doherty MG, Cairns K, O’Neill V, Lamrock F, Jorgensen T, Brenner H et al. 2016. Effect of major lifestyle risk factors, independent and jointly, on life expectancy with and without cardiovascular disease: results from the Consortium on Health and Ageing Network of Cohorts in Europe and the United States (CHANCES). European Journal of Epidemiology 31: 455–68.

9Ebrahim S, Davey Smith G 2000. Multiple risk factor interventions for primary prevention of coronary heart disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2000;(2):CD001561.

10World Health Organization (WHO) 2007. Prevention of cardiovascular disease: guidelines for assessment and management of total cardiovascular risk. Geneva: WHO.

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