Strokes affecting more younger women

The rate of cardiovascular disease is declining but more younger women are suffering strokes.
The rate of cardiovascular disease is declining but more younger women are suffering strokes.

The number of Australian women experiencing cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks, strokes and death is declining but more younger women are being hospitalised with the condition.

An estimated 510,000 Australian women had CVD in 2017-18 and the condition accounted for almost one third of all deaths among women, according to the report Cardiovascular Disease in Australian Women - A Snapshot of National Statistics.

But the report also revealed a positive trend. Between 2001 and 2016, the rate of acute coronary events such as heart attacks or unstable angina among women fell by 57 per cent.

Cardiovascular disease is a broad term used to describe the many different conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels, including coronary heart disease, stroke and heart failure.

Hospitalisation rates also fell among women of all ages in the decade to 2016, but bucking the overall trend were younger women, for whom hospitalisation rates rose by 11 per cent for those aged 25-34, and by 4.7 per cent for those aged 35-44.

And although the overall incidence of strokes for women fell by 25 per cent between 2001 and 2015, rates rose among younger women - by 16 per cent for those aged 35-44, and by 12 per cent for those aged 45-54.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women were almost twice as likely as non-indigenous women to have CVD, and four times as likely to have a CVD-related hospitalisation.

Spokeswoman at the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Miriam Lum On said the report offered no explanation for the findings and more research was needed.

But she said more women were aware of how to treat and prevent CVD, and the decline in smoking and the introduction of certain interventions and treatments had helped reduce the number of overall deaths.

"It is a positive story but cardiovascular disease is still a leading cause of death among Australian women and that's something we need to recognise," she said.

CVD is largely preventable and treatable - risk factors include smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, lack of exercise, high blood pressure and obesity.

While smoking levels have declined significantly in recent decades (from 24 per cent of women in 1989-90 to 11 per cent in 2017-18), more women are overweight or obese - from 49 per cent in 1995 to 60 per cent in 2017-18.

In addition, 59 per cent of women aren't getting enough exercise, 89 per cent aren't eating enough vegetables, 44 per cent aren't eating enough fruit and 8.9 per cent drink more than is recommended.

Australian Associated Press