Aboriginals & Torres Strait Islanders are at high risk for heart disease

THE National Heart Foundation of Australia said cardiovascular disease will remain a major contributor to the gap in life expectancy, after the release of a landmark biomedical health survey today showed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have high rates of risk factors for heart disease; including diabetes, kidney disease and high cholesterol.

The results, from the Australian Bureau of Statistics Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey: Biomedical Results, 2012–13 released today revealed:

• Two in three (65.3%) had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease, that is, they were taking cholesterol-lowering medication or had one or more of high total cholesterol, lower than normal levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, high LDL (bad) cholesterol or high triglycerides.
• A quarter (25.0%) had high cholesterol, but only around one in ten (9.1%) of this group were aware they had it.
• Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were nearly twice as likely to have high triglycerides (rate ratio 1.9).

The survey showed the risk factors for heart disease are greater for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and far worse in remote areas.

Heart Foundation’s National Cardiovascular Health Director Dr Robert Grenfell said this survey highlights the need for stronger investment in prevention and shows that we need to keep working hard on risk factor identification and management for people at high risk of heart disease.

“To help close the gap we need every Indigenous patient, regardless of where they live, to be provided with the same level of health care as non-Indigenous Australians,” Dr Grenfell said.

One interesting finding from the survey was that Indigenous Australians are more likely to be taking cholesterol lowering drugs. One in five Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are taking cholesterol lowering medications compared to one in eight for non-Indigenous Australians.

Dr Grenfell said this is an indication that access to health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has improved, but certainly more needs to be done.

Today’s release forms part of the largest and most comprehensive survey ever conducted on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples health in Australia.

The biomedical survey is conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and funded by the Department of Health and Ageing and the Heart Foundation.

Voluntary blood and urine samples were tested from 3,300 survey respondents
across the country.

Key statistics: Compared to non-Indigenous Australians, Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander people are:
• Three times more likely to have a heart attack
• Nearly twice as likely to die from heart disease

Source: National Heart Foundation
Image Source: The Age

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Ryan Fritz

Ryan Fritz started The Advocate in 2014 to provide not-for-profits and charities with another media platform to tell their worthwhile hard news stories and opinion pieces effortlessly. In 2020, Ryan formed a team of volunteer journalists to help spread even more high-quality stories from the third sector. He also has over 10 years of experience as a media and communications professional for not-for-profits and charities.

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