Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a disease group that has a significant impact on the health of Australians. It costs more lives than any other disease. It imposes a burden—measured in terms of people living with the disease and premature death—that is second only to cancer (AIHW 2019a). It accounts for the highest proportion of health expenditure and the number of people living with CVD is increasing, because of factors such as population ageing and improved treatments.

Although it affects both men and women, CVD is often thought of as a men’s health issue. It is true that more men than women have the disease, and men typically present with the condition at younger ages and with greater severity. After accounting for differences in age structure, men are also hospitalised and die from CVD at greater rates than women. However, this picture should not overshadow the substantial, and under-recognised, impact that CVD has on women.

CVD is a leading cause of illness and death among Australian women. It was responsible for more than 200,000 female hospitalisations and over 22,000 female deaths in 2016. It is a major women’s health concern, and aspects of its prevention, treatment and management are unique to women.

This report provides a statistical overview of the impact of CVD on Australian women. It presents national data on CVD, as well as on specific types of CVD including coronary heart disease, stroke, and heart failure and cardiomyopathy (Box 1.1).

Age-specific rates investigate the impact of CVD at different stages of women’s lives. To highlight differences, results for men are included throughout.

The chapters in this report are structured as follows: prevalence and incidence (Chapter 2), estimations of impact through burden of disease calculations (Chapter 3), hospitalisations (Chapter 4), procedures in hospitals (Chapter 5), deaths (Chapter 6), and the impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women (Chapter 7).

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