Heart Attack Facts
How often do heart attacks occur in Australia?
- Each year there are approximately 55,000 heart attacks in Australia.
- That is 151 reported heart attacks a day, or one heart attack every 10 minutes.
- From the ABS National Health Survey, more than 380,000 Australians have had a heart attack.
How many lives do heart attacks claim in Australia?
- Each year, almost 10,000 Australians die of heart attack.
- That is one Australian life claimed every 53 minutes.
- One in four people who die from a heart attack die within the first hour of their first symptom.
Are warning signs the same for everybody, and what is the long-term damage?
- Heart attack warning signs aren’t what you think. Symptoms vary and they may not always be sudden or severe.
- With a heart attack, every minute counts. When a heart attack occurs, the lack of blood flow to the heart muscle means the heart muscle begins to die within minutes of being starved of oxygen. The earlier the blocked artery can be opened and the blood flow restored to the heart, the greater the proportion of heart muscle that can be saved and the greater the chance of survival.
- For heart attack survivors there is a small window of opportunity to minimise heart damage. Ideally, the best result is achieved when people receive emergency treatment within 90 minutes of their first symptom. After two hours, the damage to the heart muscle may be irreversible and can cause permanent disability.
Why are so many people dying from heart attacks?
- The Heart Foundation’s Warning Signs campaign has increased people’s knowledge about the warning signs of heart attack and what to do if they have one. The number of heart attack deaths has also dropped 32% since 2000-2010. But we still have a long way to go.
- In 2012, the Heart Foundation’s HeartWatch survey found that if people had the warning signs of dizziness or discomfort in the chest, only one in four would call an ambulance, and about half would wait and see what happens.
- This has meant that in Australia, more than 50% of deaths occur out of hospital and about 25% of people who have a heart attack die within one hour of their first ever symptom.
- Too many people lose their lives because they take too long to call Triple Zero (000). Getting to hospital quickly can reduce the damage to your heart muscle and increase your chance of survival. In hospital, staff will give you treatments that help to reduce this damage.
Are men in Australia more likely to have a heart attack?
- In 2010, the number of deaths caused by a heart attack was similar for males and females. Therefore, a female is just as likely to die from a heart attack as a male.
Heart Attack facts for men in Australia
- Fourteen Australian men die from a heart attack every day.
- Four Australian men have a heart attack every hour.
- One man dies of a heart attack every two hours in Australia.
- Each day, 98 men have a heart attack.
- If you are male, 40 and live in Australia, your chance of having a heart attack by the age of 70 years is one in two.
Heart Attack facts for women in Australia
- Thirteen Australian women die each day from a heart attack.
- One woman dies of a heart attack every two hours.
- Fifty-two Australian women have a heart attack each day.
- Women are largely surprised and unaware that they are also at risk of a heart attack. However, almost half of all deaths from heart attacks in 2010 were women.
- If you are female, 40 and live in Australia, your chance of having a heart attack by the age of 70 years is one in three.
- If you are female and smoke, your chance of heart attack increases to the same as a man’s.
Heart attack facts in remote communities
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are almost three times as likely to have a major coronary event (such as a heart attack) then non-Indigenous Australians.
- One in four Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live in remote or very remote areas of Australia.
- People living in remote locations have a 10% higher risk of death from coronary heart disease than residents in major cities, and those in very remote locations have a 30% higher risk.
It's OK to call Triple Zero (000)
- The time between the beginning of symptoms and the person seeking help by calling Triple Zero (000)) is the most significant cause of delay in treatment.
- Recent studies indicate the average delay in responding to warning signs and arriving at hospital is over six hours. This delay has shown no improvement over time.
- Many people report driving themselves to hospital rather than calling an ambulance – they think the ambulance is simply a transport service.
- When a call is made to Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance, the operator is trained to respond to symptoms and give the appropriate level of emergency support. Treatment starts the minute the call is made. The operator will determine if an ambulance is required.
- Ambulances are the safest way to get to hospital. Ambulance paramedics are highly skilled, trained to use lifesaving equipment and start treatment for a heart attack as soon as they reach you. Treatment continues inside the ambulance.
- If you think you could be having a heart attack, call Triple Zero (000)*.
*If calling Triple Zero (000) does not work on your mobile phone, try 112
What are the risk factors?
There are risk factors that increase your chance of having a heart attack, they include:
Risk factors you can change:
- smoking – both active smoking and being exposed to second-hand smoke
- high blood cholesterol
- high blood pressure
- being physically inactive
- being overweight
- depression, social isolation and lack of quality support.
Risk factors you can’t change:
- increasing age
- having family history of coronary heart disease
What can I do?
To learn more about the risk factors and how to reduce your risk visit www.heartfoundation.org.au. You can also access free, personalised information on heart health, nutrition and how to have a healthy lifestyle by contacting our Health Information Service or call 1300 36 27 87 during business hours to speak with one of our trained health professionals.
What is a heart attack?
A heart is a muscle, and it needs a good blood flow to keep it healthy. As we get older, the smooth inner walls of the arteries (like pipes) that supply the blood to your heart muscle can become damaged and narrow due to the build up of fatty materials, called ‘plaque’. Plaque is mostly made of cholesterol.
When an area of plaque cracks, blood cells and other parts of the blood stick to the damaged area and form blood clots. A heart attack occurs when a blood clot completely blocks the flow of blood and seriously reduces blood flow to the heart muscle. As a result, some of the heart muscle starts to die.
The longer the blockage is left untreated, the more heart muscle is damaged. If the blood flow is not restored quickly, the damage to the heart muscle is permanent.
If calling Triple Zero (000) does not work on your mobile phone, try 112