Where you live can affect your heart health

Where you live can affect your heart health

Latest in Health
Know the symptoms of heart attack, says the Heart Foundation.

Know the symptoms of heart attack, says the Heart Foundation.


WHEN IT comes to heart health, where you live matters as much as how you live, according to new research from the Heart Foundation.


WHEN IT comes to heart health, where you live matters as much as how you live, according to new research from the Heart Foundation.

Heart disease deaths are 50 per cent higher in disadvantaged, rural and remote areas, according to new data added to the Heart Foundation Heart Maps. The areas also have higher rates of smoking and obesity - two major risk factors for heart disease.

More people die from chronic heart disease in the Northern Territory which also has the highest heart-related hospital admissions and smoking of any state or territory.

Heart Foundation National chief executive, Adjunct Professor John Kelly, said that while the Foundation encourages all Australians to manage heart disease risk factors, which also include high cholesterol and high blood pressure, the latest research shows the residential location of a person also has a big impact on their heart health.

Researchers also found that hospitalisations due to heart attack and heart failure are at least 70 per cent higher for Australians living in the most disadvantaged areas.

The research also found deaths from heart disease for people living in rural and remote areas are 60 per cent higher than for those in metropolitan areas, and hospitalisations due to heart attack are double and 90 per cent higher when linked to heart failure.

The Heart Maps data also looked at obesity and smoking rates at local government level for the first time and found the most obese state was Tasmania, closely followed by Queensland. Residents in the Northern Territory were most likely to smoke, followed by Tasmania.

Professor Kelly called for more heart health checks by GPs and preventative health measure to address the heart health needs of Australians as well as greater access to cardiac rehabilitation programs, especially in rural and remote areas, to help prevent a second heart attack.

"Also helping people better recognise the symptoms of a heart attack, and act on them immediately, would result in more people getting to hospital quicker," he added.

Other findings from the new data show that around the country:

  • Queensland Outback has the highest CHD mortality rate of any region, with a rate almost twice that of the Sunshine Coast. Queensland is also home to 12 of the country's 20 hotspots for heart-related hospital admissions.
  • Victorian regional centres Shepparton and Bendigo were also found to have the highest heart hospital admission rates in the state. Overall, Victoria ranks second lowest for CHD mortality rates and third lowest for smoking and obesity levels.
  • Western Australia had the second lowest obesity rate (24.6 per cent), but the WA Wheat Belt has double the obesity rate of Inner Perth.
  • Tasmania has the lowest hospital admission rate, yet one of the highest rates of heart disease deaths. More investigation is needed as to why this is the case.
  • South Australia's heart disease mortality rate and heart attack admission rates are on par with the national average, but there is a significant divide between its regional/rural areas compared to the metro regions of Adelaide.
  • NSW is increasingly divided: It is over-represented in both the best and worst top 20 regions for all four indicators: heart-related admissions, mortality, obesity and smoking.

How to recognise a heart attack

The sooner you recognise a heart attack and get treatment, the better. Know the warning signs - they may not be what you think, can vary from person to person and may not always be sudden or severe.

These are the most common warning signs of a heart attack. You may have just one of these symptoms, or a combination:

  • Discomfort or pain in your chest. This can often feel like a heaviness, tightness or pressure. People who have had a heart attack have commonly described it as like "an elephant sitting on my chest", "a belt that's been tightened around my chest" or "bad indigestion". The discomfort may spread to different parts of your upper body.
  • Discomfort in your arm(s), shoulder(s), neck, jaw or back. You may have a choking feeling in your throat. Your arms may feel heavy or useless.
  • Other symptoms may include, shortness of breath, feeling nauseous, cold sweat, feeling light-headed or dizzy. Some people have also described feeling generally unwell or "not quite right".
  • Symptoms can come on suddenly or develop over minutes and get progressively worse. They usually last for at least 10 minutes.

It's vital to get treatment fast, to limit damage to your heart. If you experience the warning signs of a heart attack, call Triple Zero (000) immediately and ask for an ambulance.