North’s dismal health report rings alarm bells

TASMANIA has the highest rates of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and hypertension in the country, with Launceston and the North-East hardest hit by poor heart health.

A new report from the Heart Foundation of Australia has shown one in four Tasmanians suffer cardiovascular disease, meaning they have suffered an ‘‘event’’ – like a heart attack, angina or stroke – and are at increased risk of another.

The rate is even higher in Launceston and the North-East, with 29.9 per cent of the population living with cardiovascular disease.

A further 40.8 per cent of Launceston and North-East residents have high cholesterol, 33.8 per cent have hypertension, 19.4 per cent smoke and 60.3 per cent are ‘‘insufficiently active for health’’ – all above the national average.

Heart Foundation Tasmania chief executive Graeme Lynch said the state’s poor heart health could be attributed to higher levels of disadvantage.

‘‘There is a really clear link around the world and in Australia that where people live in socioeconomic disadvantage, they have a much higher prevalence of chronic disease,’’ he said.

Mr Lynch warned that the figures were just the tip of the iceberg, as they only represented those who had actually been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease or risk factors.

He said many Tasmanians had no idea they were ‘‘heart attacks or strokes waiting to happen’’.

‘‘What we’re also particularly concerned for is the many Tasmanians who haven’t yet had a heart attack or stroke but have the risk factors and may not know it,’’ Mr Lynch said.

‘‘There are no obvious symptoms for high blood pressure and high cholesterol and having a heart attack can be the first sign – that’s why they’re known as the silent killers.

‘‘It’s vital if you’re 45 or over, or 35 or over if you’re an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person, to ask your GP for a heart health check.’’

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