Credit: FlameEz

According to a new report: Cardiovascular disease mortality - trends at different ages, released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the number of Australians who die each year from cardiovascular disease has been steadily falling since 1960s, with older age groups experiencing the greatest decline in deaths.

The report studies the trends in cardiovascular disease (CVD) rates in patients across Australia, considering age, sex and the individual diseases which fall under the CVD category.

The rate for CVD in men decreased by an average of 3.3 per cent per year in between 1987 and 1996, and the rate increased to an average of five per cent per year between 1997 and 2006.

In women, the rate decreased an average 3.2 per cent per year in between 1987 and 1996 and the rate decreased an average of 4.5 per cent per year in between 1997 and 2006.

The greatest declines in deaths recorded were in the 55 to 64 and 65 to 74 age categories for both men and women, while the declines slowed slightly in people aged in the 35 to 54 category.

The difference in declines between age groups, said Anne Broadbent from the Institute's cardiovascular, diabetes and kidney unit, is due to the younger group starting from a lower base.

If you look at the relative rates for younger people, the rates in the 35-54 year age group are much lower to start with than in the older group, said Ms Broadbent.

So it may be that the gains get harder as you get closer to the bottom but the positive message is that death rates across all of the age groups are getting lower.

It is not all good news as the decline in death rates does not necessarily correlate to a drop in the incidence of the disease but rather to better treatment of those who already have it.

Ms Broadbent said, It doesn't mean that the disease has gone away and CVD remains the largest cause of death in Australia and still causes a third of all deaths.

Treatments of people at risk have improved through better medications for high blood pressure and high cholesterol and the treatment of people when they have a heart attack or a stroke has also improved, so people are surviving those events better.

While the report points to the reduction in risk factors like smoking and high blood pressure as contributing factors in the improved figures, Ms Broadbent says other risk factors are on the rise.

While there has been a reduction in some risk factors such as smoking, others like obesity and diabetes are on the rise, she said.