Cardiovascular Disease

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Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a general term for diseases of the heart and circulatory system and includes ischaemic heart disease, stroke, rheumatic heart disease, and other forms of vascular and heart disease.  CVD causes around 40% of all deaths in New Zealand.

There is good evidence that cigarette smoking is associated with up to three times the risk of coronary artery disease, stroke and peripheral vascular disease compared to people who do not smoke.  Other important risk factors for CVD are:

  • high alcohol intake
  • hypertension
  • high cholesterol levels
  • diabetes
  • obesity
  • poor nutrition, and
  • a sedentary lifestyle.

Having more than one risk factor compounds the CVD risk, and can result in a higher risk than simply combining the associated risks.

Mortality from all cardiovascular diseases is significantly higher among Māori, Pacific people and those of Indian descent.  A higher proportion of these populations under the age of 65 die from ischaemic heart disease and they are also younger on average at the time of first stroke.  Heart failure death rates for Māori between 2000 and 2004 were over twice the age and sex rates for non-Māori.  Mortality for Pacific peoples are lower than rates for Māori but higher than other non-Māori.  Pacific people also have higher rates of stroke than any other group.

Mortality rates for coronary heart disease are also higher among people from lower socioeconomic groups.  Improving physical activity and nutrition, reducing smoking and excess alcohol consumption, and managing diabetes, high blood cholesterol and high blood pressure are all important to reducing risk.

Read the full issue summary on cardiovascular disease [PDF].