Ischaemic heart disease Australia’s top killer, but dementia close behind

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Dementia is now the second leading cause of death among Australian men in 2019, overtaking lung cancer, in the Causes of Death data released on Friday by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

More than 160,000 people died in Australia last year, a rise of 6.8 per cent from 2018.

Dementia remained the leading cause for women in 2019 and accounted for just over 15,000 of the 169,301 deaths in 2019.

The number of deaths caused by dementia has increased by 67 per cent over the past decade.

This trend follows past trends and, without a treatment, will likely remain a leading cause of death in coming years.

“With more than 447,000 Australians currently living with dementia, and the number expected to increase to almost 1.1 million by 2058, dementia is the chronic disease of the 21st century,” Dementia Australia chief Maree McCabe said after last year’s Causes of Death report was released.

“Australian and international research shows there is a lack of knowledge about dementia and the global World Alzheimer Report released on 21 September 2019 reveals a staggering 95 per cent of people think they will develop dementia in their lifetime.

“While age is a risk factor, dementia is not a normal part of ageing.

“It is a progressive and, ultimately, terminal disease.

“With a lack of understanding comes discrimination. People living with dementia share with us the impact that discrimination has on their everyday life.

“Discrimination around dementia is a potential barrier between major breakthroughs in research and funding that could improve the lives of people living with dementia.”

Ischaemic heart disease was the leading cause of death for all Australians, accounting for 10.8 per cent of all deaths in 2019.

“Heart disease remained the leading cause of death, with more than 18,000 deaths in 2019. Heart disease is the leading cause among men and is responsible for twice as many male deaths as dementia,” said director of Health and Vital Statistics at the ABS, James Eynstone-Hinkins.

“For all Australians, heart disease, dementia, strokes, lung cancer and chronic lower respiratory diseases (which includes emphysema) made up the top five leading causes of death.”

Last year’s increase in coronary heart disease deaths is concerning, says Heart Foundation director of health strategy, Julie Anne Mitchell.

“Over about 50 years, there has been a decline in heart disease deaths in Australia, so it is disappointing to see the uptick in the figures …” she said.

“This is not a trend we would want to see continue, given the sad toll that heart disease takes on patients and their families. The Heart Foundation is committed to bringing these numbers down. Fifty deaths a day is unacceptably high.

“We have seen rises in some risk factors for heart disease, such as for overweight and obesity, as well as a lack of inroads into others, like physical inactivity and poor nutrition. Add this to our high rates of high blood pressure and cholesterol, and it becomes clear there is still a lot of work to be done in encouraging Australians to understand and reduce their risk.”

All cancers combined for 49,432 deaths in 2019, with lung cancer the most common cause of cancer death, followed by colon cancer, blood and lymph cancers, prostate and breast cancer.

Influenza and pneumonia accounted for 4124 deaths, rising from the 12th to ninth leading cause of death between 2018 and 2019.

Perhaps the most sombre statistic was the leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 49 – suicide – which also accounted for the highest number of years of life lost.

In 2019, there were 12.9 suicide deaths per 100,000 people making it the 13th most common cause of death in 2019.

The most common contributors associated with suicide deaths included mood disorders including depression, psychoactive substance use disorders, relationship issues and past suicide attempts.

Top 10 causes of death in 2019, for both men and women:

1. Ischaemic heart disease

2. Dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease

3. Cerebrovascular disease

4. Malignant neoplasm of trachea, bronchus and lung

5. Chronic lower respiratory disease

6. Malignant neoplasm of colon, rectum and anus

7. Diabetes

8. Malignant neoplasm of lymphoid, haematopoietic and related tissue

9. Influenza and pneumonia

10. Diseases of the urinary system

The $11.3 million set aside in the 2020 federal budget for dementia care was welcomed by Dementia Australia, but the organisation believes the condition is still not receiving the attention it deserves.

The failure to provide targeted and dedicated supports, workforce training and system changes for people living with dementia, their families and carers is concerning, says Ms McCabe.

“There is an assumption that more money for aged care means that quality dementia care will also be addressed,” she said.

“The stories highlighted to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety plus those shared by people living with dementia, families and carers during the COVID-19 pandemic starkly reveal that dementia is not core business for the sector.

“The additional $8 billion investment in aged care is welcomed.

“However, with more than two thirds of people in residential aged care living with dementia, unless we see dementia-specific targets in workforce training and education, regulation and quality, people with dementia, their families and carers will continue to fall through the gaps.

“The impact of COVID-19 alone demonstrates this. While many members across the community have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, this has disproportionately affected people living with dementia, their families and carers.

“This has resulted in a decline in cognitive functioning and the loss of abilities for many people living with dementia, as a result of changes to routine, lack of mental stimulation and social isolation.

“There is also a subsequent flow-on impact for carers.

“The calls by Dementia Australia to invest in quality dementia care through targeted outreach and early intervention, workforce training and capacity building and its translation into quality dementia has been overlooked in this budget.”

Were you aware that dementia is a leading cause of death for both men and women?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca is a voracious reader who loves words. You'll often find him spending time in galleries, writing, designing, painting, drawing, or photographing and documenting street art. He has a publishing and graphic design background and loves movies and music, but then, who doesn’t?



Total Comments: 8
  1. 0

    If we stop all causes of death we will all live forever and the world’s population will increase even further leading to further global warming. The best way for us to stop global warming is for the world’s population to reduce to i billion, which will be aided by reducing our life expectancy to about 65.

  2. 0

    dont worry, dstark. Its being organized as you write.

  3. 0

    Was diagnosed of Coronary Heart Disease in 2018, my respiration was 27 with oxygen saturation of 89%. I was extremely short of breath. My doctor started me on  lasix and digoxin, the medications helped but not very much. My primary care doctor referred me to Herbal HealthPoint, i immediately started on their CH-D FORMULA. I had a total decline in major symptoms including angina, sob, fatigue and others. Go to ww w. herbalhealthpoint. c om. This herbal treatment protocol totally reversed my CHD condition

  4. 0

    My husband has had Alzheimer’s Disease for nearly 10 years and has been in a nursing home for the past 3.25 years. He no longer knows who we are, is unable to feed himself, has great difficulty in standing and can no longer walk, cannot attend to his own hygiene. My husband is only 73 years old and had so many plans for the future. I was a RN and worked in aged care for many years, so had quite a knowledge of dementia, but when it comes to your own family it’s still very difficult to deal with. I am very lucky to have had my daughter and her family living with me as it got to the stage that I could no longer look after my husband as he was (1)becoming physically violent towards us, (2) he was wandering, (3) he was taking things and hiding them – we lost a number of things, (4) he became verbally abusive, (5) he was becoming incontinent, (6) he couldn’t feed himself properly. To watch someone you love and know well, get to that point in life, is heartbreaking and I wonder how much longer my husband has to suffer this way. My thoughts go out to all those out there who are going through the same situation. Dementia doesn’t “care” who it affects ie., old or young, rich or poor or any race, gender – there is no discrimination.

  5. 0

    We all have to die at some time, but does anyone ask why these diseases are increasing? With all our supposed medical knowledge and superiority compared with past ages, we should be seeing less illness, not more. Could it have anything to do with our lifestyle, or the pollution of our environment, or maybe too many doctors prescribing unnecessary and contradictory pharmaceutical products? The bad news is a wake-up call, but how about a little bit of effort in improving the situation?

  6. 0

    And how many again died from covid19??

  7. 0

    I saw the fear in my wife and children’s eyes when I told them about my condition then they start to find solution on their own to help my condition.I am an 68 now who was diagnose COPD emphysema which I know was from my years of smoking. I started smoking in school when smoking was socially acceptable. I remember when smoking was permitted in hospitals. It was not known then how dangerous cigarettes were for us, and it seemed everybody smoked but i was able to get rid of my Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease ( COPD ) condition through the help of total cure herbal foundation my husband bought, has the right herbal formula to help you get rid and repair any lung conditions and cure you totally with their natural organic herbs. I wish anybody who starts smoking at a young age would realize what will eventually happen to their bodies if they continue that vile habit throughout their life,This is a equitable of a way to get of your COPD.



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