The number one disease killing the most Australians

While heart attacks are on the decline, dementia-related deaths are climbing.

More die of heart attacks than any other cause

Last year, 160,909 Australians died with the leading cause of death being Ischaemic heart disease, followed by dementia.

The good news is that almost twice as many babies were born, with 159,221 boys and 149,921 girls entering the world. Of the total, 1019 infant deaths were recorded.

Ten years ago, when Australia’s population was 21.5 million, the total number of deaths was 137,854. Last year’s tally saw an increase on that figure of 23,055, while the population climbed 3.3 million higher to 24.8 million.

While more people died in 2017 than ever before, the death rate is actually decreasing. Last year, 5.3 people per 1000 died compared with 2008 when it was 6.1 per 1000.

Ischaemic heart disease, which is a condition involving the narrowing of the arteries often leading to cardiac arrest, accounted for 11.6 per cent of all deaths in the general population, but the rate has been steadily declining in the past decade, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reported yesterday.

In 2008, heart disease claimed the lives of 99 out of every 100,000 people. The latest data shows this has dropped to 59 per 100,000, or 18,590. More men than women died of heart disease.

“Dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, remained the second leading cause of death in 2017, accounting for 13,729 deaths,” the ABS said.

Dementia-related deaths have climbed 68 per cent in the past decade, accounting for 42 lives out of every 100,000. Close to twice the number of women died of dementia than men.

Cerebrovascular diseases (6.3 per cent), chronic lower respiratory diseases (5.2 per cent) and cancer of the trachea, bronchus and lung (5.1 per cent) complete the top-five leading causes of death. Together the top five accounted for more than a third of all deaths registered last year.

2017 was noted for having a particularly bad influenza season and this led to a greater number of deaths (4269) from flu than average, making it the ninth leading cause of death.

Cancers accounted for almost 30 per cent of Australian deaths last year, with lung cancer topping the list.

The age of death from dementia was the highest of all categories, with victims dying at a median age of 88.8 years.

The biggest killer, heart disease, claimed lives at a median age of 85.

Victims of suicide, the 13th leading cause of death, had a median age of 44. Almost 3000 people died as a result of self-harm. Males were three times more likely to take their own lives than women.

Breast cancer was the next youngest category, claiming 2928 lives with a median age of 71 years. Prostate cancer claimed 3275 lives with a median age of 82.

There were 1366 deaths directly related to alcohol abuse in 2017, a rate that has declined over 20 years.

“Those deaths most commonly occur in males aged in their early 60s and are caused by alcoholic liver diseases,” said ABS health program manager Justine Boland.

“However, alcohol is still a major contributor to a large number of deaths, particularly those which are due to an injury event. When considering alcohol and its contribution to all deaths, a total of 4186 registered deaths had alcohol mentioned in 2017.

“This change is particularly marked for Australian women, who have recorded the highest rate of alcohol-related death for the last 20 years at seven deaths per 100,000 persons.

“In 2017, rates of lung cancer decreased and it has moved down to be the fifth leading cause of death,” Ms Boland said.

“However, there was an increase in deaths due to chronic lower respiratory diseases including emphysema, which is now the fourth leading cause of death, highlighting that smoking-related illness is still a serious public health issue in Australia.”

Do any fatal diseases run in your family? Are you taking preventative measures to ensure you stay healthy longer?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    27th Sep 2018
    Australians are dying from heart disease predominantly because of lifestyle. They eat most fatty foods and lots of them as well as fail to exercise.
    How interesting that you mention that PROSTATE CANCER kills more men than breast cancer does women. It adds fuel to my (ongoing) lament about the continual never ending cry from the women's groups for more money to be put into breast cancer research whilst prostate cancer research can have zero dollars.
    Thanks for the information Olga. A sound report.
    Old Geezer
    27th Sep 2018
    Most men die with prostate cancer not of it. Like breast cancer the younger you are the more likelihood it will kill you.

    Quite frankly I often wonder where all that money goes that is raised for breast cancer as little is used to actually help women with breast cancer.
    27th Sep 2018
    Good post MICK. I suppose that our diet is because we are eating what we want rather than what we need. I recall an old saying that if you give up smoking, drinking and sex, you don't live any longer. It just seems that way.
    27th Sep 2018
    I don't have a problem with any of the three things you mention so your report has ruined my day....chuckle....
    The Sheriff
    28th Sep 2018
    Hi Mick. It's your lucky day, mate. Aljan, in his kindly, sympathetic and empathic manner, has gratuitously outlined a problem you never even knew you had!
    30th Sep 2018
    OG, The money from breast cancer campaigns go straight to the pharmaceutical companies for their so called "research". The research I have read is that you can prevent and reverse cancer with a plant based diet and getting rid of chemicals in your home and off your body.
    Read this article to see who started the pink campaign, biggest scam ever.
    Old Geezer
    1st Oct 2018
    Cancer has not got a hope of ever being cured as there are too many people profiting form it not being cured.
    Old Geezer
    27th Sep 2018
    Something is going to kill you eventually so it may be a heart attack. Nice and quick and easy. However it is not he heart attack that kills people but their diet, exercise and substance abuse especially the use of prescription drugs.
    27th Sep 2018
    If there is a preference tick box, heart failure would be on the top of my list.
    30th Sep 2018
    Heart attacks often do not kill you and you still can suffer. You are right about the abuse of prescription drugs, I watch that show Autopsy USA and it is interesting to see how the doctor analysis the death and how many is from pharmaceuticals and usually a concoction of them, they all stop the heart.
    27th Sep 2018
    Regarding Prostrate Cancer, the old maxim 'Use it or lose it' definitely applies.
    27th Sep 2018
    I think you mean Prostate...
    27th Sep 2018
    Tell my wife
    27th Sep 2018
    It works better when i am prostrate!
    27th Sep 2018
    "The good news is that almost twice as many babies were born, with 159,221 boys and 149,921 girls entering the world."
    Why is this good news in an overpopulated world where there is famine, wars, genocide, refugees with nowhere to live, limiting resources, Macdonalds destroying the rain forests, and Monsanto killing the bees with Round-Up to name just a few roblems?
    Olga Galacho
    27th Sep 2018
    Hi Jennie: I think it is good news for older Australians because it means there will be enough taxpayers to help fund the retirement of those with insufficient super who are living into their 90s, especially women, without damaging the economy. But you are right, in a bigger sense it is not good for the overall sustainability of our planet.
    30th Sep 2018
    Jennie you are right in some ways but it is the greed of the rich that are causing starvation, when the Ethiopia famine in the eighties occurred, the Ethiopian government was still exporting grains for profits. The best way to save us all is to go plant based, so much grain going to feed cattle when it could go straight to the hungry. We are on a un-sustainable path that is predicted to collapse in less than 50 years, even if you don't want to go 100% plant based, even one day a week on just plants will make a huge difference.
    Olga Galacho
    27th Sep 2018
    You're welcome MICK.

    27th Sep 2018
    No mention of bowel cancer. Quite frankly once you have full blown dementia you are better of dead anyway.
    27th Sep 2018
    How can one talk about ischaemic heart disease, without mentioning ischaemic attacks on small blood vessels in the brain causing stroke.

    The term Ischaemic generally means very small clots that attack the blood supply to nerves.
    28th Sep 2018
    Give it a rest mick, you can't discount the average age of women dying of breast cancer(71) and men dying of prostate cancer (80+). The problem with you mick is that we men tend not to talk about health issues whereas women do and try to catch things in their early stages. I think your problem is that basically you Are a bit of a mysoginist and resent women in general because you were probably physically abused by your mother and this is your way of getting back at women.
    The Sheriff
    28th Sep 2018
    You're so right, Olga. I've recently come back from a 10 week walking holiday through SW France and Belgium, walking hundreds of kilometers without any trouble. A week or so after I returned I found that after walking about 100 metres my right calf cramped up. My doctor sent me to a vascular specialist, who, after an ultrasound yesterday, found the blood flow in my right leg was almost completely blocked and has booked me for a angiogram and possibly angioplasty early next week. If that doesn't work the next step is a bypass. I said to him, "Doc, I'm off to China in a couple of weeks, Is it ok if I put off the procedure until after I get back"? "Sure", he said, "if you want to lose your leg". So folks, the moral of this story is that if you get any unusual aches or pains, don't tarry, get yourself off to your doctor. I'm 80 and can take it on the chin whatever the result, but we're a long time in the box, so if you can stretch your time here a little longer through our superb medical service, don't hesitate.
    30th Sep 2018
    Great you are fit enough and rich enough to enjoy the walking holidays. But try a plant based diet, too much meat, dairy and eggs can cause blockages. The doctors will not cure you,only prescribe medication, most likely warfin which you will be stuck on for the rest of your life. Also look up trigger point therapy, often it is a muscle that can be worked on to ease the blockage, there are some great books on it to, and surprising how many aches and pains are caused by the muscles and ligaments tightening up, which could have happened to you after all that walking.
    30th Sep 2018
    No mention of how many people are dying from pharmaceuticals.
    The flu does not kill people.
    Heart disease is preventable and reversible on a plant based diet.
    Meat, dairy and eggs contribute to heart disease and many others. Cut down and eat more plants, you will have a better fighting chance of living healthier.

    Join YOURLifeChoices, it’s free

    • Receive our daily enewsletter
    • Enter competitions
    • Comment on articles

    You May Like