Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are more likely to die from cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes, and chronic kidney disease (CKD) than other Australians according to a study released on November 25 by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). The results show that more Indigenous adults live an unhealthy lifestyle that contributes to these diseases.

In surveys between 2011 and 2013, 27 per cent of Indigenous adults had CVD compared to only 21 per cent of non-Indigenous adults. These rates increase from nine per cent at age 18-34 to 60 per cent at age 65 and over. Additionally, 18 per cent of them have diabetes, on top of the 22 per cent that show signs of CKD.

Death rates are also higher in this group. For cardiovascular disease, in every 100,000 Indigenous Australians, 280 die from the disease. This is almost twice the 183 non-Indigenous deaths recorded.

Diabetes contributes to 21 per cent of all Indigenous deaths while CKD accounted for 16 per cent. At age 55-64, these rates were ten times higher than non-Indigenous people.

'The gap in death rates between non-Indigenous and Indigenous Australians was widest among younger age groups,” AIHW spokesperson Sushma Mathur claimed. "Cardiovascular disease death rate for Indigenous people aged 35-44 was 8 times as high as for non-Indigenous people, falling to 4 times as high for the 55- to 64-year-old age group.”

Lifestyle factors are to be blamed for these results. Compared to their non-Indigenous counterparts, Indigenous Australians were more likely to be hypertensive (25 per cent and 21 per cent), smokers (42 per cent and 16 per cent, respectively), and overweight or obese (72 per cent and 63 per cent). Apart from increasing cases and hospitalisation, these risk factors also increase the likelihood of having multiple illnesses.

This publication is a series of five reports by the National Centre for Monitoring Vascular Diseases at the AIHW. It presents facts about the risk factors, prevalence, hospitalisation and deaths from the three chronic diseases mentioned. It also studies the age and sex characteristics and variations by geographical location and compares these with the non-Indigenous group.