Australians lack awareness of a serious health condition

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Pat Williams, Managing Director of Edwards Lifesciences ANZ, says heart disease remains the number one health issue in Australia.

It’s fair to say when Australians are asked about the health condition that most concerns them, the answer is “cancer”.

The reality is that more than 43,500 Australians die from cardiovascular disease with a further 41,400 deaths associated from it. Heart disease remains the most expensive disease with more hospitalisations than any other disease, costing over $12 billion per year and estimated to increase to over $22 billion by 2032-33.

What if I told you there is a disease that impacts 1 in 8 Australians over 75 and, of those, 1 in 3 are under-recognised and under-treated? The real kicker is that up to 50% of those Australians with the severe form of this disease will die within 2 years unless they get surgery.

Have you heard about aortic stenosis? It’s a condition that’s as common as breast cancer.

Aortic stenosis is the narrowing of the aortic valve that restricts blood flow and, too often, the symptoms, such as chest pain, fainting upon exertion, shortness of breath and reduced activity, are dismissed as “getting old”.  

With an ageing population, we will all need to look at ageing through a different lens. For example, Australians aged 65 years and over contribute almost $39 billion each year in unpaid caring and voluntary work. If the unpaid contribution of those aged 55 to 64 years is included, that figure rises to $74.5 billion per year.

A YouGov study commissioned by Edwards Lifesciences in September surveyed 2004 Australians over the age of 60 and showed 79% of respondents don’t know what aortic stenosis is, despite it being the one of the most common and serious heart valve disease problems in developed countries. The questions were based on a similar survey of 12,820 people aged 60 years or older in 11 European countries in 2017.

Next year, 5.5 million Australians will be over the age 60 years, and this will increase to 6.9 million by 2030. Of those, we estimate the prevalence of severe aortic stenosis will increase from ~35K to ~46K that’s a 31% increase in 10 years.

At present, we are only treating ~8036 Australians, leaving tens of thousands untreated and under-diagnosed.

A recent report from Australian researchers found high rates of mortality associated with both moderate and severe aortic stenosis during long-term follow-up. As such, previous suggestions that moderate aortic stenosis is a benign condition are wrong.

In November, Medicare raised the rebate for heart health checks to 100%, meaning more than 1.5 million Australians at risk of heart attack or stroke now have access to GP-administered heart health checks.

We hope that checking for that ‘whooshing’ or ‘swishing’ sounds, which are signs of a heart murmur, is front of mind, because it will play a critical role in getting Australians at risk of cardiovascular disease the treatment they need.

At Edwards Lifesciences, we’re proud to be the market leader in patient-focused innovations for addressing structural heart disease. We’re committed to delivering innovative therapies for patients, whether it be for the aortic, pulmonary, mitral or tricuspid valves.

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in Australia. Should you be asking your doctor for a heart health check today?

More information on aortic stenosis please is available online: or