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For professionals: Cardiovascular disease risk assessment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples 

Recommendations for assessing Cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Key takeaways

  • On average, CVD events such as heart attacks, strokes and related mortality occur 10-20 years earlier in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population than in the non-Indigenous population3.  
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples without existing CVD should undergo CVD risk factor screening from the age of 18 years.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples without existing CVD should undergo an absolute CVD risk assessment from age 30 years.  
  • An absolute CVD risk calculation should be carried out as part of an annual health check or opportunistically.  
  • Patient modifiable risk factors include smoking status, blood pressure, serum lipids, waist circumference and BMI, nutrition, physical activity level and alcohol intake.  
  • Patient non-modifiable risk factors include age, sex, family history of premature CVD, social history including cultural identity, ethnicity and socioeconomic status.  
  • Related conditions include diabetes, chronic kidney disease, familial hypercholesterolaemia and evidence of atrial fibrillation.  

In March 2020, a consensus statement was published on CVD risk assessment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults under the age of 35.   

Amongst the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, CVD accounts for a quarter of all deaths and it is the largest contributor to preventable morbidity and mortality1. Research shows that 75% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults under 35 years of age have one or more risk factors for CVD2.   

Compared to non-Indigenous adults, emerging evidence shows that high absolute CVD risk starts earlier in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults. On average, CVD events such as heart attacks, strokes and CVD-related mortality occur 10 - 20 years earlier in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population than in the non-Indigenous Australian population3.    

This has informed the need to lower the age of CVD risk screening and management in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults2.   

Access the consensus statement

References 

  1. 1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. The health and welfare of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples 2015 [Cat. No. IHW 147]. Canberra: AIHW, 2015. https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/584073f7-041e-4818-9419-39f5a060b1aa/18175.pdf.aspx?inline=true  
  2. 2. Agostino JW, Wong D, Paige E, Wade V, Connell C, Davey ME, Peiris DP, Fitzsimmons D, Burgess CP, Mahoney R, Lonsdale E, Fernando P, Malamoo L, Eades S, Brown A, Jennings G, Lovett RW, Banks E. Cardiovascular disease risk assessment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults aged under 35 years: a consensus statement. Med J Aust. 2020 May;212(9):422-427. doi: 10.5694/mja2.50529. Epub 2020 Mar 15. PMID: 32172533.  
  3. 3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic kidney disease — Australian facts: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people [Cat. No. CDK 5]. Canberra: AIHW, 2015. https://www.aihw.gov.au/getme​dia/e640a​6ba-615c-46aa-86d3-097d0​dc1d0​c3/19548.pdf.aspx?inlin​e=true.  

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