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Death rate from heart disease is 60 per cent higher in rural and regional Australia

Photo: The rural, urban divide killing our hearts
New data released by the Heart Foundation shows the death rate from heart disease is 60 per cent higher in rural and regional Australia.

Where a person lives, not just how they live, matters when it comes to heart disease.

Data has confirmed the number of people dying from the nation's number one killer is significantly higher in disadvantaged, rural and remote areas.

Research released by the Heart Foundation on Tuesday shows the death rate from heart disease is 60 per cent higher in rural and regional towns compared to the city.

Analysis of hospital admissions between 2012-14 found the number of people hospitalised for heart attack in rural towns was double that of those living in metropolitan areas, while hospitalisations due to heart failure were 90 per cent higher.
These areas did also have higher rates of smoking and obesity.

Heart Foundation National CEO John Kelly says while prevention through a healthy lifestyle is important, it's clear geography plays a big part in the higher mortality rates from heart disease.

"You can control smoking and you can control your weight if you are persistent but this data shows geography does make a difference," Professor Kelly said.

Modelling by Heart Foundation researchers suggests if every community had the same admission rate as the nation's most advantaged areas, heart disease and heart failure admissions as a whole would fall by an estimated 28 per cent.

In Queensland, this figure is closer to 40 per cent, and in the Northern Territory, it's 70 per cent.

Professor Kelly says the current rural/urban divide on heart health is "frightening" and urgent action is required.

"From a policy perspective governments and communities should be concerned about this," Prof Kelly told AAP.

He's called for heart health checks by general practitioners to be funded through Medicare as the first step to closing the disadvantage gap.

"Lets implement heart health checks in rural and regional Australia first and cover that this year," says Prof Kelly.

He says more funding is also needed to better educate the community to recognise the symptoms of a heart attack.

"Because getting to a hospital quicker definitely means your chance of survival is incredibly increased," Prof Kelly said.

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