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Cardiovascular disease (heart, stroke and blood vessel diseases) is the leading cause of death in Australia of both men and women with 45,600 deaths attributed to CVD in Australia in 2011. Cardiovascular disease kills one Australian every 12 minutes. It is one of Australia’s largest health problems. Despite improvements over the last few decades, it remains one of the biggest burdens on our economy.

Causes of cardiovascular disease

Causes include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Physical inactivity
  • Low fruit and vegetable intake
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Smoking

Risk factors

There are many risk factors for cardiovascular disease, some of which cannot be altered, such as increasing age and family history, and some of which can, including smoking, physical inactivity, poor diet, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and obesity. Most Australians have at least one risk factor. For example, more than 90% of people fail to consume the recommended daily intake of vegetables, and almost 60% do not get enough physical activity.


Treatments vary depending on the disease and the person’s history however cardiovascular medicines are key to preventing and treating cardiovascular disease. With appropriate medication, patients with cardiovascular disease or those at risk of the disease can improve their quality of life and increase their life expectancy. Surgery is also a treatment for some cardiovascular disease patients.

Heart disease and stroke at the Perkins

Cardiovascular disease is a major research focus at the Perkins. Wesfarmers Chair in Cardiovascular

  • Cardiologist and research Professor Peter Thompson is co-leading a major investigation into the application of a common gout medicine, as a potential new treatment to prevent heart attacks.
  • The Laboratory for Molecular Endocrinology and Pharmacology are investigating specific protein receptors and their role in the development of cardiovascular disease.
  • Wesfarmers Cardiovascular Chair, Professor Girish Dwivedi, is undertaking numerous projects that aim to uncover more about the causes, risk factors and predictors of heart disease. Some of his projects include, uncovering links between heart failure and gut microbiome imbalance, why people who experience pneumonia are at a higher risk of experience a heart attack and the use of AI in predicting heart disease.
Perkins leading the
way in Heart Disease

The Perkins teams are focused on finding lifesaving answers for people affected by cardiovascular disease. Better diagnostics, early prediction methods and new treatments are some of the ways we’re helping in the fight against heart disease.


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