Heart disease is biggest killer

LCHS medical director Dr James Bvirakare linked Latrobe City's high concentration of elderly people to the region's leading causes of death. file photograph

LCHS medical director Dr James Bvirakare linked Latrobe City's high concentration of elderly people to the region's leading causes of death. file photograph

Heart attacks, dementia, lung cancer and strokes have been the leading cause of death for people in Latrobe in the past five years, according to data from Australian Institute of Health and Welfare compiled in a Fairfax investigation.

Coronary heart disease was the top killer for people in the municipality between January 2012 and December 2016.

The national health data reveals coronary heart disease as a consistent leader across most Australian local government areas, however, Latrobe City's results were 29 per cent higher than the national rate.

Lung cancer, cerebrovascular disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease were likewise highly represented causes of death in Latrobe.

Latrobe City's demographic and socioeconomic profile and older population was to blame for the overrepresentation, according to Latrobe Community Heath Service medical director Dr James Bvirakare.

"These diseases occur more among older members of the community," Dr Bvirakare said.

"Latrobe has a greater number of older people as a percentage of our overall community when compared to state averages. For example, 7.4 per cent of the city of Latrobe is aged between 65 and 69 years old – 2.5 per cent more than the overall Victorian population profile."

Dr Bvirakare said there were steps people of all ages could take to reduce the risk of heart disease, lung cancer and stroke.

"Specifically, quitting smoking, reducing alcohol intake, losing weight, eating well, exercising and taking care of mental health are all ways to reduce risk of a whole range of diseases," Dr Bvirakare said.

Alarmingly, suicide crept in as the number 10 leading cause of death for men in Latrobe.

Lifeline Gippsland chief executive officer Michelle Possingham said women who attempted suicide were more likely to use non-violent means.

"Men use means which are more likely to result in death," Ms Possingham said.

She said many men were raised on out-dated adages such as 'tough it out', resulting in men more likely suffering in silence in the face of a serious mental health issues.

"As a community we need to get the message out to men that it's OK to talk and to seek help," Ms Possingham said.

A higher rate of women died of dementia and Alzheimer's disease than men in Latrobe, and 3.2 per cent of Latrobe women's deaths were traced back to accidental falls, which was 145 per cent higher than the national rate.

Another over-representation in Latrobe was death by malignant neoplasms of mesothelial and soft tissue, often linked to asbestos exposure.

Thirty-two men died from this cause in the five-year time frame which compared 141 per cent higher than the national rate.

Lifeline: 13 11 14.

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