Heart troubles filling northern NSW hospitals
CHRONIC disease is filling up northern NSW emergency departments.
More than 1700 patients across health districts in Northern NSW were hospitalised due to chest pain in 2014 - more than any other diagnosis.
Last year, 3516 people attended emergency departments with chest trouble - and 1749 were admitted.
The Heart Foundation identified northern NSW as a high risk area, with residents up to 30% more likely to suffer heart disease than Sydney residents.
Heart Foundation NSW chief Kerry Doyle said, like much of regional NSW, North Coast residents were at much greater risk of heart disease.
"Because of the distances, people regional NSW have to drive more. It seems counter-intuitive, but in regional areas people can't get around walking as much as in the cities," she said.
"In the Richmond Valley and Tweed, nearly a third of people have cardiovascular disease. It's only a little better around Grafton and Coffs Harbour where it is just less than a quarter."
Ms Doyle said the rates of obesity and smoking were higher in regional areas and residents had less access to medical care.
She warned while chest pain was the most well known heart attack symptom, it was not the only one.
"For 30% of men and 40% of women, heart attacks have non-typical symptoms," she said.
"That can be jaw, shoulder or back pain - or even no pain at all.
"Sometimes it can be dizziness, breathlessness, nausea or just a feeling that something is not right."
Blood pressure and cholesterol are said to be heart disease's silent killers.
NSW Australian Medical Association president Dr Saxon Smith said the hospitalisation rate for people with chest pain was high because medical professionals wanted to ensure patients were treated if they were having a heart attack.
"The access to a doctor just isn't as readily available to people who live in regional areas," he said.
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