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Cardiovascular disease

Cardiovascular disease is an umbrella term used for diseases of the heart and blood vessels. This includes coronary heart disease, stroke, heart failure and peripheral vascular disease. Here at the Florey we conduct research on cardiovascular disease because the brain and heart are directly linked.

The underlying cause of cardiovascular disease is the build-up of fat, cholesterol and other substances on the inner lining of arteries, which form a plaque that cause the artery walls to lose their elasticity. Over time, the build-up of plaque can lead to arteries becoming blocked, which stops the supply of blood to the heart, which can cause angina or heart disease, or to the brain, which can cause a stroke.

Causes and treatment

Risk factors for cardiovascular disease include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, being overweight, physical inactivity, low fruit and vegetable intake, alcohol consumption and smoking. Ninety per cent of Australians have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and 25 per cent have three or more risk factors. At the Florey, we are working to improve our understanding of disease mechanisms and developing treatments to mediate the effects of cardiovascular disease.

Treatments for people at high risk of cardiovascular disease include addressing the health and lifestyle areas listed above. This can be done in combination with medication and in some cases, surgery. Treatment for stroke or heart disease is managed through medication and surgery. A GP is the first port of call for people concerned about heart disease. Your GP can offer a referral or a treatment plan.

  • One in six Australians are affected

  • Remains the most expensive disease group in Australia

  • It kills one Australian every 12 minutes

How the Florey is making a difference

The brain is the boss! Florey scientists are making groundbreaking discoveries into how the central nervous system controls heart function, blood pressure and cardiovascular health. We are mapping the transmitters and basic circuitry underlying the brain's control over the heart, lungs and kidneys.

Promising research is progressing on developing customised proteins to treat acute heart failure, and our scientists are also exploring how vascular risk factors and low brain oxygen levels drive brain death and cognitive decline, as well as running several trials of new acute stroke interventions.


Clinical trials


The mobile stroke unit is a heavy ambulance based at thy Royal Melbourne Hospital with an on-board CT scanner. The MSU operates within a 20km radius


A trial of transexamic acid to reduce bleeding in the brain following a burst blood vessel. This trial is taking place in the mobile stroke unit.


A randomized controlled trial of DIRECT endovascular clot retrieval versus standard bridging thrombolysis with endovascular clot retrieval

Support and information

For further information and support, contact The Heart Foundation on 13 11 12.

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Brain health affects all Australians.
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