Australian men at greater risk of heart disease

Morgan Liotta

17/11/2020 11:33:34 AM

The nation’s obesity rates among men are the second highest in the world, raising concerns over associated risks to heart health.

Overweight man
The prevalence of overweight and obesity in Australia has increased over the last 40 years.

Australia ranks sixth among 22 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries for the proportion of people aged 15 and over who are overweight or obese, at 65% ­­– greater than the OECD average of 59%.
And while Australian women rank eighth for global obesity rates, their male counterparts have the second highest rates of obesity at 32%, after the United States at 38%.
These latest findings from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) comparing international health data indicate many associated risks with overweight and obesity, including heart disease.
‘These findings are a concerning reminder of the threat that overweight and obesity have on the heart health of Australians,’ Heart Foundation Risk Assessment Manager Natalie Raffoul told newsGP.
‘Being overweight or obese is a key risk factor for heart attacks and stroke. But it is also a risk factor for other chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and several types of cancers. 

‘This is another reminder for Australians that their risk factors for heart disease are too high.’

Ms Raffoul warns there are no signs this trend is about to change.
‘While life expectancy in Australia is increasing, previous research shows we are living longer in poorer health, and many of our risk factors for heart disease continue to climb,’ she said.
‘It is unlikely that our disturbingly high rates of overweight and obesity will be turned around without concerted action, especially in the areas of physical activity and nutrition.
‘It is estimated that if current trends continue, there will be approximately 1.75 million deaths in people over the age of 20 years caused by overweight and obesity between 2011 and 2050, with an average loss of 12 years of life for each Australian who dies before the age of 75 years.’
According to the RACGP’s Red Book, overweight and obesity is the third-leading risk factor contributing to the burden of disease, following tobacco and high blood pressure.
The AIHW also reports that overweight and obesity was the leading cause of non-fatal burden in 2015, contributing to 8.4% of Australia’s disease burden.
Ms Raffoul said these adverse health outcomes can be improved with modifiable lifestyle risk factors, aligned with SNAP guidelines, cardiovascular risk guidelines, and Heart Foundation guidelines.
And healthcare professionals have an important role in initiating and providing ongoing preventive health support.
‘Their role provides advice and support for their patients, encouraging them to improve their lifestyle by maintaining a healthy diet and being more physically active,’ she said.
‘We know that around 95% of Australian adults are not meeting recommendations for five serves of vegetables per day. More than 80% of Australian adults are not meeting physical activity guidelines, with close to one in five doing no physical activity at all.’
Because the causes of overweight and obesity are complex and multifaceted, Ms Raffoul says that individual, social and environmental factors all contribute to the increased prevalence and should be taken into account as part of a prevention strategy.
‘Solutions for tackling Australia’s obesity epidemic must equally address nutrition and active living policies, programs and supportive environments,’ she said.
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