Aussies living longer but in poorer health

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An Australian born today is expected to live six years longer than an Australian born 30 years ago, but poor health will reduce the quality of life gained.

The findings come from the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study, which was published on Friday, and also provides new insights into how well countries were prepared in terms of underlying health for the COVID-19 pandemic and set out the major health challenges to overcome the threat of future pandemics.

Concerningly, the threat of diabetes in Australia is rising, accounting for the third biggest cause of increased health loss between 1990 and 2019, and more than half of health loss in Australia is now due to chronic diseases and injury, which are both largely preventable.

According to the GBD study, high blood pressure was the number one risk factor associated with the highest number of deaths in Australia last year. The next biggest risk factors for deaths in Australia in 2019 were dietary risk (low fruit, high salt, etc), tobacco use and having a high body mass index.

Smoking topped the leading risk factors for poor health last year ahead of a high body mass index, high blood pressure and dietary risks.

The Heart Foundation’s Bill Stavreski said Australians had the power to make the decisions that could lead to better health outcomes as they age.

“The good news is life expectancy in Australia is increasing and deaths from heart disease continue to decline,” Mr Stavreski said. “The bad news is that we’re living longer in poorer health and many of our risk factors for heart disease continue to climb.

“These findings show that the top five risk factors for death and health loss in Australia are all leading risks for heart disease – our single biggest killer.

“These are risk factors that are largely preventable and treatable, like high blood pressure, smoking, poor diet and overweight and obesity. What’s more, several of these risk factors are associated with an increased risk of serious illness and death from COVID-19.

“As a nation, we cannot afford to underestimate the impact these risk factors can have on our heart health, our overall health and our ability to combat the threat of future pandemics.

“We’re also concerned to see that diabetes is one of the biggest contributors to increases in health loss in Australia in the last 30 years. People with diabetes are more than twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke than people without diabetes.”

Recently, Dr Kate Gregorevic, a doctor at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and author of Staying Alive, told YourLifeChoices that the three pillars to improve our health in longevity were good quality sleep, regular exercise and staying socially connected.

Part of the reason for the boost in Australia’s longevity has a lot to do with improvements in our diet.

Author Jan O’Connell, who wrote the book A Timeline of Australian Food, told the ABC that people in the 1920s and ’30s ate a lot of food that we would consider very unhealthy today.

“Heaps of sugar, heaps of meat, lots of tea [with sugar] and bread and butter. Nobody thought of saturated fat being bad for you,” Ms O’Connell said.

In fact, during the Depression and World War II, when meat rationing came into place, “there were people writing in the newspaper saying poor people were going to be restricted to having meat just once a day instead of sausages for breakfast, meat sandwiches for lunch and meat for dinner,” she said.

Are you worried that you may live in much poorer health as you age? What are you doing to ensure that you stay healthy as you age?

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Written by Ben


Total Comments: 12
  1. 1

    I’m keeping active, even when I don’t feel like it. Keeping to a healthy diet, even when it would be so much easier to eat processed and junk foods. I know I’m not getting enough sleep, so I’ll have to try to do much better instead of staying up late! I’ve never drunk much alcoholic liquids, but I used to keep my husband company when he wanted a beer. Now he has passed away I have reduced that markedly. I keep up with my family and friends regularly, and have started to do dancing classes with a new group. I am giving thought to adopting a medium sized, mature rescue dog, not one that will get under my feet and trip me up! I am 80 years old, and doing fairly well I think.

  2. 0

    “An Australian born today is expected to live six years longer than an Australian born 30 years ago, but poor health will reduce the quality of life gained.”

    Well then it is up to the parents to instill good habits in their kids now to ward off all the preventable diseases and illnesses.

    And for those NOT born today, it is not to late to change the bad habits and im prove health.

    • 0

      Increased body mass is easily achieved with drinking alcohol, if I go off the grog, it is only weeks and my pants are falling down and i’m finding it hard to claim a pot belly.

      Yes we all like our Drinking, but we should be honest enough to attribute shorter life span influences to that same grog, because it is, although indirectly, so attributable.

  3. 0

    I wish everyone would say that diabetes is preventable, because in many cases it is not. I played sport my entire life and currently ride in excess of 100k per week AND do group rides in excess of 50k at around 30 kph. Most 30 year olds wouldn’t be able to do that and I’ve got diabetes, had bowel cancer and a host of other diseases.

    • 0

      With you on this one……I have had Diabetes Type 2 for twenty years now. Always a healthy weight and lots of exercise…..but others on BOTH sides of my family had it in the past…it can be inherited.

  4. 0

    Something is not quite right in this article. It states the good news is life expectancy in Australia is increasing and deaths from heart disease continue to decline. But it then contradicts this by saying that many of our risk factors for heart disease continue to climb. So if this is right, why are deaths from heart disease in decline? It is good to know that the top five risk factors for death and health loss are also leading risks for heart disease and that these risk factors are largely preventable and treatable.

    I see many of my fellow pensioners out and about, walking, getting fresh air and working on keeping our weight in check. Diet management on a pensioners budget is hard, but we can do it, although when money is tough it is easy to slip into poor dietary choices. Weight management and obesity are things we all work to manage, especially those who can afford the regular trips to the doctor for support.

    However some of us have illnesses as a result of what we were exposed to in the past, such as diseases caused by Asbestos exposure (Asbestosis, Lung Cancer, or Mesothelioma). But with the right treatments, these are not the death sentences they once were (as long as there are hospital beds and proper public health services).

    Not wanting to take anything away from COVID-19, but it is getting harder and harder to get into our public hospitals for treatment. Sure there are private hospital options, but they are financially out of reach of many.

    Oddly, there is no money for treatment and tests to eliminate problems, but money for drugs and other public and private treatment services such as a venesection. Seems like money to support the private sector. Maybe there’ll be a push to prescribe more drugs to address the other risk factors the article identified.

    • 0

      ozjames – have to agree with your last paragraph. I was critically ill with a pulmonary embolism 12 months ago, and tests to keep checks on this now cost nearly $280. Treatment would be classified well down on the list of priorities, but not having it treated only leads to further complications. If I could afford to have all the tests now, it could be treated earlier. So because I can’t afford the tests now, my condition gets worse.
      Pity I wasn’t a drug addict.

  5. 0

    It’s not quantity of life that interests me. For me it’s quality. There is a big difference between existing and living. I don’t particularly like what is happening and going on with the world at the moment, I just do the best I can with what I’ve got.

  6. 0

    Not much to live longer for, struggle to survive with the cost of living while I’m working (59 & struggling with shiftwork, lack of sleep)! Life shouldn’t be this hard at this age. I jus wanna go have fun, but who can afford to do that & not have money stress! Sick of the shit, want easy life, no such thing right!

  7. 0

    “Nobody thought of saturated fat being bad for you”
    They aren’t! It’s trans fats, vegetable oils such as canola that are highly processed and bad for you. Margarine is disgusting! It you saw how it’s made if would put you off for life. It is highly processed which causes it to have hydrogenated fats = trans fats, and coloured.
    It’s processed carbohydrates that are the major problem to health.

  8. 0

    “It’s not quantity of life that interests me. For me it’s quality. There is a big difference between existing and living.”
    I agree, ‘older&wiser’. Why are people so desperate to live longer? Is it because we are programmed to survive no matter what?
    Personally I do not want to end up depending on others to have a life. Or to end up as a bag of bones waiting for death. Let me have a dignified end of my own choice.

  9. 0

    Also need to consider the thousands of chemical you eat, drink, breath and put on your body, it all accumulates in your organs and you liver is working hard to get rid of it.
    I prefer a low fat, no salt, no gluten, wholefood plant based diet, but most importantly eat a lot of fresh fruit and veggies, and stay away from processed foods, those things in packets are packed with extra things like oils, fats, salt and sugar giving your body way too much of what it does not need.



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