Reducing The Disease Burden With Healthy Choices

13 August 2019

Health problems associated with overweight and obesity, poor diets, and physical inactivity are costing Australians dearly both in health and financial terms.

This is according to a new study that estimates the contribution of leading risk factors like smoking, drug use, obesity and poor diet to disease and premature death.

The Australian Burden of Disease Study 2015 published in June 2019 found overweight and obesity to be the second-largest contributor to disease and premature death at 8.4%, close behind smoking at 9.4%.

Obesity, dietary risk factors (7.3%) and physical inactivity (2.5%) together contribute nearly 20% of the total burden of illness and premature deaths in Australia.

Aussies’ lifestyle choices and work conditions are sending us to an early grave and putting a strain on the health system in the process.

However, the study counts risk factors that can be modified to prevent disease. It may not be too late to achieve a better lifestyle with health behaviours like regular exercise, weight loss surgery and healthy eating.

Diet, Exercise and the Burden of Disease

We hear so much about illicit drug use and alcohol causing social and economic problems. Yet together they make up just a fraction of the national disease burden compared to obesity, diet and physical inactivity; alcohol is 4.5%, illicit drug use 2.7%.

Obesity alone contributed significantly to the burden of several serious diseases:

  • 54% of the type 2 diabetes burden,
  • 44% of the osteoarthritis burden,
  • 40% of the chronic kidney disease burden,
  • 24% of the asthma burden, and;
  • 21% of the stroke

Sedentary behaviour and poor diets added further weight to many of the same diseases.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimates 38% of the contribution “could have been prevented by removing exposure to risk factors such as tobacco use, overweight and obesity, and dietary risks”.

What Can We Do About It?

Since the study was released there has been a lot of conversation about how to reverse these trends of poor lifestyle choices. Leading ideas include better education, sugar taxes, and a Federal Government preventative health plan.

Taxing the source

With 67% of Aussie adults and 24% of kids now overweight or obese, sugary drinks and snacks are in the crosshairs once again. A “sugar tax” is not a new idea; health professionals have been calling for levies on foods that contribute to health problems for years.

Unhealthy food targeted at children is often the subject of backlash, and for good reason. Certainly one justification for a sugar tax would be increased spending on health education around healthy lifestyle choices.

Making better choices

Poor diets and sedentary behaviour are symptoms of Australians spending more of their day at work, more evenings on the couch, and less time exercising can all be reasons as to why people struggle with losing weight.

More information about the benefits of healthy eating and exercise, and options such as bariatric surgery for an improved lifestyle, would help Australians make better health decisions.

For many Australians facing obesity-related health problems, talk of prevention is no longer helpful. Instead at Perth Weight Loss and Surgery we focus on the lifestyle benefits of weight loss surgery supported by long-term healthy habits.

Bariatric surgery can be the kick-start to turning your lifestyle around and preventing illness and disease from drastically reducing your quality of life.

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