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A new report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) shows that while a lot is being done to reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic kidney disease, significant levels of risk still remain.

'It may take years before we see any discernible effect on these three diseases,' said Lynelle Moon, Head of the AIHW's Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes and Kidney Unit.

According to the report, Prevention of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic kidney disease: targeting risk factors, cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes and chronic kidney disease (CKD) account for around a quarter of the burden of disease and just under two-thirds of all deaths in Australia.

The three diseases often occur together, and have common risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, overweight and obesity, and physical inactivity.

'Inactivity, overweight and obesity, and high cholesterol affect over 50% of adults, while smoking and high blood pressure affect 20-35% of adults,' Ms Moon said.

'Indigenous Australians and people from lower socioeconomic groups are particularly affected,' she said.

The report also showed that the prevalence of some risk factors is increasing. Obesity for example, rose from 11% of adults in 1995 to 24% in 2007-08.

'One way risk factors can be detected is through health checks,' said Ms Moon.

'There were almost half a million individual health checks funded by Medicare in 2007-08 and the rate of these checks is increasing.'

Medications play an important role in managing the risk factors. Around 20% of all medicines supplied in the community in 2007 were for lowering blood pressure, and another 8% were for lowering cholesterol.

The report showed a need for ongoing monitoring in the area of prevention, including more up-to-date data based on actual measurements rather than self-reported data, as well as systematic data on population-level initiatives.

'While there are many population level services and interventions being offered by governments and other organisations, such as awareness campaigns and school-based programs, there is a lack of systematic data available on these services,' Ms Moon said.

'Our report is the first to present a systematic approach to monitoring risk factor prevention activities for CVD, diabetes and CKD in Australia,' she said.

Friday 11 December 2009

Further information: Ms Lynelle Moon, AIHW, 02 6244 1235, mob. 0418 271 395

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1032.

Prevention of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic kidney disease: targeting risk factors.

Full report