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What are the preventable risk factors for cardiovascular disease?

Major preventable risk factors for cardiovascular disease include:

  • tobacco smoking
  • high blood pressure
  • high blood cholesterol
  • overweight
  • physical inactivity
  • nutritional factors
  • Type 2 diabetes

See Cardiovascular disease for more information or for summary data, see Risk factors statistics.


What are the preventable risk factors for Type 2 diabetes?

Major preventable risk factors for Type 2 diabetes include:

  • tobacco smoking
  • high blood pressure
  • high blood cholesterol
  • overweight
  • physical inactivity
  • nutritional factors
  • impaired glucose tolerance

See Diabetes for more information or for summary data, see Risk factors statistics.


How are overweight and obesity measured?

There are two methods for measuring overweight and obesity.

Body mass index

The Body Mass Index (BMI) is a commonly used and easy to apply measure. A person's BMI is equal to their weight in kilograms divided by the square of their height in metres.

The following classification, defined by the World Health Organization, is used for people aged 18 and over.

Table 1: Classification of BMI for people aged 18 and over

BMI (kg/m2) Classification Risk of comorbidities
Less than 18.5 Underweight Low (but risk of other clinical problems increased)
18.5 to less than 25 Normal weight range Average
25 to less than 30 Overweight Increased
30 or more Obese
30 to less than 35 Obese class 1 Moderate
35 to less than 40 Obese class 2 Severe
40 or more Obese class 3 Very severe

For children and adolescents, different BMI cutoffs are required. See Promoting Healthy Weight (Department of Health and Ageing) for more information.

Waist circumference

Excess weight around the abdominal region is a good indicator of increased risk of developing chronic disease, particularly Type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease. Waist circumference is used to indicate abdominal overweight. The following classification is suitable only for persons aged 18 and over.

Table 2: Classification of waist circumference for people aged 18 and over

Risk of metabolic complications Men Women Classification
Increased 94 cm or more 80 cm or more Abdominally overweight
Substantially increased 102 cm or more 88 cm or more Abdominally obese

See Overweight and obesity for more information.


How much physical activity is sufficient?

There are two different ways of calculating 'sufficient' physical activity for health. These are:

  1. the accumulation of a sufficient amount of activity over a week
  2. the accumulation of a sufficient amount of activity by participation in a sufficient number of sessions over a week.

The National Physical Activity Guidelines for Australians (DHAC 1999) recommend that, to achieve health benefits, a person should participate in 30 minutes of at least moderate-intensity physical activity on most days of the week. For the purposes of calculating 'sufficient' activity, this is interpreted as 30 minutes on at least 5 days of the week; a total of at least 150 minutes of activity per week. Therefore the two definitions of 'sufficient' above become:

  1. the accumulation of at least 150 minutes of activity over 1 week
  2. the accumulation of at least 150 minutes of activity and at least 5 sessions of activity over 1 week.

See Physical inactivity for more information.