More than 9 in 10 adults have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease

Over 90% - or 13 million - Australian adults report living with at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease, according to a new study from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Living dangerously: Australians with multiple risk factors for cardiovascular disease analyses the prevalence of nine risk factors among Australian adults including: tobacco smoking, physical inactivity, low fruit consumption, low vegetable consumption, risky alcohol consumption, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, obesity and diabetes.

The report is based on self-reported data collected in the Australian Bureau of Statistics' 2001 National Health Survey.

Report author Kathleen O'Brien said the most common risk factors reported were poor diet and physical inactivity.

'Nearly 70% of people reported low vegetable consumption, 48% reported low fruit consumption, and 32% were physically inactive.

'These three risk factors alone indicate that many Australians are at an increased risk of poor cardiovascular health,' Ms O'Brien said.

'And the more risk factors you have the more likely you are to report having had a heart attack, stroke, angina or atherosclerosis (clogging of the arteries).

'Taking into account age and sex, people with five or more risk factors were nearly six times as likely as people with no risk factors to report having had angina; three times as likely to have had a heart attack or a stroke; and twice as likely to have had atherosclerosis.'

Living dangerously also shows that people in the most disadvantaged socioeconomic group were more likely than those in the least disadvantaged group to have three or more risk factors.

'Given the high prevalence of these modifiable risk factors among Australian adults, particularly poor diet and physical inactivity, there is the potential for most people to make changes to improve their health,' Ms O'Brien said.

'Coronary heart disease and stroke remain the leading causes of death in Australia, so prevention and control of these risk factors is vitally important.'

24 February 2005

Further information: Ms Kathleen O'Brien, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1220, or 0407 283 109.

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