AIHW news

Risk factors and chronic disease: reduce one, avoid many

A variety of reports are now showing that many chronic diseases share the same risk factors – and by modifying these risk factors, a person can reduce his or her likelihood of developing a chronic disease.

'The term 'chronic disease' refers to diseases that tend to be long lasting and have persistent effects –for example, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, and several types of cancer,' said Ms Ann Hunt, Head of the AIHW's Population Health and Primary Care Unit.

New analysis looks at the relationship between certain chronic diseases and behavioural and biomedical risk factors.

Behavioural risk factors are those that individuals can modify through changes to their behaviour –for example, diet, tobacco smoking and drinking alcohol.

Biomedical risk factors, on the other hand, are bodily states –such as obesity and high blood pressure –and are often influenced by behavioural risk factors.

'For example, tobacco smoking is a risk factor for multiple chronic diseases, including coronary heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,' Ms Hunt said.

Likewise, obesity is a risk factor for several chronic diseases, such as coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, colorectal cancer and depression.

The new analysis highlights the importance of minimising risk factors whenever possible.

'By modifying a risk factor, individuals can reduce their risk of developing not only one chronic disease, but sometimes many,' Ms Hunt said.

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