News World The lifestyle ailments that haunt, sicken and, finally, claim Australians’ lives
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The lifestyle ailments that haunt, sicken and, finally, claim Australians’ lives

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The lifespan of the average Australian hasn’t improved in the last five years and even with the advent of new treatments, an increasing number of people are living the last years of their lives in poor health.

Let’s use a heuristic and call the average Australians – Jack and Jill.

The duo will live until they’re nearly 83.

But as new research from The Lancet reveals, the last 12 years of their lives will likely be in poor health with heart disease, pulmonary disease, back pain, and depressive disorders the most common ailments.

And the reason they will die? It has the greatest probability of being:

High systolic blood pressure (contributing to an estimated 25,500 deaths), dietary risks (21,600 deaths), tobacco use (20,100 deaths), high body-mass index (18,700 deaths), and high blood sugar (17,700 deaths).

University of Sydney epidemiology and occupational medicine professor Tim Driscoll said these factors need not be a death sentence.

“Fortunately, these five risk factors all can either be prevented or managed,” Professor Driscoll said.

“Eating a balanced diet, exercising, not smoking, limiting alcohol and maintaining a healthy weight can help people to lead a healthy life for as long as they can.”

The shift in disease burden across the world. Graphic: The Lancet

There have been massive strides in improving the lives of Australian over the past 30 years with rates of death among 15-49-year-olds dropping by 31 per cent despite significant rises in death by drug use disorders and endocrine, metabolic, blood, and immune disorders.

The study, considered the most comprehensive of its kind, analysed 286 causes of death, 369 diseases and injuries, and 87 risk factors in 204 countries and territories.

It also reveals how well the world’s populations were prepared in terms of underlying health for the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a combination of rises in chronic illnesses, obesity, high blood sugar over the past 30 years creating a “perfect storm” for coronavirus deaths.

“We are failing to change unhealthy behaviours, particularly those related to diet quality, caloric intake, and physical activity, in part due to inadequate policy attention and funding for public health and behavioural research”, research lead Professor Christopher Murray says.

The report’s authors wrote urgent action is needed to address the syndemic of chronic diseases, social inequalities, and COVID-19.

The interaction of several epidemics that exacerbate the disease burden in populations which are already struggling worsens their vulnerability.

“The syndemic nature of the threat we face demands that we not only treat each affliction, but also urgently address the underlying social inequalities that shape them—poverty, housing, education, and race, which are all powerful determinants of health,” Lancet editor Dr Richard Horton says.

“COVID-19 is an acute-on-chronic health emergency. And the chronicity of the present crisis is being ignored at our future peril.”

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