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Aussies getting bigger – and more complacent about health risks of extra kilos
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

Aussies getting bigger – and more complacent about health risks of extra kilos

Media Release - 29 July 2021

Our waistlines are expanding, and the average number on the scales has crept up, but the Heart Foundation warns Australians are growing more complacent about the risks of those extra kilos. 

Carrying excess weight, particularly around your middle, puts you at higher risk of a heart attack or stroke – yet its research suggests fewer people are aware of this link or taking action to trim down to protect their heart health.

The alarming trend comes as two-thirds of Australian adults are now overweight or obese.

The average Aussie male is 11.2kg above a healthy weight, while the average woman is 7.1kg over. This only gets worse with age, with the average weight for men aged 45-64 almost 15kg over the healthy range.

Growing waistlines are also putting Australians in the danger zone for risk of chronic illnesses (80cm or more for women and 94cm or more for men). The concern is the average woman’s waist size is 88cm, and 98cm for the average bloke. 

Heart Foundation General Manager of Heart Health, Bill Stavreski, says Australians cannot afford to underestimate the link between excess weight and heart disease, but many are. 

The heart health charity’s survey of 7000 people shows just one in four Australians (26%) aged 30-65 are aware being overweight is a risk factor for heart disease – down from 31% five years earlier. 

The proportion of Australians in this age bracket who would focus on losing weight to reduce their risk of heart disease also dropped from 16% to 12%.

“At a time when the average Aussie is carrying too many kilos, there should be a greater focus on healthy weight and a healthy lifestyle, but instead the opposite is happening,” Mr Stavreski said.

This complacency is a big concern because the more overweight you are, the greater the risk to your heart health. Excess weight also puts you at higher risk of conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, which make heart disease more likely.

The results are part of a survey on the heart health awareness and understanding of more than 7000 Australian adults in 2020, compared to results from 2015.

Obesity has also emerged as a risk factor for severe complications if infected with COVID-19.

As restrictions continue across the country, the Heart Foundation is asking people not to abandon healthy eating and regular exercise during the pandemic and beyond.

“Even before COVID-19 hit our shores, poor diet was a leading risk factor for heart disease, with unhealthy, processed foods making up more than one third of the average diet,” Mr Stavreski said.

“A healthy diet is a key ingredient for protecting your heart, and small changes can have a big impact over time. A good place to start is the Heart Foundation’s advice for heart-healthy eating and free heart-healthy recipes.” 

Australians are also being encouraged to sign up for a Personal Walking Plan – a free, six-week program designed to help motivate people to walk regularly – or join one of more than 1200 Heart Foundation Walking groups across the country.

“Staying active is more important than ever, and we shouldn’t underestimate the many benefits of walking. It’s one of the best choices to reduce your risk of heart disease, maintain healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and weight, and improve your mental health,” Mr Stavreski said.

“If you’re 45 and over, or from age 30 if you’re Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, you should also talk to your GP about having a Heart Health Check. The good news is there are ways to manage many risk factors, and your GP will support you in making a plan to improve your heart health.”

To learn more about heart health, visit heartfoundation.org.au or call the Helpline on 13 11 12.

Media enquiries

Brigid Simeoni, Media Advisor
M: 0427 619 589 E: brigid.simeoni@heartfoundation.org.au

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