Australian Health Check: One Fat Foot In The Grave?

Australian Health Check: One Fat Foot In The Grave?

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has released the results from its 2011-2012 national health survey which focuses on chronic diseases. Among the sobering results is the fact that approximately one third of Australian adults suffer from high levels of cholesterol, while over 60% are overweight or obese.

Researchers from the Australian Bureau of Statistics collected blood and/or urine samples of 11,000 Australians aged five and over. These samples were then tested for a range of chronic disease and nutrition biomarkers. As predicted, one of the biggest health risks in Australia continues to be high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease.

According to the survey results, a whopping 33.2 percent of Australian adults have high levels of LDL (AKA ‘bad’) cholesterol. Meanwhile, 23.1 percent had lower than normal levels of HDL, or “good” cholesterol. Troublingly, the majority of people surveyed weren’t even aware of their health condition, with only 10.1% self-reporting that they had high cholesterol.

When focusing on older Australians, the results balloon out even further — some 76.4% of adults aged 45 years and over were taking cholesterol-lowering medication or had one or more of high total cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, high LDL cholesterol or high triglyceride levels based on their test results.

Not unrelatedly, obesity levels in the country were also found to be on the rise:

It is estimated that 62.8% of Australian adults are now overweight or obese, with this figure increasing over the past two decades (up from 56.3% in 1995). Research shows that excess body weight is a major risk factor for heart disease, as high levels of body fat can raise blood lipid levels which can cause fatty deposits developing in the arteries, increasing the risk of heart attack or stroke.[clear] [clear] In 2011–12, people who were obese were nearly five times as likely as those who were of normal weight or underweight to have high triglycerides (25.3% compared with 5.3%) and more than twice as likely to have lower than normal levels of HDL ‘good’ cholesterol (36.2% compared with 14.1%). This pattern was also evident for total cholesterol but the relationship was not as strong.

The report also noted that being overweight or obese increased the risk of abnormal test results for nearly every chronic disease tested in the NHMS (diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, liver function, anaemia). The differences remained even after age was taken into account.

The risk of cardiovascular disease was heightened when obesity was combined with smoking; particularly for younger people.

The report offers no verdicts or recommendations — it just let’s the statistics speak for themselves. Clearly however, it doesn’t look like the national obesity crisis is going anywhere.

See also: How To Trick Your Brain To Create A New Healthy Habit | Stay Healthy This Winter By Eating Your Boogers | How To Build Personal Rituals That Improve Your Health | Eat Large Meals Earlier For Better Weight Loss

Australian Health Survey: Biomedical Results for Chronic Diseases, 2011-12 [Australian Bureau of Statistics]


  • I would like to know what measure they used to determine “obesity” given it wouldn’t be BMI – or if it were, then the study is pretty much worthless (so probably not that, since they aren’t idiots), and where their statistical pool came from.

    • Also It’s my understanding that while BMI is pretty useless to gauge an individual’s healthy weight, it works pretty well to analyse trends.

      • BMI works well in most individual cases, and in almost all if you simply move the scale up one point at both ends.

        • BS. I am overweight according to BMI but I have body fat in single digits. Arbitrarily moving the scale does not make BMI any less flawed.

        • It doesn’t and was not designed to. BMI is easy and cheap to calculate which works for anlaysing popl data.

          On an individual level there are better tests. A very simple one that smokes BMI is the waist measurement test.

          Personally, I get yearly DEXA scans, but I’m interested in myself to the point of narcissism so I can understand how this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

    • BMI is fine when you have a large sample size, not so fine when used by an individual.

    • BMI was constructed solely to be used to analyse population data in sedentary populations (which Australia qualifies for).

      While it’s horrifically bad as an individual test (which is how many people use it, including GPs), it’s actually a good tool in this circumstance.

      Because I live the life of a champion the BMI paints an incorrect picture of my weight but people just aren’t becoming Arnold Schwarzeneggers on aggregate. So this data points to a legitimate issue.

      • I think even on an individual basis there’s still quite a bit of utility. Yes a muclebound person can be ranked as obese, but realistically, how often is this actually likely to happen?

  • Well, I’m going against the trend, I’ve lost 20 kilograms in 12 months, with more to go, i’m eating less, exercising everyday and I feel great, I didn’t diet, I changed my lifestyle to become more active and changed what I eat, replaced soft drink with water (that was not easy) smaller portions of food, don’t keep junk food in the house, it hasn’t been easy and occasionally I do the wrong thing but I don’t punish myself and give up, I just acknowledge the misstep and keep pushing forward. If I can lose anther 20 kilograms over the same time period (or shorter) I will be thrilled. No fad diets, no starvation. Feeling good!

    • Well done! This is what most people don’t understand and is the reason why they fail. If you diet by drastically reducing caloric intake and start exercising at the same time you will burn out very quickly because your body will not be able to repair, you will feel like crap and likely return to previous habits. Feeding your body the right foods at the right time to fuel recovery and muscle growth is the fastest and most effective way to lose weight and keep it off.

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