Information below is sourced from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report Chronic diseases and associated risk factors in Australia, 2006.
What is chronic disease?Chronic diseases are conditions that tend to be long-lasting and persistent in their symptoms or development such as some cancers, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
Chronic diseases are major diseases which may require ongoing medication but most chronic diseases are preventable for most people through healthy lifestyle choices. Evidence shows that improving diet and being more physically active can help prevent or delay the onset of some chronic diseases.
Am I at risk of getting a chronic disease?By adulthood the effects of exposure to modifiable lifestyle risk factors such as tobacco, physical inactivity and obesity may manifest as chronic diseases. It has been estimated that the risk factors of overweight and obesity, physical inactivity and low fruit and vegetable consumption account for 16.2% of Australia’s burden of disease.
Many Australians increase their risk of developing a chronic disease through unhealthy behaviours that can be prevented:
- in 2007-08, the proportion of adults who exercised sufficiently to obtain benefits to their health was 37%
- 3 in 5 adults (61%) and 1 in 4 children (25%) were either overweight or obese
- just over half (51%) of the population aged 15 years and over consumed two or more serves of fruit per day, while 1 in 11 (9%) consumed five or more serves of vegetables .
Chronic diseases are more prevalent in some population groups, particularly Indigenous Australians. It also should be noted that lifestyle based chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes are now being diagnosed in children and teenagers.
Evidence has shown that positive changes in some lifestyle behaviours can prevent or delay the onset of chronic disease.
Aren't chronic diseases inevitable for older people?Chronic disease is not inevitable for older people. Some chronic diseases can run in families but how you live your life now can influence whether you develop a disease in later life. There are simple measures you can take to decrease your risk of chronic disease and other health problems, and it is never too late.
I am still young so why change now?The way you live your life now, even when you’re young, will impact on your future health. Evidence shows that improving your diet and being more physically active can help prevent or delay the onset of some chronic diseases. Also you will find that the changes you make to your diet and physical activity now can greatly increase your energy, help you sleep better and reduce the risk of depression.
1National Health Priority Action Council (NHPAC) 2006. National Chronic Disease Strategy, Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, Canberra.