Carrying excess weight, particularly around your middle, puts you at higher risk of a heart attack or stroke – yet new research suggests fewer people are aware of the link.
The alarming trend comes as it’s revealed two-thirds of Australian adults are now overweight or obese, but the number taking action to trim down to protect their heart health is declining.
A recent Heart Foundation survey of 7000 people found just one in four Australians aged 30 to 65 were aware that being overweight was a risk factor for heart disease – down from 31 per cent five years earlier.
The average Aussie male is 11.2kg above a healthy weight, while the average woman is 7.1kg over.
That trend only gets worse with age too, with the average weight for men aged 45 to 64 almost 15kg more than the healthy range.
The growing waistlines are putting Australians in the danger zone for risk of chronic illnesses, which is 80cm or more for women and 94cm or more for men.
In Australia, the average woman’s waist size is 88cm, and 98cm for the average bloke.
Excess weight also puts people at higher risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, which also makes heart disease more likely.
Heart Foundation Heart Health general manager Bill Stavreski said Australians could not afford to underestimate the link between excess weight and heart disease, but many were.
Mr Stavreski said the alarm bells were ringing even before the Covid-19 pandemic.
“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,” he said.
“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.
“This complacency is a big concern because the more overweight you are, the greater the risk to your heart health.”
The Heart Foundation said obesity had also emerged as a risk factor for severe complications if a person became infected with coronavirus.
“Staying active is more important than ever, and we shouldn’t underestimate the many benefits of walking,” Mr Stavreski said.
“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.”
As Covid-19 restrictions continue across the country, the Heart Foundation has urged Australians not to abandon healthy eating and regular exercise during the pandemic and beyond.