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The 5 health issues Australians are most likely to die from

Everyone remembers the Dumb Ways to Die PSA by Metro Trains. And yet, sometimes it is not an accident or external injury that ends up killing us. In 2015, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released Cause of Death Report that analysed the leading causes of death for the 159,092 deaths registered in 2015, and the top 5 leading causes of death, which accounted for over 60,000 deaths alone, were all health-related issues.

Here is what the report found to be the top 5 causes of death:

1. Ischaemic heart diseases

Known as coronary heart diseases, ischaemic heart diseases (IHD) killed over 12.4% of Australians in the 2015 census, with over 19,000 deaths attributed to it alone. IHD is not a specific type of disease, but rather a group of diseases which affects the heart and the arteries surrounding it. Example include angina, where the victim experiences chest pains due to irregular heart rhythms and insufficient blood flow to the heart, heart failure as well as atherosclerosis, which is an accumulation of white blood cells within the arteries that creates a wall of plaque which obstructs blood flow.

Most commonly caused by high cholesterol intake, lack of exercise and bad habits like smoking, IHD often affects those with a sedimentary lifestyle and blue-collared jobs, which can lead to lack of time for exercise, or not enough time to eat a proper meal. A healthy diet and regular exercise is the best prevention against this, so make time to take care of your body each day.

2. Dementia (including Alzheimer disease)

Find yourself stuttering often, even during normal speech? Forgot what you just ate for lunch yesterday? Can’t remember what you were just going to write down? All these are signs of dementia, a broad category of brain diseases that accounted for 12,625 deaths in Australia in 2015. Affecting the brain, it can cause problems in our daily functioning, such as memory loss and emotional problems. More severe cases can cause lack of awareness (such as sensing danger around oneself) and can even render a person bedridden as they forget how to walk.

While dementia alone rarely causes death, it often causes other medical complications to occur. For example, a bedridden person can experience muscle atrophy (or muscle loss) due to being stuck in bed from dementia, and difficulties when eating can cause malnutrition and dehydration.

Unfortunately, dementia is incurable, although keeping a healthy social life can help to stave off the disease, such as talking to friends and families, keeping active and playing games to jog the mind. Hospice care can help loved ones who are suffering from dementia, helping to ease their mind and suffering.

3. Cerebrovascular diseases

More commonly called strokes, cerebrovascular disease is caused when arteries that supply oxygen to parts of the brain are damaged, causing loss of control to certain muscle groups such as facial muscles or limbs. In more severe cases, it can cause loss of consciousness and even cranial haemorrhage, in which blood from the arteries leak into the area surrounding the brain, potentially leading to death.

Just like IHD, risk factors of cerebrovascular disease include obesity, smoking, diabetes and even hypertension, which can come from stress and insomnia. Always remember to take a rest, especially after a hard day of work.

4. Respiratory diseases
Respiratory diseases, just like the name suggests, affects the respiratory tract, which includes the trachea, the lungs and the bronchus. From lung cancer to bronchitis to asthma, respiratory diseases claimed over 16,000 lives in 2015, with most of its victims being 75 to 90 years old. Symptoms include shortness of breath, severe coughing, excessive phlegm and even pulmonary hypertension, leading to heart failure.

One of the major contributors to respiratory diseases is smoking, which introduces harmful toxins such as nicotine to the sensitive tissues and linings of the respiratory tract. Even second-hand smoking, which is inhaling cigarette smoke from nearby smokers, can cause an increase in risk, so stay away from poorly ventilated areas with smokers.

5. Diabetes

With death rates steadily increasing since 2006, diabetes is a disease that affect hundreds of millions worldwide, responsible for 4,662 reported deaths in Australia alone. Diabetes is the inability to produce or react to insulin produced within the body, which is responsible for the processing of glucose in our bloodstream, which is mainly obtained by our body from our food. This leads to a high glucose level in the blood, which our kidneys compensate for by excreting it through our urine, placing additional stress on it, which can potentially lead to kidney failure.

While there is no cure for diabetes, a healthy lifestyle can serve to ward of the disease. Of note is our sugar intake, which is a major contributing factor to diabetes. At the same time, weight loss, exercise and a healthy diet will help to manage glucose levels properly.

Causes of Death, Australia, 2015: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/3303.0~2015~Main%20Features~Australia’s%20leading%20causes%20of%20death,%202015~3

About the author

Leon Woo