South-west's cholesterol woes

WARRNAMBOOL now has the unhealthy title of boasting the highest cholesterol rate in Victoria. 

Nearly half of the south-west is on track for cardiovascular disease with the Heart Foundation revealing 46.7 per cent of people have high cholesterol — surpassing all other parts of Victoria.

Up to 21.2 per cent of people are obese with smokers also accounting for 21.4 per cent of residents. 

The foundation says about 58.3 per cent of people in the south-west are not active enough. 

Overall, people in country Victoria are 22 per cent more likely to suffer cardiovascular disease (CVD) including heart disease and stroke.

South West Healthcare quality and health promotion manager Catherine Loria said tackling cholesterol and high blood pressure was tricky as symptoms did not show until it was too late.

“Ultimately high cholesterol is one of the factors for people with cardiovascular disease,” Ms Loria said.

“You don’t know if you’ve got high blood pressure until you get yourself checked.” 

Greater Green Triangle department of rural health’s Professor James Dunbar said the causes of high blood pressure and cholesterol were closely linked to a person’s socio-economic status.  The professor also doubted the value of picking out geographic areas. 

“If I’m driving from Melbourne to Warrnambool at what point does my blood pressure start to rise?” Professor Dunbar said. 

“It’s misleading because if you look at the same socio-economic groups in Melbourne you would see the same results. 

“It’s not terribly helpful to say there are higher rates (in Warrnambool and the south-west).”

He said high blood pressure, cholesterol and smoking were “the big three” health policy had to deal with. 

“Three-quarters of all heart attacks are caused by high blood pressure and cholesterol.” 

Heart Foundation Victoria chief executive Diana Heggie said people in the country needed to see their GPs more regularly to spot the warning signs. 

“We know people living in regional areas have a greater risk of heart disease and stroke because they are more likely to have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, be physically inactive, overweight or obese, or smoke,” Ms Heggie said.

“We are also calling on the Victorian government to introduce a community-based early detection and screening program to identify people at risk of heart attack and stroke.”

The Heart Foundation’s figures were based on data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics

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