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Media release

Simple lifestyle changes could curb leading causes of death in Australians

26 March 2014

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is calling on patients to share the responsibility for preventive health activities by implementing simple lifestyle changes to curb the alarming rate of preventable illness related deaths in Australians.

The 2012 Cause of Death report released yesterday by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) showed despite falling numbers, heart disease remains the leading cause of death in Australians accounting for 14% of all deaths in 2012, followed by Cerebrovascular diseases (including strokes and hemorrhages) and dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

RACGP President, Dr Liz Marles, said the report highlights the importance of GPs working with their patients on prevention as well as managing existing illnesses.

“Many of the leading causes of death in Australians could have been impacted by implementing simple lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, reducing alcohol intake and maintaining a healthy weight.

“Most preventive health activities can be facilitated at a general practice level making it accessible and affordable for most Australians to make a commitment to optimising their health.

“Often perceptions such as lack of time, or not having any ‘obvious’ symptoms hold people back from making an appointment with their GP. However, regular appointments could result in an early diagnosis, or better still, prevention of something more serious.

“Over 342,000 people visit a GP on any given day in Australia presenting a huge number of opportunities to discuss preventive health care.

“If you are unsure which preventive health measures may apply to you, it’s always worth touching base with your GP to find out your health needs at any stage of your life,” said Dr Marles.

To facilitate evidence-based preventive health activities in general practice, the RACGP has developed the Guidelines for preventive activities in general practice (8th edition), commonly referred to as the ‘red book’ which is widely accepted as the main guide to the provision of preventive care in Australian general practice.

Complementing the Red Book, the RACGP and the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation has developed the National guide to a preventive health assessment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (2nd edition), referred to as the ‘national guide’, and intended for all GPs and health professionals delivering primary care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

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