REGIONAL Australians are still more likely to die of heart disease than city folk even if they were to meet dietary and physical guidelines equally, new research shows.
All lifestyle factors equal, for every 96 city deaths from heart disease there would be 118 in the country.
The study from Deakin University's Institute for Health Transformation looked at the most effective lifestyle changes to reduce the toll of the nation's biggest killer, which was often blamed on individual lifestyle factors.
Laura Alston, the study's lead author, said more research needed to be done to drill into why there was such a gap. Dr Alston said the study did not go into such detail but it was possible the issue may lie with isolation, stress and access to healthcare, affordable medication and doctors.
We need to better understand the important environmental factors too, so no matter where you live it's a health promoting environmentDr Laura Alston, lead researcher
"We need to look at the bigger picture, beyond a focus on people meeting individual guidelines. We need to better understand the important environmental factors too, so no matter where you live it's a health promoting environment," Dr Alston said.
This comes as Central Highlands Regional Partnership's Obesity Prevention Lab, in partnership with Healthy Futures Australia, moves into the next phase of its work on a developing community-led approaches to tackle the complex weight issue. Heart disease is a key risk of obesity.
Ballarat and the Grampians region weigh in as one of the heaviest populations in the state. The city had previously ranked with the state's highest rates of heart disease - this depends on the data sets used.
Prevention Lab, launched in May 2018, is working with community leaders and champions to drive grassroots solutions in a bid to become Australia's healthiest region.
Hepburn Shire is the first to host a "test lab", now working with those on the health frontlines - fruit and vegetable growers, school principals, sporting clubs and chefs - to design a blueprint for what change might look like.
Dr Alston has been named one of World Heart Federation's Future Leaders for her work in rural heart health. She said while the study confirmed universal priorities, in fruit and vegetable intake and 30 minutes' daily exercise, eating enough fibre, limiting salt and reducing alcohol and not smoking.
But there could be more important factors to address depending on where you live.
It means the most effective campaigns in country areas will be around getting people to eat less processed foodsDr Laura Alston
"Fats are responsible for more deaths in rural areas...it means the most effective campaigns in country areas will be around getting people to eat less processed foods," Dr Alston said.
"After fruit and vegetable intake, in the city it's about getting people to be more active, as low physical activity was responsible for more deaths in metropolitan areas.
"Heart disease is still one of the biggest killers in Australia, so it's critical we get smarter about how we are working to reduce and prevent it, especially in rural areas."
How this could look in Hepburn will likely take a six-month design process.
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