Top 5 Health Risk Factors for Older Australians

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), older Australians run an increased risk of serious health issues such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and chronic kidney disease. And it’s no secret that our behaviours can directly contribute to our state of health, and quality of life — especially as we age. When caring for an elderly parent and loved one, you may need to keep an eye out for signs that help you assess their wellbeing and help identify when it may be time to step in with a little extra support, especially if they live alone. Here are 5 key risk factors to look out for, and how you can mitigate them: 

A lack of physical exercise

Regular physical activity is a cornerstone of physical and mental health, and the AIHW recommends that older Australians aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise almost every day of the week. Encouraging your parent or loved one to remain physically active can help reduce their risks of musculoskeletal problems, cardiovascular disease, depression and diabetes. And it needn’t be exhausting: suggest brisk walks, swimming, or even gardening.

Excessive alcohol consumption

While most of us enjoy a drink every now and then, excessive drinking can contribute to serious long-term health issues such as liver disease and some forms of cancer. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommends no more than 4 standard alcoholic drinks on any day, and no more than 10 per week. If your parent or loved one regularly seems to be consuming more than this, it may be time to gently reach out and suggest your support to help them make some changes. 


According to the AIHW source cited above, smoking appears responsible for approximately 22% of all cancer deaths annually. It also appears to be a leading risk factor for chronic respiratory diseases, coronary heart disease and other conditions. Encouraging your parent or loved one to quit smoking will reduce their health risks almost immediately — according to the Department of Health, within just 12 hours excess carbon monoxide leaves the blood and their risk of heart attack and stroke will be the same as a non-smoker’s within 15 years of quitting. 

Poor diet

Maintaining a well-balanced diet can take some thought, and letting this slip can be an indication that your parent or loved one could use a little extra support to stay healthy. A poor diet, too low in fruit and vegetables, can increase the risks of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cataracts and macular degeneration. While older Australians still tend to consume more fruit and vegetables than younger cohorts (according to the AIHW), it’s still worth ensuring they follow NHMRC recommendations and consume at least 2 servings of fresh fruit, and 5 servings of vegetables per day. 

Social isolation

According to Health Direct, certain life changes that often accompany ageing, like the loss of a significant other or decreased physical ability, can contribute to your parent or loved one experiencing feelings of depression and anxiety, which can lead to an increasingly isolated lifestyle. Just as depression may lead to social isolation, isolation can also greatly contribute to feelings of depression. They’re so interrelated that it’s hard to tease them apart, but the impact on your loved one’s mental health can be devastating. Remaining aware of their social life can help you catch, and prevent, mental distress early. And if they seem to be withdrawing, work together to build, and regularly maintain, enjoyable social connections.

Aged care in Perth, like Regents Garden, offers a great way for your parent or loved one to remain socially connected. They’re also specifically designed to support them in enjoying a healthy lifestyle. 

At a Regents Garden aged care residence, they’ll enjoy nutritious catered meals, and a bevy of social and wellness activities to ensure they live life to the full, in the best of health. Contact us to schedule a visit, or learn more about how aged care can support your parent or loved one to live their best life. We’ve also put together a handy caregiver’s checklist with additional tips on supporting an aging parent. Find it here.