The data has been released by the Medibank Better Health Foundation, in line with Arthritis Awareness Week (Sun 28 May - Saturday 3 June), to help raise awareness of the condition and encourage Aussies to protect their joints by maintaining a healthy weight and appropriate exercise regime.
Obesity on the rise
28.4% of Australians fall into the -obese' BMI category, compared to just 25.2% in 2007. Worryingly, this figure is even higher for those with osteoarthritis, with 42.7% sufferers now considered -obese', up from 39.4% in 2007.
Females fare the worst
The incidence of osteoarthritis amongst females has jumped from 8.4% in 2007 to 11.1% today -- with 1,049,000 women now affected.
Aussie women make up two-thirds (66%) of all new cases reported since 2007.
70-79 year-olds have seen the highest increase since 2007, rising 9% in nine years -- from to 22.7% in 2007 to 31.7% today.
Lack of exercise
Only 37.3% of Aussies with osteoarthritis exercised in the last 3 months, compared with 49.8% of the general population.
Of those who exercised in the last 3 months, osteoarthritis sufferers did so an average of 4.92 times, lower than the general population, at 6.53 times.
Question: What do you hope to achieve this Arthritis Awareness Week?
Michelle Bridges: With new data showing osteoarthritis cases have continued to rise over the last nine years, I want to help the Medibank Better Health Foundation raise awareness of the condition and encourage Aussies to protect their joints by maintaining a healthy weight and appropriate exercise regime.
Question: Can you share with us, your top osteoarthritis prevention tips? And what advice do you have for managing osteoarthritis?
Michelle Bridges: There are many ways you can prevent and manage symptoms of osteoarthritis, including:
1. Keep moving, safely: Exercise is vital in both the prevention and management of osteoarthritis, as it helps strengthen muscles and joints. However, be sure to exercise sensibly -- focusing on appropriate exercises -- as overdoing it can cause injury and put strain on joints. If you're in pain, speak to a physiotherapist about tailoring the right exercise program for your needs.
2. Follow a healthy diet: Obesity is one of the leading causes of osteoarthritis, due to the added stress it places on the body. Therefore, it's important to follow a healthy, well-balanced diet to maintain a healthy weight.
3. Opt for appropriate and well-supported footwear!
Question: What types of foods should we include in our diet to prevent osteoarthritis?
Michelle Bridges: While some people are simply more prone to osteoarthritis, such as females and those over 50, we know obesity is also a key contributor. Therefore, it's really important you follow a healthy, well-balanced diet to maintain a healthy weight. That means less fried foods and more fresh veggies, fruit and lean meats!
Question: Can you share an at-home workout that will help in osteoarthritis prevention?
Michelle Bridges: Definitely -- check out my top exercises in this short video.
Question: How can we choose the correct footwear and prevent osteoarthritis?
Michelle Bridges: Wearing the right shoe means you have the required support to carry your body. Try limit your time in heels as this could potentially lead to joint pressure, which can contribute to osteoarthritis. To help prevent joint pain or injury, I recommend you speak to a podiatrist about choosing the appropriate footwear for you.
Question: What surprised you most about the Medibank Better Health Index data regarding osteoarthritis?
Michelle Bridges: The thing that surprised me the most about this data from the Medibank Better Health Index was the fact that the number of Aussies affected by osteoarthritis has continued to climb over the last nine years, increasing from 6.2% to 8.5% -- equal to more than half a million people nationally.
Interview by Brooke Hunter