With lockdowns and working from home throwing out many people's health and fitness routines, Australia's obesity rate is on the rise.
As the risk of heart disease increases with weight gain, health experts are concerned the pandemic could have an adverse effect on heart health.
Steve Ferguson tipped the scales at 153 kilograms when his doctor delivered a "morbidly obese, dead fat and dangerously high cholesterol" diagnosis.
Not far into his sixties and recently retired from the department of finance, Mr Ferguson recognised the strain he had put his heart under since gaining the extra kilograms.
"My father died of a heart attack and my brother suffered a heart attack, so I didn't want to become another statistic," he said.
Fast forward to 2021, Mr Ferguson has maintained a 43-kilogram weight loss for close to nine months, after completely changing his lifestyle.
Mr Ferguson followed a strict diet plan which included some meal replacements and a consultant, with the aim of improving his life and increasing his longevity.
He said his social life had revolved around entertaining, which meant quite a lot of drinking.
"All my life I've battled with my weight, but when I retired, I came up with a little mantra 'stay alive the next 25'," Mr Ferguson said.
"I had years of built-up habits, a few beers with cheese and chips after work and then dinner with a bottle or two of wine."
Mr Ferguson was speaking out ahead of World Heart Day on Wednesday, in the hope of inspiring others to make the necessary changes to their lifestyles.
He said he'd read the reports of thousands of people missing their heart check appointments because of COVID and he wanted September 29 to be a prompt.
"Watching what you eat and getting your cholesterol down it's so important to do," Mr Ferguson said. "We need to get the message out."
IN COVID-19 NEWS:
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Australia, with coronary heart disease accounting for 12 per cent of deaths in men and 9 per cent in women.
Dr Asma'a Gundru said general practitioners like herself were currently seeing a lot of complacency when it came to unhealthy eating habits and decreased exercise.
"This is concerning, as the greater your waistline, the greater the risk to your heart health.
"Excess weight increases your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and even diabetes, which makes heart disease more likely," Dr Gundru said.
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