A 23-year study shows that smoking, high blood pressure and poor diet are major causes of premature death in the U.S.
The Australian study illustrates global trends related to changing risk factors that lead to early death. Identifying these factors can help policymakers discover threats to population health in order to find solutions to prevent premature death.
The study, published in The Lancet, was conducted by researchers at the University of Washington and the University of Melbourne. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, it “evaluates how much of the burden of disease observed in a given year can be attributed to past exposure to a risk.”
The researchers collaborated with an international consortium working on the Global Burden of Disease Project, providing a systematic analysis of the data collected.
The study took place from 1990 to 2013 in 188 countries. Researchers measured 79 risk factors that contributed to millions of deaths throughout the 23-year study, including behavioral, environmental, occupational, metabolic and clustered risks.
In 1990, these factors contributed to 25 million deaths. In 2013, the factors had killed almost 31 million people globally.
Previously, the major risk factors included unwashed hands, child and maternal malnutrition, and unsafe water and sanitation. By 2013, smoking, poor diet and high blood pressure have become the most prominent risk factors.
In Australia, the main risk factor is high blood pressure, followed by smoking and high body mass index. In men, the biggest growing risk factor is drug use. In women, the decrease in health is caused by diabetes-related illness, with a 68 percent increase since 1990. Diabetes-related illnesses and high body mass index as a cause of death has increased from 35 percent to 47 percent throughout the study.
Global Risk Factors
The top risk factors worldwide include:
- High body mass index is the main risk in the Middle East and Latin America.
- Household air pollution is a most serious health risk in South and Southeast Asia.
- Unsafe water and childhood malnutrition is the biggest risk in India.
- Alcohol use is the second major risk in Russia.
- Smoking causes the most damage in developed countries such as the United Kingdom.
- Child malnutrition, unsafe water, lack of sanitation, unsafe sex, and alcohol use are prominent health risks throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
- Child malnutrition is a global issue, accounting for one in five deaths of children under five-years-old.
- Unsafe sex is a worldwide risk, causing 82 percent of HIV/AIDS deaths and 94 percent of HIV/AIDS deaths in 15 to 19 year olds in 2013. The global burden of unsafe sex increased in 1990 and hit a high point in 2005.
In 2013, the highest number of deaths in the U.S. for both sexes include:
|2.||High systolic blood pressure|
|3.||High body mass index|
|4.||High fasting plasma glucose|
|5.||High total cholesterol|
|6.||Low physical activity|
|7.||Low glomerular filtration rate|
|8.||Diet low in fruits|
|9.||Diet high in sodium|
“There’s great potential to improve health by avoiding certain risks like smoking and poor diet as well as tackling environmental risks like air pollution,” according to Dr. Christopher Murray, Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) Director.
Murray believes that it is the responsibility of policymakers to enact progressive laws to prevent premature death.
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