As technology advances and wealth increase, people become less active and have extra resources to buy more food and luxury items. As a consequence, obesity is increasing, and healthcare professionals are seeing certain disease trends and epidemics.
In 1990, the top five causes of death were diseases related to heart attacks or coronary atherosclerosis, strokes, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or emphysema, and lung infections (pneumonia). In 2013, pneumonia was no longer in the top five, but Alzheimer’s disease was. In regards to pneumonia, people now receive tremendous benefit from adult vaccinations: an annual influenza vaccination and an up-to-date pneumonia (streptococcus) vaccination.
What we can see immediately with these trends is that we still don’t have really good treatments for chronic diseases. That’s why prevention is so important. The next important point is that many of these chronic diseases can be prevented or minimized through healthy choices:
5 Top Lifestyle Risk Factors for Death and Disability
What were the most common lifestyle-related sources of higher death and disability rates? The study authors performed this essential analysis and found these top five:
- Poor diet or dietary risks
- Tobacco smoke
- High blood pressure
- Alcohol consumption
These five risk factors result in most of the death and disability in England, but we can assume that this study would have comparable results here. The vast majority of risks are from personal choices. And many cancers are also related to these same choices. For example, overweight and obese people have much higher rates of breast, uterine, pancreas, and colon cancers. We all understand how smoking increases the risk of lung cancer, and alcohol consumption increases the risk of liver injury and cirrhosis. But obesity from diet and food choices, and low energy expenditure, is just as problematic.
For high blood pressure, remember that it will generally improve with exercise, lower body weight, less alcohol consumption, and lower salt intake. High blood pressure needs to be taken seriously even early in life when it’s first found. That may mean paying more attention, and treating risk factors and the disease in your twenties.
We don’t truly know our futures, but we can make choices to improve the experiences we’ll all encounter later in life. This study has taught us that death and disability are intertwined. They are due to the same disease problems, and share similar risk factors. The great news from this study is that most of the causes of both death and disability are things we can choose to avoid.