Three avoidable risk factors contributing to early death

Three avoidable risk factors contributing to early death

Blood pressure, high body mass index and smoking are the top three avoidable risk factors that contribute to early death and decreased quality of life for adults worldwide, according to a new global study that analyzed data from 1990 to 2013.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, was found to be the greatest risk factor for mortality in men and women. The number of deaths increased by almost 50 percent between 1990 and 2013. The study also found that 10 percent more men died of hypertension than women. 5.4 million died from hypertension in 2013, according to researchers from Institute for Health and Metrics Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle.

“High blood pressure can increase the risk of heart attacks in both men and women,” says Dr. Joseph Kowalczyk, internal medicine specialist with Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill. “A diet that includes lots of fruits, vegetables and lean cuts of meat such as the Mediterranean diet and the MIND diet, while avoiding sugary drinks and too much red meat, is the way to go.”

Dr. Kowalczyk cautions that sometimes diet and exercise are not enough to control high blood pressure, so it is important to be seen regularly by a primary care physician or cardiologist for hypertension.

Smoking was found to be the second highest risk factor for death, increasing by 25 percent over the study period. Again, more men died from smoking than women — 4.4 million men died in 2013 compared to 1.4 million women.

“Smoking is extremely detrimental to your health and the health of those around you who breathe in your second-hand smoke,” Dr. Kowalczyk says. “If you are still struggling with this addiction, your doctor can help you find a solution.”

The top three causes of death caused by controllable risk factors were high body mass index. Unlike the others, this risk factor was more prevalent in women. During the 23-year study, deaths due to high BMI increased by 63.2 percent.

“This is a more complicated risk factor, as your genes and metabolism can play a significant role in your weight,” says Dr. Kowalczyk.

For those with a high BMI, he suggests they work with a registered dietitian to develop an individualized diet plan.

Not only were these three controllable risk factors responsible for millions of deaths, they also were the top three leading risks in 2013 for loss of a healthy life or losing quality of life to disabilities caused by disease.

“Lifestyle choices play a huge role in both quality of life and length of life,” says Dr. Kowalczyk. “However, sometimes, a person will need medical supervision or prescription drugs when avoidable risk factors are sabotaged by genetics.”

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  1. Helpful information

About the Author

Kate Eller
Kate Eller

Kate Eller was a regional director of public affairs and marketing operations for Advocate Health Care. She enjoys road trips, dogs, minimalism, yoga, hiking, and “urban hiking.”