A new study led by researchers at Harvard School of Public Health reports that hundreds of thousands of deaths each year are due to diet and lifestyle.
Below are the numbers of annual deaths in the United States due to each of the individual risk factors examined, all of which are preventable. (Source: Harvard Science Foundation)
• Smoking: 467,000
• High blood pressure: 395,000
• Overweight-obesity: 216,000
• Inadequate physical activity and inactivity: 191,000
• High blood sugar: 190,000
• High LDL cholesterol: 113,000
• High dietary salt: 102,000
• Low dietary omega-3 fatty acids: 84,000
• High dietary trans-fatty acids: 82,000
• Alcohol use: 64,000 (alcohol use averted a balance of 26,000 deaths from heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, because moderate drinking reduces risk of these diseases. But these deaths were outweighed by 90,000 alcohol-related deaths from traffic and other injuries, violence, cancers, and a range of other diseases).
• Low intake of fruits and vegetables: 58,000
• Low dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids: 15,000
“The large magnitude of the numbers for many of these risks made us pause,” said Goodarz Danaei, a doctoral student at HSPH and the lead author of the study. “To have hundreds of thousands of premature deaths caused by these modifiable risk factors is shocking and should motivate a serious look at whether our public health system has sufficient capacity to implement interventions and whether it is currently focusing on the right set of interventions.” Majid Ezzati, associate professor of international health at HSPH, is the study’s senior author.
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