Global Study Shows That The Leading Factors For Early Death Are High Blood Pressure And Poor Diets

September 20, 2015
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Article originally appeared on The Latest News

Researchers from the University of Washington and the University of Melbourne in cooperation with an international consortium working on the Global Burden of Disease Project carried out a study that started in 1990 and ended in 2013 which took into consideration 79 risk factors for death in 188 countries. Their results were published in The Lancet a few days ago. The risk factors that were included in their study contributed 25 million deaths in 1990, but by 2013 they already contributed to almost 31 million deaths worldwide.
The researchers found out that the risk factors have changed profoundly since 1990 when they were child and maternal malnutrition, unsafe water and sanitation, and the lack of washing hands. These have now been substituted by poor diets and high blood pressure.
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Top risk factors worldwide include:

– In much of the Middle East and Latin America, high body mass index is the number-one risk associated with health loss.
– In South and Southeast Asia, household air pollution is a leading risk, and India also grapples with high risks of unsafe water and childhood under-nutrition.
– Alcohol is the number-two risk in Russia.
– Smoking is the number-one risk in many high-income countries, including the United Kingdom.
– The most marked differences are found in sub-Saharan Africa, which, unlike other regions, is dominated by a combination of childhood malnutrition, unsafe water and lack of sanitation, unsafe sex, and alcohol use.
– Wasting (low weight) accounts for one in five deaths of children under five-years-old, highlighting the importance of child malnutrition as a risk factor.
– Unsafe sex took a huge toll on global health, contributing to 82 per cent of HIV/AIDS deaths and 94 per cent of HIV/AIDS deaths among 15- to 19-year-olds in 2013. This has a greater impact on South Africa than any other country, 38 per cent of South African deaths were attributed to unsafe sex. The global burden of unsafe sex grew from 1990 and peaked in 2005.

Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) Director Dr Christopher Murray said:

“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.”

He goes on by saying that it is up to the policymakers to effectively use this knowledge for prevention efforts and health policies.

Since the University of Melbourne was one of the lead institutions in this study, here are some specific numbers for Australia.  The top risk factor is high blood pressure followed by smoking and high body mass index in second and third places. One of the fastest growing risk factors is drug use which is responsible for the biggest increase in poor health in men. On the other hand, the biggest increase in poor health in women comes from diabetes-related illness which saw a staggering 68% increase since 1990. Diabetes-related illnesses and high body mass index deaths have increased from 35% to 47%.
Not all of the study’s findings were bad news though. Deaths from high cholesterol have decreased by 25%, and deaths from diets low in fruit and vegetables have decreased by 10%.

University of Melbourne Professor Alan Lopez, said many of these risk factors for Australian deaths are preventable with lifestyle changes.

“Smoking, high blood pressure and obesity are still prevalent among adult Australians and remain a large cause of disease burden. We can, and ought, to be more conscientious in reducing these exposures among all Australians, not only those considered at high risk.”

This study was posted in The Lancet under Global, regional, and national comparative risk assessment of 79 behavioural, environmental and occupational, and metabolic risks or clusters of risks in 188 countries, 1990–2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013

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