Half of all deaths caused by just four health risk factors: Study

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New research has shown more than half of deaths are caused by high blood pressure, smoking, high blood glucose and high body mass index. Source: Getty

Half of all global deaths in 2017 were caused by just four health risk factors, new research has shown. According to the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) report published in The Lancet Journal, high blood pressure, smoking, high blood glucose and high body mass index caused half of all deaths last year.

The figures showed that improvements in global mortality rates were less pronounced and that rates stagnated or got worse in some countries. Alarmingly, no countries are on target to meet the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals to improve health by 2030.

The GBD is the world’s only annual, comprehensive and peer-reviewed assessment of global trends in health. It provides global and national estimates for 280 causes of death, 359 diseases and injuries, as well as 84 risk factors in 195 countries and territories around the world. It is coordinated by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IMHE) and involves more than 3,500 collaborators from more than 140 countries and territories.

It was found that 51.5 per cent (or 28.8 million of 55.9 million deaths) were the result of the four health risk factors. High blood pressure caused 10.4 million deaths, smoking resulted in 7.1 million deaths, 6.5 million were the result of high fasting plasma and 4.7 million deaths were caused by high body-mass index.

In addition, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as Alzheimer’s, heart disease, diabetes and asthma made up the greatest fraction of deaths globally last year. Around 41.1 million deaths or 73.4 per cent of total deaths in 2017 were the result of NCDs. These rose from 22.7 per cent or 33.5 million deaths in 2007.

The largest numbers of deaths from NCDs were from cardiovascular diseases (17.8 million deaths), neoplasms (9.6 million deaths) and chronic respiratory diseases (3.9 million deaths). Figures also showed obesity continues to increase around the world, with more than one million deaths due to type 2 diabetes, 426,300 deaths due to diabetes-related chronic kidney disease, and more than 180,000 deaths caused by non-alcohol steatohepatitis-related liver cancer and cirrhosis.

The report also found low back pain, headache disorders and depressive disorders were the leading causes of disability last year and that they’ve been leading causes for close to 30 years. The report explained that in 2017, there were 245.9 million new cases of low back pain, 995.4 million new cases of headache disorders, 258.2 million new cases of depressive disorders, as well as 22.9 million new cases of diabetes.

Total fertility rates have declined since 1950 and 91 countries were not maintaining their current population sizes. Still, 104 countries were seeing an increase in population due to high fertility rates. The also found women are more likely to live longer, but live more years in poor health. Life expectancy increased from 48.1 years to 70.5 years for men, and from 52.9 years to 75.6 years for women, with women likely to live longer than men in 180 of the 195 countries.

“GBD 2017 is disturbing. Not only do the amalgamated global figures show a worrying slowdown in progress but the more granular data unearths exactly how patchy progress has been,” the authors of the study wrote. “GBD 2017 is a reminder that, without vigilance and constant effort, progress can easily be reversed.”

Are you concerned by the findings? Are you impacted by any of the four risk factors?

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