What’s killing us? Mostly our own bad habits!

Reading Time: 3 minutes

cov200hConcerns about mortality and these days morbidity settle on people’s shoulders at different times and with different weights. Some are blissfully immune to risk association with decisions and others become frozen into indecision because of fears that manifest as a result of exposure to dubious or credible sources.

Today there seems a relentless list of non-modifiable risks that provide challenges to a healthy and vibrant long life, from terrorism, economic collapse, wars, infection, pollution, agrichemicals and more. A whole industry is set up to disseminate these concerns in a relentless barrage of news, insight, opinion and at times hysteria.

So for all of you looking for a detailed analysis of just what the leading causes of death are in the western world, you may be pleased to know that the Lancet has published a review, under the snappy title of: 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.[1]

Excesses in richer countries they say, now outweigh the effects of poverty in underdeveloped countries. Interestingly they do not include deaths associated with medical errors in their assessment, albeit they do include drug use. The numbers of people who lose their lives due to inappropriate medical drug therapy or surgery is quite significant and should be included in a later paper.

A 2013 study in the Journal of Patient Safety that says these numbers may be between 210,000 and 440,000 patients each year, people who go to the hospital for care and suffer some type of preventable harm that contributes to their death.[2]

That would make hospital based medical errors the third-leading cause of death in America, behind heart disease, which is the first, and cancer, which is second.

However, whilst the report is long and quite heavy going, you might imagine that dietary and lifestyle choices feature highly in the top risk factors. The review team put together a list of 14 dietary bad habits that can kill people and found they lay behind 21 percent of all deaths globally. They include consuming too much red meat and sugary drinks, and not eating enough fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains.

The top 10 global causes of death are:

  1. High blood pressure
  2. Smoking
  3. High body mass index
  4. High fasting plasma glucose
  5. Diet high in sodium
  6. Diet low in fruits
  7. Ambient pollution
  8. Household air pollution from solid fuels
  9. High total cholesterol
  10. Alcohol use

Should the time to read the review in full come available, do check out the tables as they are thought provoking in their presentations and a useful reminder that man is his own worst enemy!


[1] Global Burden of Disease Study 2013 Collaborators. Global, regional, and national incidence, prevalence, and years lived with disability for 301 acute and chronic diseases and injuries in 188 countries, 1990-2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013. Lancet. 2015 Aug 22;386(9995):743-800 View Full Paper

[2] James JT. A new, evidence-based estimate of patient harms associated with hospital care. J Patient Saf. 2013 Sep;9(3):122-8. View Full Paper

Previous Post
Aged Between 8 And 16 – Use Oily Fish to Reduce Risk of Nasal Allergies!
Next Post
Late-Onset Dementia: a Mosaic of Prototypical Pathologies Modifiable by Diet and Lifestyle

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed