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4 preventable risk factors reduce life expectancy in US and lead to health disparities
Date:3/22/2010

Boston, MA -- A new study led by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) in collaboration with researchers from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington estimates that smoking, high blood pressure, elevated blood glucose and overweight and obesity currently reduce life expectancy in the U.S. by 4.9 years in men and 4.1 years in women. It is the first study to look at the effects of those four preventable risk factors on life expectancy in the whole nation.

The researchers also estimated the effects of these risk factors on eight subgroups of the U.S. population, called the "Eight Americas." The Eight Americas are defined by race, county location and the socioeconomic features of each county. They found that these four risk factors account for a substantial proportion of differentials in life expectancy among these groups. Southern rural blacks had the largest reduction in life expectancy due to these risk factors (6.7 years for men and 5.7 years for women) and Asians the smallest (4.1 years for men and 3.6 years for women).

The study appears in the March 23, 2010 issue of the open-access journal PLoS Medicine and will be publicly available here after the embargo lifts: http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.1000248

"This study demonstrates the potential of disease prevention to not only improve health outcomes in the entire nation but also to reduce the enormous disparities in life expectancy that we see in the U.S.," said Majid Ezzati, associate professor of international health at HSPH and senior author of the study.

Smoking, high blood pressure, elevated blood glucose and obesity are responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths from chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancers and diabetes, in the U.S. each year. By
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Contact: Todd Datz
tdatz@hsph.harvard.edu
617-432-3952
Harvard School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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