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Smoking, Hypertension Each Account for 1 in 5 U.S. Deaths
Date:4/28/2009

Prevention efforts 'have run out of steam,' expert says,,,,

TUESDAY, April 28 (HealthDay News) -- Want to reduce your risk of dying prematurely? Don't smoke and keep a healthy blood pressure level.

Each of those factors accounts for about one in five deaths among U.S. adults, according to new research.

Although both factors had previously been shown to be linked with premature death, the magnitude of the effect found in the new study was not expected, said Majid Ezzati, an associate professor of international health at the Harvard School of Public Health and the study's lead author. The findings were published in the April issue of the online journal PLoS Medicine.

Ezzati and his research colleagues found that other dietary, metabolic and lifestyle factors also accounted for a substantial number of deaths in the United States, including:

  • Smoking
  • Physical inactivity
  • High salt intake
  • Low intake of fruits and vegetables
  • High blood sugar levels
  • High "bad" cholesterol
  • Overweight or obesity
  • High intake of trans fat
  • High intake of salt
  • Low intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids
  • Low intake of omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish)
  • Alcohol intake

Using data from national health surveys and from the U.S. National Center on Health Statistics, the researchers estimated how many lives would be saved and deaths prevented if a risk factor were at the optimal level, creating what they called a comparative risk assessment. The optimal level for smoking, for instance, would be no smokers.

"We put these surveys of levels of these risk factors together with epidemiological studies that tell us how bad they are, and this led to estimates of the number of deaths that are caused by each risk factor," Ezzati said.

Being overweight or being physically inactive each accounted
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