Global Causes of Death are Mostly Life-Style Related

HealthyPlanetThe article from Lancet, “Global, regional, and national comparative risk assessment of 79 behavioral, 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,”  (which you can read here… ) gives us 25 years of disease data for 188 countries of the world. A high BMI (Body Mass Index) implies that one is overweight for these studies.


The risks that were most significant for deaths were:

  • Dietary risks accounting for 11.3 million deaths
  • High systolic blood pressure for 10.4 million deaths
  • Tobacco smoke for 6.1 million deaths
  • Air pollution for 5.5 million deaths
  • High BMI for 4.4 million deaths
  • Child and maternal malnutrition for 1.7 million deaths


Clearly, over half of global mortality is a result of behavioral, environmental, occupational, and metabolic risks that are largely life-style related. The burden of high BMI has increased in the past 23 years, and poor or inadequate diet sadly tops the list. As a world, we need to do a better job of sharing food, promoting healthy food choices and promoting life-style choices that will result in lowered BMI and less obesity, overweight, and diabetic people. If we significantly reduce air pollution, and make smoking a thing of the past, we have an opportunity to make changes for a better world.


Regional risk factors include:

  • Smoking is the number-one risk in many high-income countries
  • In South and Southeast Asia, household air pollution is a leading risk
  • India has high risks of unsafe water and childhood under-nutrition
  • Middle East and Latin America, high body mass index is the number-one risk
  • Alcohol is the number-two risk in Russia
  • Sub-Saharan Africa struggles with childhood malnutrition, unsafe water and lack of sanitation, unsafe sex, and alcohol use
  • 38 per cent of South African deaths were attributed to unsafe sex and HIV
  • Wasting (low weight) accounts for one in five deaths of children under five-years-old


On a personal and individual basis, take this information to heart and do your part to improve your own health risks by lowering your BMI (weight) if you need to do that, and quitting smoking as your top priorities. If you struggle with high blood pressure, this is another risk factor that you can moderate with diet, exercise and weight loss and treat to reduce your risks.


Dr. Paul


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