Harvard Heart Letter

Heart Beat: Preventable threats to survival

Heart Beat

Preventable threats to survival

Although you can't avoid death, you can try your darnedest to stave it off as long as possible. Fighting what are generally recognized as "preventable causes of death" is a good way to do this. But where to start? Controlling blood pressure and not smoking, according to an international team of researchers led by Dr. Goodarz Danaie of the Harvard School of Public Health (PLoS Medicine, April 2009). Those two factors accounted for just over one-third of the 2.5 million deaths in the United States in 2005. Paying more attention to these risk factors could help more people live longer and healthier lives.

Top 10 risk factors and U.S. deaths in 2005

Risk factor

Women

Men

High blood pressure

231,000

164,000

Smoking

219,000

248,000

Physical inactivity

103,000

88,000

Excess weight

102,000

114,000

High blood sugar

89,000

102,000

High salt intake

54,000

49,000

High LDL cholesterol

53,000

60,000

Low intake of omega-3 fats

39,000

45,000

High dietary trans fats

35,000

46,000

Low intake of fruits and vegetables

24,000

33,000

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