|March 11, 2004|
|Life Extension Update Exclusive |
JAMA study finds half of current U.S. deaths have preventable causes
Working from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention in Atlanta, Ali H Mokdad, PhD, and colleagues sought to identify and quantify the leading causes of death in the United States by searching medline for studies that linked risk behaviors and mortality. Using CDC mortality data to identify the causes and number of deaths for the year 2000, heart disease, cancer and cerebrovascular disease emerged as the major killers.
The researchers estimated that 18.1 percent of all deaths were attributable to smoking in the year 2000, including deaths caused by secondhand smoke. This was followed by poor diet and inadequate physical activity as a preventable cause of death with an 16.6 of all fatalities due to being overweight. Alcohol consumption came in third with an estimated 3.5 percent of all deaths attributed to its use. Additional preventable causes of death were infectious agents, toxic agents, motor vehicle accidents, firearms incidents, sexual behaviors and illicit drug use.
The authors predict, "The rapid increase in the prevalence of overweight means that this proportion is likely to increase substantially in the next few years. The burden of chronic diseases is compounded by the aging effects of the baby boomer generation and the concomitant increased cost of illness at a time when health care spending continues to outstrip growth in the gross domestic product of the United States. Our findings indicate that interventions to prevent and increase cessation of smoking, improve diet, and increase physical activity must become much higher priorities in the public health and health care systems." (Mokdad AH et al, “Actual causes of death in the United States, 2000,” JAMA vol 291 no 10.)
In an accompanying editorial, J. Michael McGinnis, MD and William H. Foege, MD, note that more attention has been given to end diagnoses than the root causes of mortality. They recommend a refocus of attention and direction of resources to these root causes.
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