The leading causes of premature death are often attributed to lifestyle-related illnesses, such as smoking, high blood pressure and cholesterol, excessive alcohol consumption, obesity, and lack of exercise.
For instance, maintaining a healthy weight and cholesterol levels are critical factors in reducing the risk of developing these illnesses. Taking control of your lifestyle and making simple changes can significantly reduce your overall risk of illness and early death.
Let’s explore the top 6 factors that contribute to mortality rates and ways we can mitigate them through healthy habits. Taking a proactive approach toward our well-being can significantly improve our chances of living a long and healthy life.
The top six mortality factors you can prevent
Living a smoke-free lifestyle, consuming a nutritious diet, exercising regularly, and limiting the intake of alcoholic beverages are all effective measures to mitigate the likelihood of developing life-threatening illnesses, including cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Tobacco smoking is an incredibly harmful habit that poses a significant risk factor for numerous cancers, including lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and cardiovascular disease.
In fact, research indicates that smoking was responsible for approximately 10% of all cardiovascular deaths worldwide in the year 2000.
If you want to lead a healthy lifestyle, one of the most important changes you can make is quitting smoking. Not only is smoking incredibly harmful to your health, but it can also negatively impact those around you through secondhand smoke.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), men who smoked in the early 1960s had a 12.2 times higher chance of developing lung cancer compared to non-smoking men. However, by 2010, the risk had more than doubled to 25. Women smokers had an even greater increase in the risk of developing lung cancer.
If you find quitting difficult, seeking professional advice can be incredibly helpful. In the meantime, try to reduce your smoking as much as possible. Remember that there is no safe level of smoking.
The medical condition known as high blood pressure, or hypertension, can lead to a number of serious health issues, including cardiovascular disease, stroke, hypertensive heart disease, vascular disease, and kidney failure. Managing this condition is crucial for maintaining good health and reducing the risk of associated complications.
To help manage high blood pressure, there are several lifestyle changes that individuals can make:
1. One important step is to lose any excess weight through healthy eating and regular exercise. Ideally, exercise should be performed for at least 30 minutes daily to help keep the heart and blood vessels healthy.
2. Eating a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables can also be beneficial for managing high blood pressure.
3. In addition, reducing or eliminating dietary salt is another key recommendation. Research shows that even reducing salt intake by just 3g per day can help lower blood pressure, and this effect is doubled with a 6g per day reduction and tripled with a 9g per day reduction.
In addition to lowering blood pressure, a low-salt diet can also help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. By following these guidelines, individuals with high blood pressure can take important steps toward improving their overall health and well-being.
Cholesterol is a type of waxy, fat-like substance seen in the bloodstream. A person’s cholesterol level can be influenced by factors such as heredity, a diet high in saturated fat, and certain medical conditions, such as type 2 diabetes.
Having elevated cholesterol levels in the blood can worsen atherosclerosis, a condition where the arteries narrow and can lead to cardiovascular disease and stroke. To maintain healthy cholesterol levels, it is recommended to adopt a healthy lifestyle.
1. One suggestion is to reduce the amount of saturated fat in your diet, which is mainly found in animal products like meat, dairy, and eggs.
2. Instead, consuming fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain cereals, which are rich in fibre, vitamins, and minerals is beneficial.
3. Additionally, its recommended to consume oily fish, like salmon, one to two times per week, as studies have shown that consuming about 100g of oily fish per week can reduce the risk of death from coronary heart disease by 34%.
Having excessive body fat can pose a significant risk to your health. Studies show that being overweight is associated with various illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, and osteoporosis. Additionally, being overweight can also lead to high blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
One Harvard study examined the various causes of death. It determined that the risk of cardiovascular mortality increased by 49%, respiratory disease mortality by 38%, and cancer mortality by 19% for every 5-unit increase in BMI.
1. It’s essential to take care of one’s body by making wise decisions in terms of nutrition and physical activity. When it comes to weight management, it is crucial to approach it gradually and sustainably, as crash diets and extreme measures can do more harm than good.
2. By making small and consistent changes to one’s diet and engaging in regular exercise, individuals can achieve their weight goals while maintaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
3. If you find it challenging to lose weight, it is recommended to seek professional advice from your doctor or a registered dietitian. They can help create a personalised plan that fits your specific needs and goals.
Physical inactivity is a significant risk factor for developing cardiovascular diseases, particularly coronary heart disease. Additionally, being overweight or obese can increase one’s likelihood of a sedentary lifestyle.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), lack of regular exercise is a significant cause of mortality, ranking 4th among risk factors. Remarkably, a lack of exercise leads to approximately 3.2 million deaths annually.
People who fail to exercise regularly are at least 20% to 30% more likely to die from any cause than those who engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise weekly.
To mitigate these risks, adopting a healthy lifestyle is highly recommended:
1. Engaging in moderate-intensity exercise three times per week. Moderate exercise is any physical activity that makes you sweat but can still converse.
2. Choose a sport or activity you genuinely enjoy.
3. If you’re not used to regular exercise, start slowly and gradually increase the frequency and intensity as your fitness level improves.
4. It is essential to consult with your doctor before embarking on a new physical activity program. Certain factors, such as pre-existing medical conditions, may make certain forms of physical activity problematic or even dangerous.
These steps can improve your overall health and reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
Excessive long-term drinking is a well-known culprit for harming one’s health, with an increased risk of developing cancer. Combining smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can only worsen matters for the body.
One study showed that drinking less than one alcoholic beverage daily is linked to a lower risk of death, except for cancer. More than two drinks per day increases the risk of death from various causes.
To maintain a healthy lifestyle, individuals must take certain precautions regarding their alcohol consumption.
1. For example, it is best to avoid binge drinking, defined as consuming a large amount of alcohol in a single session.
2. Additionally, alternating between alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages during social events, with water being the ideal option, is highly advised.
3. Switching to drinks with a reduced alcohol content can also benefit those who can. For instance, choosing light beer instead of full-strength beer can make a significant difference.
4. It is also worth noting that wine is generally a better option than spirits such as whiskey, as spirits are distilled rather than fermented and therefore have much higher alcohol content.
5. Lastly, it is strongly recommended that individuals aim to have at least two alcohol-free days every week to give their bodies a chance to recover and detoxify.
By following these guidelines, individuals can enjoy alcohol in moderation while minimising the adverse effects on their health.
Sum it up
Making simple lifestyle changes can significantly reduce your risk of premature death. Common causes of illness and early demise include smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, excessive alcohol consumption, and lack of exercise.
Want to learn more?
Dr. Rhonda Patrick, Ph.D., is a distinguished public health educator who specialises in topics such as brain and overall health, ageing, cancer, and nutrition. In this podcast, she explores the four essential types of micronutrients that help regulate cellular and organ stress.
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