Thursday, April 30, 2009

Preventable deaths linked to smoking, hypertension

Following a WebMD article, HealthDay (4/28, Doheny) reported that smoking and high blood pressure "account for about one in five deaths among US adults," according to a Harvard study of data collected in 2005. "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 lead investigator Majid Ezzati, PhD. Apparently, public health officials and their "efforts to reduce smoking and lower blood pressure...have run out of steam."
That assumption was made in light of the 467,000 deaths per year that were attributable to smoking and the 395,000 deaths induced by hypertension, according to MedPage Today (4/28, Phend). "Obesity and overweight [216,000] were the next most common preventable causes, according to" the Harvard group's "analysis of mortality from modifiable dietary, lifestyle, and metabolic risk factors." There were, however, "some surprises on the list," as "high salt intake [102,000 deaths], low intake of omega-3 fatty acid from seafood [84,000 deaths], and high trans fat consumption [82,000 deaths]" rounded out the top ten. Co-author Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH, said "these are 'things really aren't on the radar the way they should be.'" The results are based on a review of "nationally representative data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, as well as disease-specific mortality statistics from the National Center for Health Statistics."
MedWire (4/28, Cowen) quoted Dr. Ezzati as saying, "The large magnitude of the numbers for many of these risks made us pause." He added, "To have hundreds of thousands of premature deaths caused by these modifiable risk factors is shocking and should motivate a serious look at whether our public health system has sufficient capacity to implement interventions and whether it is currently focusing on the right set of interventions."

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