A global study has identified high blood pressure, smoking and high body mass index as the top three avoidable risk factors for death and disease among adults worldwide. Among children below five years of age, under-nutrition remains the leading avoidable risk factor.
Analyzing data from 1990-2013, the new study set out to estimate the number of deaths, years of life lost, years lived with disability and disability-adjusted life years that were attributable to 79 modifiable risk factors across 188 countries over the 23-year period.
The study found that in 2013, there were 30.8 million deaths from modifiable risk factors, an increase of 23 percent from the 25.1 million deaths in 1990.
The team found that high blood pressure, or hypertension, was the greatest mortality risk factor for both men and women and increased by almost 50 percent between 1990 and 2013. High blood pressure, which puts people at increased risk of heart attack, stroke and heart failure, was also found to be a greater burden for men than women, with the number of deaths from the condition rising by 59 percent among men and 40 percent among women.
Smoking was found to have the second greatest impact on mortality for both men and women over the 23-year period, with the number of deaths attributable to the habit increasing by more than 25 percent. Again, smoking was found to be a greater burden for men than women, contributing to 4.4 million deaths for men in 2013 and 1.4 million deaths among women.
High body mass index (BMI) was the third greatest mortality risk factor for men and women, with a 63.2 percent increase in deaths due to the condition between 1990 and 2013. Contrary to the effects of hypertension and smoking, however, high BMI appeared to be a greater burden for women than men.