Hundreds of thousands of Americans die every year from diseases that could be successfully treated or altogether prevented, according to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Poor diet and lifestyle choices are among the leading causes of untimely deaths, but lack of health education and access to healthcare also play a significant role, the agency found.
If all Americans had the best preventive care available in the country today, between 20 and 40 percent would not fall victim to life-threatening illnesses or events such as heart disease, cancer, respiratory diseases, stroke, and accidents.
For the study, the researchers identified mortality rates for each of the five leading causes in all 50 states and compared the best outcomes with all others. The difference between the ideal and actual rates was taken as an indicator for how many deaths could be deemed preventable. Excluded were people over the age of 79, which is the current average life expectancy in the United States.
Accordingly, nearly 92,000 Americans die unnecessarily from heart disease every year; over 84,000 from cancer; nearly 29,000 from chronic respiratory diseases; 17,000 from stroke; and 37,000 as a result of preventable accidents like not wearing seatbelts or helmets.
In a separate study, the CDC warned that excessive alcohol consumption is the cause of about 88,000 deaths annually in the U.S., including alcohol-related disease and fatalities from driving under the influence and other accidents.
This is not a problem specific to America. Worldwide, well over three million people have died from alcohol abuse in 2012, according to reports by the World Health Organization (WHO). The so-called “Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health” investigated the impact of alcohol use on public health as well as policy responses by governments and lawmakers in 194 countries.
In the U.S., older people were found to be at higher risk of suffering from alcohol-related health problems than other parts of the population. More men succumb to alcoholism than women. Poorer people are generally more affected by negative consequences, not only for their physical health but also their mental and social wellbeing. For instance, domestic violence is routinely connected with excessive drinking.
Smoking still constitutes one of the greatest health threats around the globe. Despite of decreasing numbers of smokers here in the U.S., there is much less progress in other parts of the world. To the contrary. According to WHO projections, smoking-attributable deaths will rise to about 10 million annually by 2030, more than double the current rate.
“Much needs to be done to protect populations from negative health consequences,” said Dr. Oleg Chestnov, assistant director for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) at the WHO. This must include appeals to personal responsibility but also far-reaching policy and regulatory measures. “There is no room for complacency,” he added.