A team of researchers from Cleveland Clinic and New York University School of Medicine have found that obesity resulted in as much as 47 percent more life-years lost than tobacco, and tobacco caused similar life-years lost as high blood pressure.
Obesity means having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or higher. It happens when one consumes more calories per day than their body uses. This can greatly increase the chances of developing such problems as diabetes, high blood pressure and other heart problems, arthritis and cancer.
The team observed that the highest number of preventable life-years lost were due to (in order from greatest to least) obesity, diabetes, tobacco use, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
“Modifiable behavioral risk factors pose a substantial mortality burden in the U.S.,” said Glen Taksler, Ph.D., internal medicine researcher from Cleveland Clinic and lead author of the study. “These results continue to highlight the importance of weight loss, diabetes management and healthy eating.”
A key point is that three (diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol) of the top five causes of death can be managed, so helping patients understand management options and approaches can have a significant effect on life span.
The results also demonstrate the importance of preventive approaches in health and why it should be a priority for everyone.
“The reality is, while we may know the direct cause of a patient’s death, for example, breast cancer or heart attack, we don’t always know the contributing factor(s), such as tobacco use, obesity, alcohol and family history.”
For each major cause of death, identifying a root cause may help to understand whether there was a way a person could have lived longer.