Is lifestyle the biggest threat to our life expectancy?

A study published by Lancet this week revealed that human lifestyle choices, including poor diet choices and unhealthy lifestyles, are posing a greater threat to life expectancy than infectious diseases.

While deaths caused by infectious diseases such as malaria and flu have fallen sharply, the proportion of fatalities fuelled by lifestyles have soared; according to the study 7 in 10 deaths are caused by our lifestyle choices. The research found that high blood pressure (fuelled by obesity and lack of exercise) was the top risk factor to individuals of our generation, contributing to over 9% of global health loss. This was followed by smoking (6.3%), high blood sugar (6.1%), and high body mass index (5%). Poor diet is also fuelling diseases such as type two diabetes, with a 60% rise in cases over the past decade whilst obesity is on course to overtake smoking as the leading cause of cancer.

Professor John Newton, chief knowledge officer at Public Health England said: “On one hand, it’s a sign of successfully preventing infections, but on the other, it tells us how much more we have to do.”

Most notably each of these risks posed to our health are largely self-inflicted and influenced by our attitude and choices regarding lifestyle. This is a largely avoidable issue if the attitude within our society changed and actions implemented by organisations such as Public Health England were able to have a direct influence on our life choices.

The promotion of public health is becoming an embedded priority of Public Health England  and global organisations. Findings from this research suggest it will most likely remain so unless an effort is made to steer us away from our poor lifestyle choices.

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