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Smoking, Hypertension Judged the Leading US Death Risks

Last Updated: April 30, 2009.

Smoking and high blood pressure are the leading risk factors contributing to death in the United States, according to a study reported April 28 in PLOS Medicine.

THURSDAY, April 30 (HealthDay News) -- Smoking and high blood pressure are the leading risk factors contributing to death in the United States, according to a study reported April 28 in PLOS Medicine.

Goodarz Danaei, M.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues examined data on United States' risk factors and mortality from the National Center for Health Statistics, national health surveys, and epidemiological studies to estimate the number of deaths attributed to a dozen selected risk factors in 2005.

The researchers found that the risk factor most associated with mortality was smoking, which was linked to an estimated 467,000 deaths, followed by hypertension with an estimated 395,000 deaths. Each was associated with as many as one in five deaths. Other substantial risk factors were obesity-overweight (216,000 deaths); physical inactivity (191,000); high salt in the diet (102,000); low omega-3 fatty acids in the diet (84,000); and high trans-fatty acids in the diet (82,000). Alcohol was linked to 90,000 deaths as the result of traffic accidents, violent crime, liver disease, and other alcohol-related diseases, but the health benefits of alcohol among those who drank moderately also averted 26,000 deaths, the authors note.

"Smoking and high blood pressure, which both have effective interventions, are responsible for the largest number of deaths in the United States. Other dietary, lifestyle, and metabolic risk factors for chronic diseases also cause a substantial number of deaths in the United States," the authors conclude.

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