According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control, almost two-thirds of all deaths in the U.S. can be attributed to five things. Heart disease, cancer, lung diseases, strokes and unintentional injuries account for nearly 900,000 deaths in America every year. Furthermore, the CDC estimates that about 200,000 of those deaths could be avoided through simple preventative measures. Here’s what the organization suggests.
Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death worldwide, and a major contributing factor in four of the five causes of death enumerated by the CDC: Heart disease, cancer, lung disease and strokes. Around a third of heart disease and cancer cases are thought to be caused by smoking, as are almost all cases of emphysema.
Both heart disease and cancer are caused in part by poor diets. As far as what constitutes a better diet, the recommendations are more or less what you’d expect: More fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; less cholesterol and saturated fats, and no trans fats. That means replacing butter with olive oil, replacing white bread with whole-grain, and avoiding anything with the words “partially hydrogenated” on the label (that’s code for trans fat).
The natural companion to eating healthfully, lack of physical exercise increases risk of heart disease, cancer, and stroke. The CDC encourages local communities to do more to encourage exercise, and cites a San Francisco measure to keep playgrounds open after school hours as being particularly effective in promoting physical activity from a young age.
Don’t Drive Your Car
Driving contributes to preventative deaths in two ways: It places commuters at risk for what the CDC calls “unintentional injuries” (in this case, car accidents), and discourages alternative modes of transportation that involve more physical activity (like biking or walking). Taking public transportation reduces the first risk, while walking or biking reduces the second. That is, unless you get hit by a car when you’re on your bike, which is why the CDC also suggests that cities build more bike-friendly streets.
Alcohol increases the risk of cancer, stroke and unintentional injuries. There’s debate over what constitutes a healthy level of drinking, but Dr. Mark Willenbring at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has proposed a general rule: Three drinks or less per day, seven drinks or less per week.