Forty Percent Of Premature Deaths Can Be Prevented

A new report from the CDC (Center of Disease Control) in the US has revealed that up to 40% of premature deaths could be prevented by simple lifestyle changes. As this link shows every year about 900,000 premature deaths occur in the US, which are due to 5 major diseases that in the opinion of the CDC can be prevented by 20 to 40%. Here are the diseases that kill: cancer, heart disease, COPD/emphysema, stroke and accidents/injuries. These conditions were responsible for 63% of all deaths in the US in 2010.

Let’s discuss each of these conditions and how one could lower the risk of dying from them.

1. Cancer:

The Framingham Heart Study has shown that smoking and cancer are closely related. Smokers who quit can significantly reduce their risk of getting cancer. We also know that exercise and prophylactic supplements like fish oil and vitamin D3 have cancer preventative effects.

Antioxidant supplementation that included beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E daily or on alternate days for 1 to 12 years, along with selenium supplementation reduced the incidence of cancer of the esophagus, colon, pancreas, stomach or the liver. Insulin resistance due to sugar and starch overconsumption is causing cancer, particularly breast cancer, colorectal cancer and endometrial cancer. I have discussed this in a recent blog.

Pollution has been linked to increased lung cancer risks as discussed here.

2. Heart disease:

Heart disease can be caused by several factors in combination. Lifestyle issues are important: Smokers need to quit smoking as the Framingham Heart Study has shown more than fifty years ago that smoking causes heart attacks. Obesity and diabetes also contribute significantly to the risk of heart disease. Often these are connected to faulty nutrition, which is another lifestyle issue that comes to mind when too much sugar and starchy foods are taken in; your liver will convert these into fatty acids, triglycerides and elevated, oxidized LDL cholesterol, which gets deposited under the lining of the arteries. A lack of exercise adds to this problem as a lack of exercise lowers the protective HDL cholesterol and fat is deposited under the lining of the arteries. Start exercising and your protective HDL cholesterol will rise, your total cholesterol to HDL ratio will lower to healthier levels and your risk for hardening of the arteries and for getting a heart attack will fall. If you have diabetes, it is important that you manage your blood sugars well; this means that if you inject insulin, you want the blood sugar tests to be within the normal range and the hemoglobin A1C values to be below 5.5%. Poorly controlled diabetes is an important cause of heart attacks and strokes. High blood pressure is also an important cause of developing heart attacks and strokes. It is important to control your blood pressure by taking blood pressure lowering pills and also by exercising regularly. Exercise seems to send a signal to relax the blood vessels thus lowering the blood pressure, which in turn prevents heart attacks.

Forty Percent Of Premature Deaths Can Be Prevented

Forty Percent Of Premature Deaths Can Be Prevented


3. COPD/emphysema:

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or emphysema is mostly caused by chronic exposure to cigarette smoke from smoking. The earlier you can quit, the better your chances that your breathing will not be the limiting factor when you age. But it is also important to avoid exposure to other noxious gases, such as from welding and from exposure to pollution. This may involve a decision to move to a less polluted area. Or it might involve a job retraining. Those who are suffering from COPD can be helped to a certain extent by a portable oxygen tank with nasal prongs.

4. Stroke:

As mentioned before, quitting smoking, controlling high blood pressure and controlling blood sugar, if you suffer from diabetes have been shown to stabilize your blood vessels including the ones that supply your brain. The key is to prevent hardening of the arteries by a healthy lifestyle. Exercising and keeping your weight under a body mass index of 25.0 have been shown to be effective stroke prevention. Healthy nutrition as indicated above under “heart disease” is equally important for stroke prevention. Go green (eat more vegetables, consume more green smoothies), cut down grains, sugar and starchy foods and you will live longer without strokes and heart attacks. Remember, what’s good for your heart is good for your brain!

5. Unintentional accidents/injuries:

Wearing helmets when bicycling, wearing seat belts when driving in a car, avoiding risky behaviors are all measures that save lives. One factor stands out in all of this: if you drink too much, you run the risk of being involved in unintentional accidents or injuries. People may not like to hear this, but your brain lacks the natural inhibitory impulses when you are under the influence of alcohol, so you become more daring and you may not pay attention for the split second that could have prevented an injury or accident. People react very differently to alcohol. Some people feel inebriated after only ½ a glass of wine or beer whereas others can drink more before they make mistakes. The best is to be sober when you drive, ski, use power tools or walk in traffic. Even climbing ladders requires a clear mind!


As the CDC said 20 to 40% of premature deaths (deaths that occurred before the age of 80) could have been prevented, if the above-mentioned recommendations were followed. Let me rephrase this: 180,000 to 360,000 premature deaths every year in the US before the age of 80 could have been prevented! Curative medicine cannot help with these statistics as a heart attack or stroke has happened when it has struck you. Cancer and end stage lung disease are similar conditions that you are suddenly faced with when they occur and unintentional accidents just seem to happen. This is where the importance of prevention can be seen, because these little baby steps every day are adding up to something formidable, a force to be reckoned with. Be part of the solution, think prevention!

More information on:

1. Cancer mortality:

2. Higher vitamin D3 intake lowers mortality from heart attacks, strokes, cancer, fractures due to osteoporosis:

Last edited Nov. 8, 2014


Eat Your Salad Greens, But No Spinach

Spinach has traditionally been regarded as a healthy, green leafy vegetable and a valuable source of vitamins and minerals, in particular iron. The tedious chore of cleaning the tender greens and removing soil and sand traces has been taken care of by packinghouses. As a result, the consumer could purchase ready to eat spinach in plastic bags. These greens were a welcome ingredient for spinach salads or other dishes.
Lately all spinach has been recalled from the world’s largest producer of organic produce. Natural Selection Food has recalled a total of 34 brands that were distributed nationwide, and some of which were available also in Canada. Consumers are still being warned not to eat fresh spinach from the U.S., even though there have been no reported cases of ill effects or diseases in Canada itself. Problems have surfaced in September in form of food borne illness in the U.S. The culprit seems to be contamination with E. coli 0157:H7. Food borne illness can be serious. So far there have been 109 cases of illness in the U.S. and possibly two deaths. The worst affected area so far is Wisconsin, where 29 illnesses were reported and one person died of the disease.
As a result of this alert, salad mixes that contained a variety of greens including spinach leaves have also been pulled from the shelf. It should be mentioned that washing the spinach leaves does not make it safe to consume, as the E.coli bacteria stick to the leaves.
While it seems good-bye to spinach leaves for now, it remains important to eat your greens. Researchers at University of California in Los Angeles and colleagues at Louisiana State University analyzed the salad consumption based on the intake of salad, raw vegetables and salad dressing on 9,406 women and 8,282 men. The researchers also found from their studies that daily consumption of salad and raw vegetables is not the norm in any population group and even less prevalent among African Americans.

Eat Your Salad Greens, But No Spinach

Eat Your Salad Greens, But No Spinach

There were data from lab tests on serum nutrient levels, and it showed that consumption of salads was positively associated with above-median serum micronutrient levels of folic acid, vitamin C and E, lycopene, and alpha carotene and beta carotene. All of these nutrients are important for healthy daily functioning. They are weapons that help fight infection, heart disease and cancers. The consumption of salad and raw vegetables remains the most effective strategy for increasing the intake of important nutrients.

Reference: The Medical Post, October 3, 2006, page 21

Here is a follow-up on this story: Apparently the outbreak was caused by a wild boar and by a nearby cattle field:

More information about food safety:

Last edited November 2, 2014


Macular Degeneration Risk Less With Vitamins

Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the more frequent reasons for loss of vision in the ageing population. The disease is also the most prevalent reason for blindness in developed countries.
A group of researchers from the Netherlands made it their mandate to investigate, in which proportion antioxidants were useful in the prevention of AMD. Supplementation with vitamins C, D and E was used and also beta-carotene and zinc. The observations were made using questionnaires from the Rotterdam Study (1990-1993).

The group on which the research concentrated consisted of inhabitants 55 years of age or older living in a middle class suburb of Rotterdam. Of 5836 at the baseline with a risk of AMD 4765 had reliable data of their dietary habits. At the end of the study 4170 participated in the follow up.
Dietary intake of vitamin E and zinc was inversely associated with the development of AMD: the group with an intake of vitamin E and zinc had less macular degeneration than those whose diet was deficient. A higher than median intake of all the four nutrients, vitamin E, zinc, vitamin C and beta-carotene showed even more benefit. The risk to develop macular degeneration was reduced by an impressive 31 %.

Macular Degeneration Risk Less With Vitamins

Macular Degeneration Risk Less With Vitamins

These results are of importance to the ageing population and the elderly. A high dietary intake of the four nutrients is important in the risk reduction of age related eye diseases like AMD.

Reference: JAMA. 2005; 294:3101-3107; Vol. 294, No. 24, December 28, 2005

Last edited December 6, 2012


Not All Vitamins Prevent Cancer

Even in the recent past, vitamins were looked at as an essential weapon to prevent illness, however, a large study by the Cochrane Hepato-Biliary Group at the Centre for Clinical Intervention Research at Copenhagen University has come up with disappointing evidence.

A large evidence-based analysis was performed involving a population of 170,525 persons who were enrolled in randomized trials. They received a regimen of antioxidant supplementation that included beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E daily or on alternate days for 1 to 12 years, along with selenium every year for 2 to 4 years.
All trials reported the separate or combined incidence of cancer of the esophagus, colon, pancreas, stomach or the liver.
Results showed that beta-carotene alone, the most widely tested antioxidant for cancer prevention, did not have substantial cancer-fighting properties in gastrointestinal cancers. The devastating blow is the fact that beta-carotene in combination with vitamin A and vitamin C significantly increased mortality! Recent studies examining vitamin C show, that it can be an antioxidant, but it also can be a pro-oxidant (the less desirable quality). Trials involving selenium very clearly showed that it might have beneficial effects on the incidence of gastrointestinal cancers.
Following these news it would be a grave mistake to assume, that fruit and vegetables with their built-in antioxidants, micronutrients, dietary fiber and beneficial plant-chemicals have fallen off grace.

Not All Vitamins Prevent Cancer

Not All Vitamins Prevent Cancer

The truth is, that fruit and vegetables typically contain safe levels of vitamins. Most studies have reported that adequate intake of fruit and vegetables are indeed associated with a low incidence of cancer.
The study, however, clearly points out the pitfalls of vitamin supplementation.
-“The more the better” does not apply when it comes to taking vitamins.
-Antioxidants according to this study are not as beneficial for cancer prevention as was thought of in the past.
– Only vitamin C and selenium held up to the scrutiny of the evidence-based researchers with regard to having preventative effects regarding the above named gastrointestinal cancers.

Reference: The Lancet, Vol. 364, Number 9441, pg.1219-28,  October 2, 2004

Last edited December 7, 2012