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


Depression Increases Stroke Risk

Strokes have been observed mainly in the aging population, and various lifestyle factors play a role in the risks. It is generally well known that smoking is one of them. High blood pressure that is left untreated will have a stroke as a consequence. Even though in the past the development of a stroke was more commonly seen in older patients, it has become something to be reckoned with for patients that are middle aged.
While some risk factors are the same in all the age groups, researches scrutinized the age group under 65 for additional risk factors. The one that stands out is depression.
Margaret Kelly-Hayes Ed.D. and her colleagues evaluated data from the Framingham Heart Study, looking at 4,120 participants aged 29-100 years who were followed for 8 years. In the course of their research they checked for symptoms of depression by administering the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D). If patients were taking medication for depression they were included in the study. In participants under 65 with depressive symptoms the stroke risk was found to be four times higher than in the population of the same age group without depressive symptoms.

The findings were commented on by Dr. Francisco Javier Carod-Artal, of the Sarah Hospital in Brasilia, Brazil. He found that a growing body of evidence suggests that biological mechanisms underlie a bidirectional link between depression and many neurological illnesses. Mood disorders can influence the development of disease.

Depression Increases Stroke Risk

Depressed patients 4 times more at risk of getting stroke

Pinpointing exactly why depressive symptoms are increasing the risk for strokes is a challenge. Dr. David Spiegel from Stanford (Cal.) University was interviewed and he believes that the problem is environmental as well as biologic. People who are depressed may smoke more, avoid social contact, may lack self care and neglect taking blood pressure medication.
In any event it is important to treat depression, and to take care of all the known steps in stroke prevention.

More information about:

1. Stroke prevention:

2. Depression:

Reference: MD Consult News, January 29, 2007

Last edited November 2, 2014


Stroke Risk Increases With Carotid Artery Disease

An important study about the risk of strokes and mini-strokes (called”transient ischemic attacks”) was published in the Oct. 27 edition of the Archives of Internal Medicine. Dr. Daniel J. Bertges and his group followed 1,004 patients between 1988 and 1997 with ultrasound studies of the carotid arteries (carotid artery duplex ultrasound scans). The studies took place at the Pittsburgh Veterans Affairs Medical Center/University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Patients were followed with regard to events such as strokes on the side of where the narrowed carotid artery was.

Reversible mini-strokes (medically correct term:”transient ischemic attack” or TIA) were also registered. A total of 1,701 narrowed arteries (called “stenotic arteries”) were found with this ultrasound method. All of the patients initially had no symptoms of the carotid artery stenosis (no dizziness, no fainting, no absence spells or symptoms of TIA or stroke). In 75% of the patients the carotid stenotic lesions were less than 50% meaning that the carotid artery blood flow was acceptable.

Here are some of the risks as the study went on over the years: both TIA and CVA risk in a given patient occurred at a rate of 3.3% per year. Regarding a specific involved artery the risk of developing a TIA as a result of this was 2% per year and the risk to develop a stroke was 2.1% per year. The investigators found that two main factors determined the ultimate progression into a TIA or a stroke and they were as follows. First, if the artery was severely stenosed at the outset, the probability was high that this would progress and be the cause of a stroke. Secondly, the degree of progression when checked with a follow-up duplex ultrasound was another important factor in terms of leading to a subsequent TIA or stroke.

Stroke Risk Increases With Carotid Artery Disease

Carotid artery clot can cause stroke

The composite risk of developing either a TIA or a stroke with a worsening stenotic carotid artery lesion was 1.68-fold. To develop a stroke alone in this scenario the risk was 1.78-fold. Clinical risk factors were of no help in predicting which cases would go on to develop TIA’s or strokes. However, the finding of further progression of a stenotic carotid artery lesion documented on serial duplex ultrasound studies was highly significant.

The authors concluded that there is value in doing serial carotid artery duplex scan studies in the same patient to screen for progressing stenotic lesions in the carotid arteries. When a stenotic lesion is significant enough or progressing fast, intervention by a cardiovascular surgeon with carotid endarterectomy can be done to prevent a stroke or TIA.

Here is a link to a chapter on strokes from the Net Health Book.

Last edited October 26, 2014


Older Americans Need More Knowledge About High Blood Pressure

A telephone survey of 1,503 Americans age 50 or older was published recently by Dr. Brent Egan from the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, in the March 24, 2003 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine. Although 94% had their blood pressure measured at least once in the past year, only 46% knew how much it was. Of all the patients who knew that they had a systolic blood pressure of 140 mm mercury or higher, 30% did not know that this was abnormal and was called “systolic hypertension (high blood pressure)”. 20% of patients with established high blood pressure did not take their medication or had on their own reduced the amount of medication they should have taken. In this group only about 1 in 5 complained that the cost of the medication would have been the reason for stopping the blood pressure pills.

Below are some more general results regarding this study in table form.

Apart from the remarks on the importance of education mentioned in the table I would like to stress how important it is for patients with high blood pressure to learn how to measure their own blood pressure at home.

Older Americans Need More Knowledge About High Blood Pressure

Older Americans Need More Knowledge About High Blood Pressure

The method of how to do this is not as important as the fact that you buy and use some kind of home blood pressure measuring device (either the conventional bood pressure cuff or the more expensive electronic device). You can measure and record your own blood pressure either daily or 3 to 4 times per week and bring this record with you to the doctor’s office with your next check-up. With this method you will gradually learn what life style factors bring your blood pressure up and how much medicine you need to take to control the blood pressure at all times. This will prevent major events such as heart attacks and strokes and preserve eye-sight and kidney function.
Here are the results of a telephone survey regarding older Americans and their understanding of high blood pressure (modified from March 24, 2003 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine).

Results of a telephone survey regarding older Americans and their understanding of high blood pressure
(modified from March 24, 2003 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine)
Older Americans have a higher rate of high blood pressure, particularly high systolic blood pressure This makes it even more important that they learn more about it and that they learn to measure
their blood pressure at home.
Older Americans are not as educated about high blood pressure than the younger generation Likely related to upbringing and different interests; in the past healthcare was left to physicians and nurses. Now we realize that only we can look after ourselves, the physicians
and nurses are “health consultants” whom we hire to advise us.
Older Americans prefer an integrated approach to the treatment of high blood pressure utilizing traditional, complementary and alternative treatments The authors concluded that a combination of education and holistic management strategies likely would work best. This needs to include new research on identifying the
most effective treatments. I would like to add that weight loss (in case of increased BMI), exercise and a zone-like diet would help complement traditional drug regimens
very effectively as well.

Here are various useful links regarding related topics.

Link regarding body mass index (BMI) .

Link regarding high blood pressure(hypertension)

Last edited December 9, 2012