We all know by now that an unhealthy lifestyle can lead to a range of health problems. However, what many do not realise is that the 5 most common causes of premature death in the UK are in many cases, preventable – indeed the Department of Health estimates that up to two thirds of premature deaths (under the age of 75) are avoidable. Heart disease, lung disease, stroke, some cancers and liver disease are all largely caused by lifestyle factors and experts suggest many deaths could be prevented by leading a healthy lifestyle, as well as ensuring early detection and treatment – many health problems are detected and therefore treated, too late.
Cardiovascular disease is almost always a result of a combination of factors including smoking, being overweight, having high blood pressure, raised cholesterol, heavy drinking and lack of exercise. Regular health checks are important as they can detect issues such as high blood pressure and raised cholesterol early on, before they develop into something more serious.
Respiratory diseases are also often avoidable. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), one of the most common respiratory diseases, is almost solely caused by smoking. And liver disease, which is on the rise in the UK, is mostly the result of heavy drinking and obesity.
Cancer Research UK says an unhealthy lifestyle is the root cause of a third of all cancers. Smoking, drinking and unhealthy diets are linked to range of cancers, and it is not just with the obvious cases (such as smoking causing lung cancer), drinking has now linked to breast cancer. The charity also says many deaths could be avoided through early detection. GP’s in the UK have now been issued with a checklist of symptoms to ensure that more lives are saved by knowing when to refer patients for further investigation. And there is more that we can do, by taking note of any change in what is normal for us and making sure that we go to our GP with unusual symptoms and changes.
It may seem scary, but the good news is a few simple changes can dramatically decrease your risk of these diseases occurring. By far the most important is stopping smoking, but eating well, exercising regularly, being a healthy weight and avoiding heavy drinking are all key to living a long, healthy life. It is also important to have regular health checks so that any of the precursors to these diseases can be detected and changes can be made early on, before something more serious develops.