A Dozen Ways NOT to Live

The top 12 preventable causes of death include lifestyle and dietary risk factors, and account for millions of deaths in the U.S. each year.

Many causes of death are not preventable, at least not through anything that we currently know how to change. But there are a number of factors in premature death that are completely within our control.

"The Preventable Causes of Death in the United States: Comparative Risk Assessment of Dietary, Lifestyle, and Metabolic Risk Factors" analyzed data from deaths that occurred in 2005. The report was published by the Public Library of Science.

The authors of the study grouped the premature death factors into three categories. Lifestyle risk factors included life choices that can be modified, such as tobacco smoking, physical inactivity, and excessive alcohol use. Dietary factors included high salt intake and low intake of fruits, vegetables and omega-fatty acids. The remainder were categorized as metabolic, and are factors that can be changed or reversed.

Obesity and a lack of physical activity combined to claim responsibility for the deaths of one of every ten adults. As our society is becoming more inactive as a whole, with less of a concentration on physical activity and more of a focus on hefty, fast meals, Americans have become more overweight.

Many of the other factors on the list simply require more attention to the specifics of our diet. As the report noted, "With the help of a medical professional, or even health-related websites and other internet information, diets can be adjusted to increase one's overall health. Things like cholesterol and blood glucose levels can easily be tested by a doctor and addressed with some relatively minor dietary changes or vitamins or supplements."

Here are the top 12 preventable causes of death, with the range of deaths they account for each year:

1. Tobacco smoking (436,000 to 500,000)
2. High blood pressure (372,000 to 414,000),
3. Obesity (188,000 to 237,000)
4. Physical inactivity (164,000 to 222,000)
5. High blood glucose (163,000 and 217,0000
6. High LDL cholesterol (94,000 to 124,000)
7. High dietary salt (97,000 to 107,000)
8. Low dietary omega-fatty acids (72,000-96,000)
9. High dietary trans fatty acids (63,000-97,000)
10. Alcohol use (51,000-69,000)
11. Low intake of fruits and vegetables (44,000-74,000)
12. Low dietary polyunsaturated fats (11,000-20,000)

There is a Pathway to Healing for each of us, and addressing these 12 factors is a basic, important place to start.