Using data from national health surveys and from the U.S. National Center the researchers estimated how many lives would be saved and deaths prevented if a risk factor were at the optimal level, creating what they called a comparative risk assessment. The optimal level for smoking, for instance, would be no smokers.
”We put these surveys of levels of these risk factors together with epidemiological studies that tell us how bad they are, and this led to estimates of the number of deaths that are caused by each risk factor,” Ezzati said.
Being overweight or being physically inactive each accounted for 1 in 10 deaths. The dietary risks associated with the highest risk of death were high salt intake, low omega-3 intake and high trans fat intake.
Dr. Ramachandran Vasan, chief of the section of medicine and epidemiology at Boston University School of Medicine and senior investigator for the Framingham Heart Study, said the researchers tried to quantify risk factors that included metabolic, dietary and lifestyle issues.
Their findings have ”a lot of public health importance,” he said. Vasan had no involvement with the study.
Ezzati agreed, saying the study results would show public health officials that ”efforts to reduce smoking and lower blood pressure seem to have run out of steam.”
Asked if the blood pressure risk factor was due to controlled or uncontrolled blood pressure, he said: ”Controlled is an arbitrary term. Many people [with high blood pressure] who are controlled [on medication] are still at risk, because it is still high.”
But Vasan said that, on an individual level, the study offers an important take-home point. ”It reinforces the idea that it‘s a good idea to stop smoking and to periodically visit your doctor to get your blood pressure and your cholesterol checked,” he said.
Response: The problem with taking medication to control blood pressure is that it treats the symptoms and not the cause – which means you have to stay on them till death.
Other studies have shown that those on high pressure medications have a greater risk of heart disease and premature death.
So what’s worse – high blood pressure or the treatment?
The best response to high blood pressure is a change in lifestyle to get your body back in balance.