Poor lifestyle causes more harm than merely lowering the quality of life. Let’s take a look at how poor lifestyle choices contribute to some of the leading causes of death:

#1 Cancer

Cancer is counted among the leading causes of deaths globally, with 8.2 million people dying of cancer in 2012.

Cancers with the highest mortality are lung, stomach, liver, breast and colorectal cancers. Almost 30 per cent of all cancer deaths result from poor diet and other lifestyle behaviours like physical inactivity and use of tobacco and alcohol.

Tobacco use is the most common cause of cancer death, accounting for about 30 per cent of all cancer deaths worldwide and 70 per cent of all lung cancer deaths.

#2 Heart disease

According to WHO, about 17 million people die of cardiovascular disease every year, specifically heart attacks and strokes. A host of poor lifestyle choices can result in cardiovascular disease. These include:

  • Smoking – Tobacco use increases the risk of heart disease by two to three times.
  • Unhealthy diet – Foods rich in cholesterol and high in salt increase the risk of arteries blockage and high blood pressure. Over time, this develops into heart disease. High sugar foods can also cause heart disease through insulin resistance.
  • Lack of physical activity – It is important to increase the heart rate daily for about 30 minutes. A sedentary lifestyle coupled with poor eating choices increases the risk of heart disease.
  • Obesity – Obesity is an outcome of sedentary lifestyle that further increases the risk of heart disease.
  • Stress – Very common in today’s fast lifestyle, stress causes imbalance in the body and makes it prone to heart attack and heart disease.
  • Diabetes – Diabetes is itself a chronic disorder (discussed below) that increases the risk of heart disease.

#3 Diabetes

Diabetes, or the chronic condition in which the pancreas fails to produce adequate insulin, increasing the glucose concentration in blood, is a leading cause of death worldwide. It is estimated that the number of diabetic persons will rise from 366 million in 2011 to 552 million in 2030. More alarming is the fact that over 80 per cent of deaths due to diabetes occur in low to middle income countries.

Diabetes type 2 mainly results from poor lifestyle like physical inactivity, overweight or obesity, and poor diet. Diabetes further increases the risk of stroke and heart disease.

Studies show that over 50 per cent of people with diabetes die of cardiovascular disease. Diabetes is also a leading cause of kidney failure. Research suggests that the risk of dying is double in case of people with diabetes as compared to those without diabetes.

#4 Obesity

Overweight and obesity, the excessive fat accumulation that impairs health, is a leading risk factor of death. WHO states that around 3.4 million adults die each year from obesity and disorders associated with obesity. Obesity and overweight are the leading risk factors in over 44 percent diabetes conditions, 23 per cent of heart disease burdens and 7-41 per cent of certain cancers.

The basic cause of obesity and overweight is an imbalance in the calories consumed by the body and calories burned. Further, poor diets that lead to an increase in the intake of energy-dense (fat-rich) foods coupled with physical inactivity due to lifestyle add to the risk factors for obesity and overweight.

Obese and overweight people have above-normal BMI, which is a major risk factor for chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancers and musculoskeletal disorders like arthritis.

#5 Arthritis

Studies like those published in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases by a research team at Arthritis Research UK Epidemiology Center shows that poor lifestyle habits and their effects like smoking and obesity, and diabetes increase a person’s risk to developing rheumatoid arthritis. The disease is associated with a decreased life span and early death.


Image courtesy of [Stuart Miles] at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Chronic Diseases: The Leading Causes of Death and Disability in the United States,” CDC.gov, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/overview/

“Obesity and overweight,” WHO.int, World Health Organisation, https://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs311/en/

“One adult in ten will have diabetes by 2030,” IDF.org, International Diabetes Federation (IDF), https://www.idf.org/media-events/press-releases/2011/diabetes-atlas-5th-edition

Rheumatoid Arthritis Linked to Early Death,” WebMD.com, Salynn Boyles, October 15, 2002, https://www.webmd.com/rheumatoid-arthritis/news/20021015/rheumatoid-arthritis-linked-to-early-death

“What a Bad Lifestyle Does to Your Life Span,” WebMD.com, Katrina Woznicki, https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/news/20100426/what-a-bad-lifestyle-does-to-your-life-span

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