I came across a very interesting infographic published by the Cleveland Clinic about changes in the cause of U.S. deaths in 1900 compared to 2015 (see: Causes of U.S. Deaths Have Changed Greatly (Infographic)), In 1900, the top four causes of death were pneumonia and flu, tuberculosis, digestive diseases, and health disease. In 2015, the top four were heart disease, cancer, lung disease stroke. The infographic then goes on to state that none of the top four causes of death in 1900 were preventable at that time but all of the top four causes of death in 2015 are partly preventable. In 1900, there were no antibiotics and vaccines for pneumonia, flu, or infections. The cause of tuberculosis was not well understood and there was no BCG, a vaccine to prevent TB. There were no medical treatments for digestive diseases. There was also no understanding of the relationship between heart diseases and diet or lifestyle.
I have blogged frequently about the contribution of lifestyle to chronic diseases, which is now clearly understood (see: Seeking the Correct Definition for a "Lifestyle Disease"; Add Colonic Cancer to the List of "Lifestyle" Neoplasms; Disease Management Programs Provide More Cost Savings than Lifestyle Programs). The infographic makes the following points about the extent to which the four major causes of diseases today can be prevented: (1) about 1/3 of all heart disease is preventable through lifestyle changes; (2) about 1/5 of all cancers may be preventable/treatable through lifestyle changes and screening; (3) most lung diseases can be prevented by not smoking; and (4) about 1/3 of all stokes can be prevented through healthy lifestyles.These percentages are very illustrative of how we could change the health status of much of our population by spending a relatively minor amount of money on health education as opposed to drugs and surgery. I do not envision such changes as coming easily. However, we spend billions tempting people to eat unhealthy foods and beverages or use drugs to treat our ailments. Could we not ramp up our efforts to persuade people to lead healthier lives? One of the answer to this question involves enhanced patient engagement however that can be achieved (see: What does 'patient engagement' really mean?).
I want to focus very briefly on the changes which occur when one stops smoking (see: Improve Your Odds for a Long and Healthy Life). Below is a list of statements about the changes that occur when cigarette smoking ceases. What is fascinating about these statements is how quickly benefits accrue.
- A smoker's heart rate drops within 20 minutes after the last cigarette.
- Carbon monoxide levels in the blood drop to normal 12 hours after quitting.
- Within 2 weeks to 3 months after quitting, a smoker's heart attack risk begins to drop, and lung function begins to improve.
- One year of not smoking cuts the risk of heart disease in half,