NHS Choices - The top five causes of premature death
Thousands of people in England could avoid an early death from one of the five most common killers:
- heart disease
- lung disease
- liver disease
A child born today should expect to live a longer, healthier life than ever before. Yet, a Government report, Living Well for Longer (PDF, 1.6Mb), blames the top five killers for more than 150,000 deaths a year among under-75s in England alone and the Department of Health estimates two-thirds of them are entirely avoidable.
This chart shows the premature death toll by illness. Heart disease and stroke are together referred to as cardiovascular disease.
Reduce your risk of cancer
More than one in three people will develop some form of cancer during their lifetime. Although there are more than 200 different types of cancer, lung, breast, prostate and bowel cancer account for more than half of cases.
According to Cancer Research UK, an unhealthy lifestyle is the root cause of about a third of all cancers.
While healthy lifestyle changes can prevent many cases of cancer, screening aims to drive down cancer cases even further.
- make sure you know the key symptoms of the main cancers
- take up the offer of cancer screening. Find out more about the NHS screening programmes for breast cancer, cervical cancer and bowel cancer
- lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of cancer
Prevent heart disease
Experts say most cases of premature death from heart disease are completely preventable.
Smoking, being overweight, having high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol, heavy drinking and physical inactivity are all key risk factors.
- If you're over 40, ask your GP about the NHS Health Check, a free five-yearly mid-life MOT to look for things like high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
- Exercise reduces your risk of heart attack by 30%. Try to do more exercise, especially aerobic exercise like walking, swimming and cycling. Find out how you can benefit from being more physically active, and try this 12-week exercise plan for beginners combining running and strength and flexibility workouts.
- Carrying extra weight puts a strain on your heart. For help losing weight sign up to Change4Life's healthy eating smart swaps campaigns and the NHS-approved 12-week weight loss plan.
Reduce your risk of stroke
Stroke is the third leading cause of death in England each year and the leading cause of disability.
More than 150,000 people have a stroke every year in the UK but, according to The Stroke Association, up to 10,000 of these could be prevented if more people were aware of the symptoms and sought out emergency treatment.
High blood pressure is the main cause of stroke. Almost one in three people in England have high blood pressure and nearly half of them aren't receiving any treatment for the condition, says the British Heart Foundation.
- watch out for the symptoms of stroke
- a good way to reduce high blood pressure is to reduce your salt intake. Find out how to cut down on salt and read articles on how to have a healthy diet
Reduce your risk of lung disease
COPD is almost completely avoidable. Most cases (around 85%) are caused by smoking. The other 15% of cases are triggered by exposure to fumes, chemicals and dusts at work or, very occasionally, because of a rare genetic tendency to develop COPD called alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency.
- find out how the NHS can help you to stop smoking including how stop smoking advisers can help you quit and the benefits of stop smoking treatments
- download this free NHS Smokefree app for daily tips and support
- read how to stop smoking in pregnancy
Reduce your risk of liver disease
Liver disease is on the increase in England with a 20% increase in cases over the last decade. The disease develops silently and many people have no idea there's anything wrong until they develop liver failure and it's too late.
The three main causes of liver disease are heavy drinking, obesity and viral hepatitis (inflammation of the liver).
- More than a third of men and over a quarter of women regularly exceed the recommended level of alcohol intake. Find out how to cut down.
- Get Change4Life tips on how to take control of your drinking.
- Use our BMI calculator to find out if you are a healthy weight and read articles on how to lose weight including the NHS-approved 12-week weight loss plan.
- Have a hepatitis B vaccination if you're at risk of infection.
The British Liver Trust has more information on looking after your liver.