Hypertension is the leading cause of death

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Study identifies high blood pressure, alcohol and tobacco as the leading causes of death

While infectious diseases and hunger as causes of death are declining worldwide, deaths from non-communicable diseases such as high blood pressure or cancer have increased significantly, according to one of the key messages of the "Global Burden of Disease Study 2010" published in the specialist magazine "The Lancet".

According to the results of the current study, tobacco and alcohol consumption have also increased significantly as causes of death worldwide. The number one cause of death worldwide is in the "Global Burden of Disease Study 2010" high blood pressure with more than nine million sufferers. This is followed by smoking with more than six million fatalities and alcohol consumption with around five million fatalities. According to the latest statistics, malnutrition and hunger among children, however, is clearly declining worldwide as the cause of death. At the regional level, however, hunger is still one of the main causes of death in some African countries, for example.

Study shows development of causes of death and diseases
"The Global Burden of Disease Study 2010 (GBD 2010) is the largest systematic effort ever made to describe the global distribution and causes of a variety of serious illnesses, injuries and health risk factors, ”reports The Lancet. Almost 500 scientists from 300 institutions in 50 nations participated in the study. They had access to data from 187 countries and were supported by the World Health Organization (WHO), among others. Data was first collected in the 1990 GBD. Since then "the number of diseases, injuries and risk factors recorded has increased over the past 20 years, but the 2010 GBD follows the basic principles of the 1990 GBD", report Christopher Murray from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington (Seattle, USA) and colleagues in one of the numerous articles currently published in the specialist journal "The Lancet" for the "Global Burden of Disease Study 2010". In the GBD 2010, the scientists see an important contribution to the efficient design of global health systems, because it would show significant developments in the causes of death and illnesses, so that countermeasures can be taken.

Obesity with increasing proportion of deaths
Compared to the last "Global Burden of Disease Study" from 2000, some major changes can be observed in the current study. For example, obesity caused significantly more deaths in 2010 than 20 years ago. In 1990, the too high body mass index was the 10th largest cause of death worldwide, and overweight is now in sixth place with more than three million deaths. The largest increase in obesity-related deaths was recorded by the researchers in Australia and Central and South America. Overall, the increase in non-communicable causes of death suggests that the unhealthy lifestyle with little exercise, a high-fat and sugar-rich diet and a relatively high consumption of alcohol and tobacco will continue to become significantly more important in the death statistics in the future.

Life expectancy increased by more than ten years
The "Global Burden of Disease Study 2010" also reveals a very positive development in life expectancy worldwide. “Since 1970, men and women worldwide have gained a little more than ten years in life expectancy,” report the authors of the study. However, they limit that people also "spend more years with injuries and illnesses". On average, men live to be 67.5 years old today, women to 73.3 years. The average life expectancy in 2010 was highest for Japanese women at 85.9 years and Icelandic men at 80 years. In Germany, women live on average 82.8 years and men 77.5 years. Although life expectancy has also improved significantly in the poorer countries, there has been no adjustment of life expectancy in the rich and poor nations, but the differences manifested themselves with an average difference of 40 years.

Decline in fatal infectious diseases
According to the GBD's results, a total of 52.8 million deaths were recorded worldwide in 2010. The proportion of infectious diseases declined to a particularly large extent. For example, only 1.4 million people died of diarrhea, instead of the 2.5 million that were still to be seen in 1990, the study authors report. The fatal infections of the lower respiratory tract were 3.4 million 2.8 million decreased, fatal neonatal diseases (diseases in newborns) from 3.1 million to 2.2 million and measles deaths from around 630,000 to 130,000. However, there have been exceptions, such as HIV deaths, which have increased from 300,000 to 1.5 million in 2010 since 1990. Malaria mortality has "increased an estimated 19.9 percent since 1990 to 1,170,000 deaths in 2010," the researchers write.

Deaths from non-communicable diseases increased
While communicable diseases have decreased significantly overall, deaths from non-communicable diseases have increased by almost eight million since 1990. In addition to the rise in cancer deaths, heart diseases (e.g. coronary heart disease), strokes and diabetes mellitus also played a special role here. Around 1.3 million deaths were caused by diabetes in 2010, twice as many as in 1990, and study authors saw a slight increase in fatalities from accidents and injuries, largely due to the increased number of fatal road accidents. As one of the particularly positive developments, the scientists highlighted the decrease in deaths among children under the age of five. In a global comparison, these have declined by 60 percent since 1970. Certainly also a success of the increased international efforts to reduce child mortality. (fp)

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