The top 5 causes of premature death

The top 5 causes of premature death
The top 5 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.

Smoking causes almost all lung cancer. Poor diet has been linked to bowel cancer, pancreatic cancer and oesophageal cancer. And heavy drinking has been implicated in the development of breast cancer.

While healthy lifestyle changes can prevent many cases of cancer, screening aims to drive down cancer cases even further.

National programmes for breast cancer screening, cervical screening and bowel cancer screening help identify cancer at an early stage when it’s more treatable.

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

Respiratory disease covers a variety of conditions ranging from asthma to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) one of the most common causes of death.

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.

What are the health benefits of walking?

So what are the health benefits of walking?

According to this fascinating infographic it can help with diabetes, dementia , arthritis, heart disease and depression.

I try to walk for a couple of hours a day so makes me happy!

Health Benefits of Walking


Millions worried they’ll be left helpless in old age – find out more about health in an aging society

Health in an aging population
Health in an aging population
Nearly three quarters of British adults think they will have care needs in older age, however a fifth don’t know who will look after them if they do.

That’s according to new research released today which saw almost half say they don’t expect their family to look after them if they have care needs when they age.

The research reveals that under a quarter (24%) of the population feel older people are valued by society, illustrating the need to change perceptions of ageing and ensure older people are appreciated and treated as individuals.

The survey by Bupa of more than 2,000 people reveals that old age is a regular consideration, with 24% of respondents thinking about what life will be like in old age a few times a week – 17% think about it every day.

When it comes to paying for their care 40% believe they would have to fund care from their own savings, while only around a quarter say they think their care would be funded by the government, and almost 30% have no idea.

To find out more we have interviewed Professor Graham Stokes a leading dementia specialist.

Patient Talk – Can you tell us a bit more about the survey?

PROF STOKES Yes, the survey was looking at how people might consider life when their aged but also what they feel about their care needs and who might help them receive care when they’re in their later years.

Patient Talk What kind of method was used?

PROF STOKES Yes, we interviewed over 2000 people at the beginning of this year and inquired about their attitudes to aging and what they feel might happen when they are aged.

Patient Talk What were the main results?

PROF STOKES Well I think what leaps off the page, is that about three-quarters believe that they will have care needs when they’re in their old age. And they only think about maybe half will have their care needs met by their families, so that’s the negative side. But what also I think can be quite bleak is that less than a quarter feel that they will be valued by society, so that can be quite dispiriting.

Patient Talk How valid are the concerns expressed?

PROF STOKES I think they’re true. I think there’s a strong dose of realism in there. I think the first thing we have to say is that there’s still a misconception about old age. It’s often felt you’re 65, you retire, you get your pension… Well we all know that the retirement age is going to be more and more flexible and there will be people working into their late 60’s as a matter of norm, and probably within a generation or two, 65 as the starting point of old age will be completely meaningless. Were actually talking about people who are contemplating their future when they’re 75+, 80+, because on average now people should expect to live to around 80, and if you’re a woman, probably live well into your 80’s.

Patient Talk What options are actually open to older people in terms of care?

PROF STOKES I think what’s happening is that people are healthier for longer. They are surprising themselves. And so if you talk to people who are going through their early, mid-70s they will say they don’t feel old. But what does happen is that when you approach 80, I won’t say the body goes off the cliff, but you do see an acceleration of chronic diseases, all the common chronic diseases we associate with old age. It’s problems with blood pressure, its heart disease, its diabetes, its Parkinson’s, osteoporosis and for people aged over 55, dementia is their biggest worry. It can surprise people because they’ll think what about cancer, but all the research shows in the UK once you pass 55 dementia is the greatest concern and as a result, given you have that on the horizon, the question then is what do I do? And in years gone by, you would look to your family and I think the reality is that people don’t do that anymore. I think one, because they don’t wish to be a burden. Aged people aren’t strange creatures different from the rest of us, just an aged version of a younger person, and their personalities don’t change, their attitudes rarely change and no one wants to be seen as a burden whether it be young or old. There is this fear of being a burden. I think there is a greater appreciation that realistically people realise they may have many illnesses and ailments simultaneously, and that could just be excessive for any family to care for so I think that’s a real worry. But then the whole nature of family life has changed. We have smaller families so responsibility would fall on one or two children. We’re more mobile than ever before. We’re not all living around the corner. And so when we say they will be cared for by their family, it will probably be a daughter that lives about 100 miles away and so how will that work? People logically start to think about the NHS. Well the national health service pulled out of caring for aged people 25 years ago and so now it’s about care homes, and many people still have very old fashioned ideas about care homes, they don’t see them as communities, they don’t see them as communities that put the person first. No, it’s about your individuality, guiding not only your care but your quality of life so there’s a lot of old fashioned ideas around but a proportion of people will end up living in a care home.

Patient Talk How might they be funded?

PROF STOKES Well I still think there’s a lot of misunderstanding about caring for aged people. I think people believe that if you have got care needs that mean you can’t live by yourself or you can’t be looked after by your family, it’s like the NHS, the service is free, the point of delivery. Which isn’t the case, as I’ve said, long gone are the days when the NHS gave you living space in the hospitals and thank goodness that is so. In bygone years, whilst your care would be free, it would be in an open plan ward and in essence what your home would be is nothing more than the bed locker in the cubicle curtain, that would be it. Now people live in care settings, in care homes and you’ll be means tested. We define it not as chronic health care, but social care and soon as its defined as social care, your needs will be means tested against your income, your savings and the equity in your house.

Patient Talk Would it be true to say older people are less valued?

PROF STOKES I don’t think that is wrong. I think it’s the case that it’s a problem that goes back in time, that once you’re are no longer seen as being economically productive, not being able to contribute to your family, then you’re seen as more of a burden, and as you seem more of a burden, your devalued. And so as aged people start to talk, and it’s only about a quarter that feel aged people are valued by society and I think that’s very true and that is a shame because that neglects what people who are aged have contributed over decades and they still have so much more to contribute.

Patient Talk Have the baby boomers affected the perceptions of older people?

PROF STOKES I think we’re on the cusp if not a revolution, a transformation, in how we see aged people. In the UK the first baby boomer will reach 75 in 2021. If you wanted a guide as to when we might start talking about late middle age moving into early old age it’s around 75 because that’s when we start to see the rise in chronic diseases and disabilities. And from 2021 onwards, I think we’ll see a major change in how aged people wish to receive their services. For me it’s humbling, working with aged people today that they’re so grateful. They’re so grateful for not very much, they’re so stoical. That is not a baby boomer. The baby boomers are more self-centred, they’re more like consumers, the want quality, they want it now, the services shaped around them. There will be a far more demanding group of aging people, which I think quite rightly, so they’re not going to accept services as they are today, when they need their services when we go through the 2020’s.

Patient Talk What are the main medical conditions faced by older people?

PROF STOKES Yah, everybody dreads cancer, everybody dreads dementia. Most accurately, these are not the preserve, more commonly seen in old age. So the average age to be diagnosed with Alzheimer disease, the most common cause of dementia, is the late 70’s. So you have these major pathologies like Alzheimer’s disease, like the cancers, but then you have the host of chronic diseases such as diabetes, osteoporosis, unstable blood pressure, chronic heart diseases, Parkinson’s disease, breathing difficulties and they will limit the quality of your life. And I think when you talk to many middle age people about their health concerns, they’re not expecting the trauma and the tragedy, what they’re fearing is just a diminishing life quality as they lose their strength, their stamina, their speed because they’re becoming more frail.

Are you doing enough to look after your heart?

Are you doing enough to look after your heart?
Are you doing enough to look after your heart?

Heart-related problems are the UK’s biggest killer. Coronary heart disease causes 73,000 deaths annually, while over 30,000 people suffer from a sudden cardiac arrest per year.

These statistics highlight just how important it is to look after your heart. Every day, your heart works hard for you, beating 100,000 times and pumping 23,000 litres of blood around your body – but are you returning the favour?

To ensure you’re taking all the right steps to look after your heart health, we’ve shared some of our easy tips to help get your started.

Your diet

The type of food you eat is so important to your heart. A healthy and balanced diet will help keep your weight, blood pressure and cholesterol under control. It can also reduce the risk of diabetes and help cut down on the risk of certain cancers.

You should try and eat a diet which contains the following:

  • Five portions of fruit and vegetables
  • Starchy foods such as bread, potatoes, pasta and rice
  • Non-dairy sources of protein such as meat, fish, eggs and beans
  • Some milk and dairy foods
  • A small amount of fat and sugar

You should attempt to reduce your total saturated fat intake and only have foods like butter, hard cheese, fatty meat, biscuits and cakes in moderation. You should also limit your sugar intake, as foods that contain lots of sugar also contain calories which can lead to weight gain.

When people are looking to lose weight, they often try faddy crash diets. These may help you lose weight quickly, but they are more often than not unsustainable and can limit your body from getting the nutrients it requires. Stick to a balanced diet, and in time you will see better results that will be long lasting.

How active are you?

Staying fit and active is key to looking after your heart. Not only is it proven to reduce heart disease and improve how your heart works, but regular activity can also help lower your blood pressure, help with weight management and maintain your cholesterol levels.

It can be a challenge to start exercising if you don’t already enjoy it, but you don’t have to start running marathons straight away. Initially, you should aim to do at least 10 minutes of activity per day. This means activity that makes you feel warm and slightly out of breath, so anything from jogging and cycling, to climbing stairs or brisk walks.


If you are a smoker, giving up cigarettes is so important when looking after your heart. Smokers are more than twice as likely to have a heart attack compared to those who have never smoked, and even those breathing in secondhand smoke can develop heart problems.

The ingredients in cigarettes can damage the lining of your arteries, increase your blood pressure and heart rate, reduce the amount of oxygen your blood can carry to your heart, and even increase the development of blood clots.

If you stop smoking, after a year of being smoke free your chances of a heart attack falls to about half of that of a smoker. Even though it can be hard, it’s never too late to stop smoking, and your body will quickly thank you for it.

Drinking alcohol

Drinking more than the recommended alcohol allowance can have a really damaging effect on your heart, as well as other parts of your body.

Drinking more than 14 units per week can lead to increased blood pressure, weight gain and higher risk of heart disease. Cutting back on the alcohol is necessary to ensuring your heart’s strength.

There are so many healthy, delicious recipes out there, as well as fun ways to keep active, so looking after your heart doesn’t need to be a chore. If you try to eat a balanced and healthy diet, keep active, avoid smoking and drink within the recommended alcohol limits, you will have the best chance of keeping your heart healthy.

Rosa Mitchell is a guest blogger from defibshop, the UK’s leading independent defibrillator supplier. Check out their Visual Guide to a Healthy Heart for more information on heart health.

Be Aware of Early Warning Signs of a Stroke


Have you or a loved one ever had a stroke? It can be a frightening thing to experience. Strokes are the leading cause of death and the risk of permanent disability for many in the United States. When it comes to your health and well-being, it is important to be aware of signs of a potential danger. There are ways to prevent a negative outcome and even death. Being aware of the factors that lead to a stroke as well as preventative measures is very important to keep in mind.

The Side Effects & Risks

Not only are strokes the leading cause of death for thousands of patients each year, they can also lead to permanent brain damage. The major cause of strokes is clogging of an artery in the brain, low blood pressure, and blood clots. The risk factors include cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, alcohol abuse, and heart disease. Unhealthy habits and even stress can affect the immune system leaving room for sickness and disease.

It is important to be aware of the signs of a stroke so that you can be prepared to take immediate action if needed. As a patient, you have the right to be informed and have a level of control over your health to prevent a stroke that can have potential permanent adverse effects on your health and future, especially in the case of a delayed medical diagnoses. Seeking legal advice along with medical assistance can prove to be beneficial and even preventative.

Physical Signs of a Stroke

The following are early warning signs of a stroke:

Numbness of the face or arm. The loss of voluntary movement or sensations is a sure sign of a stroke. Usually these are followed by heart palpitations. It is important to be aware of these signs in order to take immediate action.

Confusion. If a person finds themselves unable to process thoughts or speak coherently this could be a sign of a serious problem. It can be accompanied by a slurring of words and even foaming at the mouth. Make sure to ask them questions to see if they respond back to you. If they are unable to respond clearly or coherently it is a clear sign that the person is in need of immediate help.

Blurred vision. An inability to see clearly or even losing focus in one eye can be a sign of an issue. If the person complains of vision impairment, it can be a sure sign that they are in danger of experiencing a potentially life-altering stroke.

Trouble with walking or balance. If a person seems off balance or suddenly loses their step, it could be a signs of an impending stroke. If you notice irregularity in your movement it is important to seek the advice of a physician. Don’t wait to seek a medical checkup.

Be well-informed about your medical condition and ask your physician key questions about your health. One can never go wrong with preventative measures that add to their quality of life and prevent potential life-threatening disease. Often heart conditions will lead patients to make life-changing decisions like changing their eating habits, exercising or walking regularly, and cutting healthy habits from their lives.

It is important to be an active participant in your health and well-being. Take control of your health! Be well informed.