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Four Risk Factors Linked to Life Expectancy Disparities

Smoking, hypertension, elevated blood glucose, and obesity shorten lives

THURSDAY, March 25 (HealthDay News) -- Four preventable risk factors -- smoking, high blood pressure, elevated blood glucose, and overweight and obesity -- account for a significant proportion of the nation's disparities in life expectancy, according to a study published March 23 in PLoS Medicine.

Goodarz Danaei, M.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues analyzed 2005 data from the National Center for Health Statistics, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, performing an extensive review of epidemiologic studies to estimate the effects of the risk factors on eight subgroups of the U.S. population, called the "Eight Americas."

Overall, the researchers estimated that the risk factors reduced life expectancy at birth in 2005 by 4.9 years in men and 4.1 years in women. They found that the life expectancy effects of the risk factors were smallest in Asians (4.1 years for men and 3.6 years for women) and largest in Southern rural African-Americans (6.7 years for men and 5.7 years for women).

"These disparity effects influence young and middle-aged adults, as well as older adults, with the largest effects on cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some cancers," the authors conclude.

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