Yeah, I'm smoking a cigarette. You got a problem with that?

Over the past decade, scientists and public health officials have seen an interesting shift in the most deadly diseases and health risks in society. The risks associated with starvation and disease in children around the world, once thought of as the world’s greatest public health crisis, are now being replaced with the risks that lead to deadly diseases in adults, and most of those risks occur in affluent western society. While starvation is still an important issue in areas like Africa, nearly five times as many deaths were caused by obesity-related risk factors than by malnutrition. The most lethal public health issues today are nothing new, but the severity and widespread impact of them might be surprising. These issues are the biggest killers around.

1. High Blood Pressure

Of all the diseases obesity can cause, high blood pressure is by far the deadliest, killing around 10 million people a year. Of course, you don’t have to be obese to suffer from high blood pressure. It affects many adults of different ages and walks of life, and it’s a risk factor for more than just heart disease. Your blood pressure can cause irreparable damage to your heart, brain, and kidneys, leading to heart attacks and strokes as well as kidney failure. The list of non-fatal conditions that high blood pressure can cause is also very long. Scientists believe that the reason it has shot to number one in the lethal health issues arena is because of how far-reaching the effects of hypertension really are, as well as the increasing number of people dealing with stress and a sedentary lifestyle. It’s important for adults with high blood pressure to make managing it a priority.

2. Smoking

You have probably heard that smoking has gone significantly down in the past decade, and it’s true. Less than 20 percent of the population are smokers, and yet smoking causes 20 percent of deaths in the United States every year. That staggering statistic is the reason it remains consistently in the top public health issues. Cigarettes are simply linked to an incredibly wide variety of deadly diseases, from heart attack and stroke to at least 12 different kinds of cancer. Over 90 percent of lung cancer cases are caused by smoking, and it also has long-term effects on your bones and arteries. Although fewer people than ever are becoming smokers, it remains very difficult for those already hooked on nicotine to quit smoking for good.

3. Alcohol

Alcohol abuse is a leading health problem all over the world, not just in the United States. While most people are aware of the damage they can do to their liver, they remain unaware of the many other health problems associated with heavy drinking. Alcohol can cause nerve damage, high blood pressure, and certain kinds of cancer, among other issues. But the most important factor in how deadly alcohol can be is the risk of drunk driving. In the U.S. alone, drunk drivers are responsible for 1 out of every 3 car accident deaths. And since roughly 100 people die in car crashes every day, it’s easy to see why alcohol abuse is such a huge problem.

There are countless public health risks that influence the lives of people in many different countries, and staying healthy can mean something different for everyone. A snapshot of what’s affecting people is a snapshot of the state of the world, the food people eat, the cars they drive, and the choices they make. It’s up to public health officials to educate people so they can take the steps they need to take care of themselves in the future.

Author Tracy Rentz writes about community health and wellbeing. Interested in public health? You may want to consider a degree in the field, such as the one offered by University of Southern California.

University of Southern CaliforniaWikipedia: The University of Southern California (known as USC or SC) is a private, not-for-profit, nonsectarian, research university founded in 1880 with its main campus in Los Angeles, California.