Taipei--High blood sugar, smoking and high blood pressure are the top three risk factors for deaths among Taiwanese, with each one accounting for the deaths of over 10,000 people in Taiwan in 2009, a study has found.
The three were among 13 major risk factors assessed in a study conducted by the College of Public Health of National Taiwan University and the Health Promotion Administration (HPA), the results of which were published in the May edition of Population Health Metrics.
At a news conference held to discuss the study, NTU associate professor Lin Hsien-ho (???) said the Ministry of Health and Welfare publishes the top 10 causes of death in Taiwan every year to promote early diagnosis and treatment.
But prevention is more important than treatment, Lin said, meaning that understanding the risk factors that contribute to diseases is paramount in combating them.
According to Lin, his team first collected data on risk factor exposure from nationally representative health surveys, cause-specific mortality from the National Death Registry, and relative risks from epidemiological studies and meta-analyses.
The team then applied a risk assessment framework to estimate the role that 13 metabolic, lifestyle, infectious, and environmental risk factors played in causing deaths in 2009.
The analysis found that high blood sugar accounted for 14,900 deaths, more than any of the other 12 risk factors studied, followed by smoking, which caused 13,400 deaths, and high blood pressure, which led to 11,190 deaths.
Removing or reducing those risk factors could add a large number of years to people's lives, the study concluded.
Among other risk factors studied, exposure to PM2.5 ambient particulate pollution caused 8,600 deaths, dietary risks (high sodium intake and low intake of fruits and vegetables) caused 7,890 deaths, obesity caused 7,620 deaths, and physical inactivity caused 7,400 deaths.
The other factors considered were drinking (6,350 deaths), hepatitis B (6,300), hepatitis C (3,170), high blood lipids (2,070) and betel nut chewing (1,780).
In all, the 13 factors chosen by Lin's team accounted for roughly 90,000 deaths in 2009.
But Health and Welfare Ministry data on the causes of death in 2009 shows that about 143,000 people died in Taiwan that year.
Of those 143,000, roughly 13,000 died from accidents, suicide and old age, and another 17,000 died of unidentified causes, leaving about 113,000 that died of identifiable diseases, 23,000 more than were accounted for by the study's 13 risk factors.
So could there be other risk factors that are major causes of death not considered by the survey?
Lin said his study selected the 13 factors based on local data and major risk factors identified in Global Burden of Disease studies but noted that Global Burden of Disease studies have identified a total of 67 risk factors.
It was therefore quite likely, Lin said, that a mix of several other risk factors explained some of the deaths not accounted for by the 13 risk factors chosen.
But those other risk factors likely have a much smaller impact proportionally on mortality in Taiwan than the major risk factors identified in the study, Lin said.
Of the big three risk factors identified by the study, high blood sugar affects metabolism and is most often seen in people with diabetes.
In 2015, around 2.27 million in Taiwan had diabetes, and 9,500 people died of the disease that year, according to the Health Promotion Administration.
Smoking causes cancer and affects cardiovascular health, increasing the risk of strokes. An estimated 24,000 deaths a year in Taiwan are associated with smoking.
High blood pressure affects nearly 5 million people in Taiwan, according to estimates.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel