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Global health: The Prevalence of Disease Risk Factors Like Excessive Blood Sugar and Hypertension Is Rising



A recent investigation According to a reliable source that was published in The Lancet, the number of persons with disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and a high body mass index (BMI), has significantly increased globally.

The most recent results from The Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study (GBD) 2021 provided fresh perspectives on health issues and their causes.

These include high body mass index (BMI), high systolic blood pressure (SBP), high fasting plasma glucose (FPG), high LDL cholesterol, and kidney dysfunction. All of these factors are linked to metabolism.

All of them show what scientists refer to as “the global scale consequences of an aging population and changing lifestyles.”

Poor health and early death

The study, conducted by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), found that between 2000 and 2021, the number of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) worldwide increased by 49%. These DALYs were attributed to risk factors related to metabolism. Specifically, the researchers found that poor health in individuals aged 15 to 49 years was increasingly linked to high BMI and high FPG, or high blood sugar, which raises the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Other metabolic risk factors, like high LDL cholesterol and SBP, were also among the top 10 risk factors for this age group.

Researchers found that having a high body mass index (BMI) and fasting plasma glucose (FPG), which raises the risk of type 2 diabetes, was increasingly linked to poor health in adults aged 15 to 49.

The top 10 metabolic risk factors for individuals in this age range also included elevated SBP and LDL cholesterol.

“Though metabolic in nature, developing these risk factors can often be influenced by various lifestyle factors, especially among younger generations,” said Dr. Michael Brauer, an affiliate professor at IHME, in a statement. “They also are indicative of an aging population that is more likely to develop these conditions with time.”

“Targeting the reduction of preventable, non-communicable diseases through modifiable risk factors presents an enormous opportunity to pre-emptively alter the trajectory of global health through policy and education,” Brauer added.

According to the study authors, this analysis provides thorough estimates of the disease burden of 88 risk factors and the health outcomes that are related with them for individuals in 204 nations and territories between 1990 and 2021.

The new burden of proof technique developed by IHME, which “rigorously evaluates the evidence linking risk factors, diseases, and injuries, and offers an additional lens through which to prioritize actions and highlight areas in need of further research,” was reportedly used into the study for the first time.

With significant heterogeneity across ages, sexes, and locales, smoking, low birthweight, and short gestation were among the leading causes of DALYs in 2021. Particulate matter air pollution was another major factor.

Advancements in a few disease risk variables

The researchers did note that significant progress was made in lowering the global illness burden between 2000 and 2021, which they attributed to risk factors such as contaminated water, poor sanitation, the health of mothers and children, and air pollution in homes from solid fuel cooking.

Dr. Emmanuela Gakidou, a professor of health metrics sciences at IHME, stated in a statement that “risk factors that currently lead to ill health, such as obesity and other components of metabolic syndrome, exposure to ambient particulate matter air pollution, and tobacco use, must be addressed via a combination of global health policy efforts and exposure reduction to mitigate health risks and improve population health.”

“There is an urgent need for interventions focused on obesity and metabolic syndromes with increased exposure to risk factors such as high blood sugar, high blood pressure, low physical activity, and diet high in sugar-sweetened beverages,” stated Dr. Greg Roth, who is also the director of the cardiovascular health metrics program and an adjunct associate professor of health metrics sciences at IHME.

The researchers added that due of factors including rising rates of obesity and addiction as well as climate change, future trends might differ significantly from historical ones.

Lead research scientist at IHME Dr. Liane Ong added, “But, at the same time, there are tremendous opportunities to alter the trajectory of health in the next generation.”

The researchers reported that reductions in risk exposure, along with proportionately smaller infant and youth populations, were primarily responsible for declines in the disease burden for risk factors associated to maternal and child health as well as hazardous water, sanitation, and handwashing.

The authors concluded that the three decades of gains in public health and humanitarian health activities appear to have been successful, as seen by the high rates of drop in risk variables in areas with lower sociodemographic index rankings (income, fertility, and education).

Significant reductions were also observed in the worldwide illness burden linked to risk factors for maternal and child malnutrition, namely stunted child growth. Between 2000 and 2021, age-standardized attributable DALY rates dropped by 71%. During the same era, there was a 33% decrease in the rates of low birthweight and short gestation.

Geographic regions where disease risk is an issue

The study’s authors reported that although there had been reductions on a worldwide scale, the super-regions of sub-Saharan Africa, as well as parts of North Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, and Oceania, continued to have high disease burdens linked to risk factors for maternal and child malnutrition.

The disease burden associated with unsanitary conditions, hazardous water sources, and lack of access to handwashing facilities (all top-25 risks) decreased, with corresponding declines in attributable age-standardized DALY rates of 66%, 69%, and 65%.

Nonetheless, despite a decrease in smoking exposure, the burden of smoking-related deaths (age-standardized risk-attributable DALYs) increased somewhat as the population became older.

The illness burden (age-standardized risk-attributable DALYs) from ambient particle air pollution, high BMI, high FPG, and high SBP, which grew significantly as people’s exposure increased and populations aged, could explain that, according to the researchers.

How might illness risk factors be reduced?

Medical News Today was informed by Dr. Cheng-Han Chen, an interventional cardiologist and the medical director of MemorialCare Saddleback Medical Center’s Structural Heart Program in California, that the GBD emphasizes persistent lifestyle choices that worsen metabolic markers, which will probably result in worse clinical outcomes.

“While metabolic syndrome is a condition we are all too familiar with in the United States, it is concerning to see that lifestyle changes spreading throughout the world are now leading to wider prevalence of metabolic syndrome in areas less accustomed to this condition,” said Chen, who wasn’t involved in the research.

Chen went on to say that addressing a large number of the modifiable metabolic risk variables is “imperative” that we concentrate global health resources on.

“Public health campaigns can promote the importance of such interventions as healthier eating and regular exercise,” he said. “If the trendline is not changed, we will be looking at a worsening global burden of cardiovascular and other metabolic diseases in the coming years.”

The results aren’t shocking, according to Dr. Mir Ali, a bariatric surgeon and the medical director of the MemorialCare Surgical Weight Loss Center at Orange Coast Medical Center in California, who spoke with Medical News Today.

“There have been other studies that have shown a global increase in obesity and the secondary health effects associated with obesity,” said Ali, who wasn’t involved in the research. “Why this is happening is multifactorial and a difficult problem to solve.”

According to Ali, people have become more sedentary overall as a result of a slow transition from a civilization centered mostly on farming and agriculture to one that is more industrialized. Furthermore, there is less and less of a need to leave the house as technology advances.

He also mentioned that highly processed, less healthful meals are more easily and affordably accessible.

“Especially in the U.S., there is little education about healthy eating and exercise from an early age,” Ali said. In order to increase the likelihood that children will make healthier food choices and engage in regular exercise as they get older, it is important to start early with nutrition and exercise education.

Another issue that needs to be addressed, according to Ali, is finding ways to lower the cost of whole meals and foods with minimal processing.

“It will probably take many years to see any significant change in a positive direction because these are difficult issues to address,” Ali stated.


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