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Medical Negligence

Blog: Preventing the top 5 causes of premature death

Written by Trevor Ward, Partner & Birth Injury Team Leader


November 3, 2022

By Priscilla Marfoa, litigation executive in Fletchers Medical Negligence Department

Preventing the top 5 causes of premature death

The Government report Living well for longer[1] has named cancer, heart disease, lung disease, stroke and liver disease as the top 5 most common killers.

On average there are more than 150,000 deaths a year among under 75s in England and the Department of Health has estimated that two thirds of them are entirely preventable.


Cancer Research UK has specified that 1 in 3 people will have cancer in their lifetime. There are more than 200 cancers. They also mention that an unhealthy lifestyle is the root cause of approximately a third of cancers.

Smoking has a direct link with lung cancer and failing to wean from this could cause you to develop lung cancer, throat cancer and mouth cancer. Having a poor diet can result in bowel cancer, pancreatic cancer and oesophageal cancer.

Though a healthy lifestyle can prevent you from developing cancer, there are National Health programmes available such as breast screening, cervical cancer screening and bowel cancer screening to detect potential cancers at an earlier stage and treatment for this will be more effective.

Heart disease

Studies have shown that premature deaths from heart disease are entirely avoidable.

The key risk factors are:

  • Smoking
  • Overweight/obese
  • High blood pressure and/or high cholesterol
  • Heavy alcohol consumption
  • Lack of physical activity

There are various checks available under the NHS i.e. NHS Health check which you can request from your GP, which is a free 5 yearly MOT check for things like high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

There are different services available under the NHS that can assist you with losing weight, such as the NHS approved 12 week weight loss plan which can be downloaded from https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-weight/start-the-nhs-weight-loss-plan/.


According to the Stroke Association 15,000 people have a stroke every year and 10,000 of these are avoidable if the sufferers were aware of symptoms and sought medical attention at an early stage.

To find out the symptoms of stroke please visit the following website for more information: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stroke/.

The British Heart Foundation state that 1 in 3 people in England have high blood pressure which is the main cause of stroke and that nearly 50% of them are unfortunately not receiving treatment for the condition.

There are a lot of ways to reduce your blood pressure e.g reducing salt intake and having a balanced diet.

Lung disease

In the UK, the most common respiratory disease is asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). COPD is preventable and predominately caused by smoking. There are a lot of services available under the NHS to assist you to quit smoking. You can visit the NHS website for more information or contact your GP for more information on the best way to wean yourself from smoking.  

Liver disease

Liver disease is known as the silent killer as in the majority of cases many people are unaware that there is something wrong with their liver until they develop liver failure when it is essentially too late.

The main causes of liver disease are

  • Heavy alcohol consumption
  • Hepatitis (inflammation of the liver)
  • Obesity

Men and women who drink regularly should consume no more than 14 units a week – equivalent to six pints of beer or seven glasses of wine.

There are a lot of services available that will assist in taking control of your drinking. You can book an appointment with your GP in order for you to be referred to one of the services available under the NHS that can support you with your alcohol intake.

With regards to weight you can check your body mass index (BMI) to find out whether you are a healthy weight rangeor whether you need to lose weight. You can use the NHS BMI calculator on https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-weight/bmi-calculator/.

For more information on looking after your liver or symptoms to watch out for visit the British Liver Trust website https://www.britishlivertrust.org.uk/.

[1]https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/307703/LW4L.pdf Assessed on 28/05/2019