Daniel Akst writes:
Too many of us appear to be bent on slow-motion suicide. Consider smoking; if we could get every American to stop, we'd save 467,000 lives annually. Solving high blood pressure (much of it arising from unhealthy lifestyles) would save 395,000. And if we could get everyone to slim down to an appropriate body weight, we'd save 216,000 lives.
You can't aggregate all the lives that would be saved from the 12 lifestyle factors covered by the study because of some serious overlap; obesity, for instance, causes a lot of hypertension. But Dr. Majid Ezzati, a Harvard School of Public Health professor who co-authored the report, estimates that if you net out the double-counting, somewhat more than a million people die annually from the 12 behavioral risk factors, which include the obvious (immoderate alcohol consumption) and the less so (eating too little fish, which provides omega-3 fatty acids).
Put more starkly: Of the 2.5 million deaths that occur annually in America, something approaching half could be prevented if people simply led healthier lives.