I recently came across some information that was a bit shocking. And while I certainly have my own theory about it, I thought it was worth discussing today.
While cardiovascular disease (CVD) is still the top killer globally—accounting for more than a quarter of all deaths—it appears as though cancer is now the leading cause of death in wealthier countries. To the point that it now takes twice as many lives as heart disease among these populations.
Meanwhile, heart disease deaths are more than twice as common among middle-aged citizens of lower-income countries… even though actual CVD factors are a lot lower in these populations when compared to their richer counterparts.
So what gives? Well, let’s break this down by the numbers, and take it from there…
High income, high cancer risk
These findings are from the Prospective Urban and Rural Epidemiologic (PURE) study, which we’ve talked about here a number of times before. (Mostly because it marks a shift toward a new, more sensible approach to heart disease prevention.)
This latest study included more than 162,000 people, all between the ages of 35 and 70, from 21 countries—the high-income ones being Canada, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, and the United Arab Emirates.
(Researchers didn’t include the U.S. because we already know that cancer is this country’s top killer, outpacing heart disease as a cause of death in about half the states.)
Middle-income countries included Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Columbia, Iran, Malaysia, Palestine, Philippines, Poland, Turkey, and South Africa. While Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe were categorized as low-income countries.
Heart disease and cancer were both top killers overall. But again, the differences according to each country’s income level were stark.
In wealthy countries, cancer death was 2.5 times more common—while in poorer countries, this trend was reversed in favor of heart disease death. And among low income countries, rates of heart disease death were triple the rates of cancer death.
So, what does this all mean?
Well, the study authors suggest that disparities in health care might be to blame, seeing as how both hospitalization rates and heart disease medication use were lower in the less wealthy countries. And yes, this would definitely explain a few things.
But as usual, I still have questions. And one important question in particular…
Why aren’t we talking about sugar?
“Modifiable risk factors”—that is, risk factors that you can easily reverse with diet, exercise, or drugs—accounted for a good 70 percent of heart disease diagnoses and death, overall. (Of these, high blood pressure was the most common.)
Clearly, we’re getting better at managing heart disease with basic steps like smoking less. (The word is certainly out on the dangers of cigarettes.)
And of course, we have a ton of pharmaceuticals designed to pick up the slack among patients who stubbornly refuse to change their more self-destructive behaviors. (The patients who can afford them, at least.)
But that doesn’t explain why cancer deaths have stayed so high in rich countries. And what stood out the most to me here is that nowhere in this discussion did anyone think to address the danger of sugar.
As I’ve told you countless times now, more than a dozen different cancers are directly attributable to sugar—and that number’s only climbing. But despite the urgent risk it poses to the public health, we haven’t even started to seriously address our sweet tooth.
And, well… that’s a real problem. One that’s getting bigger by the day.
We have lots of drugs to “manage” heart disease. But there’s no drug that can slam the brakes on global sugar gluttony—or undo its most devastating effects on your body. And I’ve got news for you: Sugar kills… and it doesn’t discriminate based on income.
We can’t buy our way out of this mess. And if policymakers the world over don’t open their eyes and start regulating sugar like the carcinogen it’s become, the death toll is only going to keep rising.
P.S. Beating our country’s most feared disease is simpler than you think. Which is why I designed my Essential Protocol to a Cancer-Free Future. This comprehensive, online learning tool provides simple, science-backed strategies to fortify your cellular defenses—and stop cancer in its tracks. To learn more, or to enroll today, click here now!
“Cancer Overtakes CVD as Leading Cause of Death in Wealthy Nations.” Medscape Medical News, 09/03/2019. (medscape.com/viewarticle/917608)