Thousands of people could avoid an early death by making certain lifestyle changes to reduce their risk of the leading causes of death in the UK says Medical Director for LetsGetChecked, Dr. Dominic Rowley.

The top five causes of death in the UK are as follows:

  1. Cancer
  2. Heart disease
  3. Stroke
  4. Lung disease
  5. Liver disease

These common causes of death are responsible for over 150,000 premature deaths each year in the UK alone. In this article, Dr. Dominic Rowley will talk you through the top 5 causes of death in the UK and how you can take preventative measures to improve your health.


What Are The Top 5 Causes Of Death In The UK?



According to the Office of National Statistics, cancer was responsible for almost a third of all deaths registered in the UK in 2014. About 167,000 people in the UK died from cancer that year.

More than one in three people will develop some form of cancer during their lifetime. There are more than 200 different types of cancer. Bowel, prostate, lung and breast account for more than half of cases in the UK each year.

Dr. Rowley says: "Genetics play a huge role in your health and yet many people don't know if they are prone to cancer."

Reduce your risk of cancer:

A healthy lifestyle can’t guarantee cancer prevention, but these tips from the Mayo Clinic can certainly help reduce your risk:

  • Don’t smoke
  • Eat healthily
  • Maintain a healthy BMI and be physically active
  • Protect yourself from the sun
  • Practice safe sex
  • Get regular cancer screenings

Heart Disease


Among the top causes of death in the UK, heart disease kills almost 74,000 people each year. Heart disease occurs when plaque develops in the arteries and blood vessels that lead to the heart. This cuts off important nutrients and oxygen reaching your heart. Plaque is a substance made up of fatty molecules, cholesterol, and minerals.

Experts say most cases of premature death from heart disease are completely preventable. Having high blood pressure, high cholesterol, being overweight, smoking, binge drinking and physical inactivity are all significant risk factors.

Dr. Rowley says: "Young people do get heart attacks which is not widely known. If you are experiencing any unusual symptoms, go to your doctor instantly."

Reduce your risk of heart disease:

  • Try to do more exercise. Exercise reduces your risk of heart attack by 30%.
  • Lower your blood pressure. A good way to do this is by minimising your intake of salt.
  • Follow a healthy diet, one that’s rich in plant-based foods.
  • Don’t smoke, if you are smoking, cut down and quit.



A stroke is a brain attack. It happens when the blood supply to part of your brain is cut off. A stroke can affect how you move, feel and think. Anybody can have a stroke but some people are more at risk than others.

Certain medical conditions can increase your risk of stroke. These include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • High cholesterol

Dr. Rowley says "an important way to be aware of and reduce your risk of stroke is to find out if you have any of these conditions and work with your doctor to manage them."

Lifestyle factors:

Lifestyle choices have a big impact on our risk of stroke. Things like smoking, drinking too much alcohol, being overweight and eating unhealthy foods can damage your blood vessels, increase your blood pressure and make your blood more likely to clot.

Lung Disease


Two of the most prevalent lung diseases include asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

The UK has one of the highest rates of asthma cases in the world. An analysis from Asthma UK discovered that over 5.4 million people suffer from it and an average of three people a day die from it. It is one of the leading causes of death in the UK.

Smoking is the main cause of COPD but a small number of cases are caused by exposure to fumes and chemicals. The disease kills approximately 23,000 people a year. The number of premature deaths is almost twice as high as the European average.

Reduce your risk of respiratory disease:

  • Don’t smoke
  • Avoid second hand smoke or exposure to chemicals and fumes.
  • Talk to your doctor about taking vitamin D supplements to reduce your risk of severe asthma attacks

Liver Disease


Between the year 2000 and 2013, the number of deaths from liver disease among under 65s has increased by one third.

The main causes of liver disease are obesity, heavy drinking and undiagnosed infection.

Dr. Rowley says: "Being very aware of how much you drink is essential to good liver health."

What Are The Biggest Health Problems In The UK?

A child born today in the UK should expect to live a longer and healthier life than previous generations.


While the death rate in the UK may be decreasing, there are still concerns around the fact that the top 5 causes of death in the UK are completely avoidable.

Dr. Rowley says that "while there are more healthy living initiatives than ever before, there is still a huge number of people who continue to smoke, drink excessively, follow poor diets and have a sedentary lifestyle."

Today, in the UK, life expectancy is 82.3 years for men and 85.8 years for women however the age that people can expect to live healthily is 63.1 years for men and 63.7 years for women.

While healthcare spending has steadily increased, 26% of adults and 20% of children are still classified as obese, and 58% of brits have drank alcohol in the past week.

Today, the biggest health concern in the UK is dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

By 2020, dementia and Alzheimer's disease is likely to be the most common cause of death for both men and women.

Public Health England says: "Long-term improvements have been seen in the mortality rates from heart disease, stroke and most major cancers but the mortality rate from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease has increased steadily since 2006 for both sexes."

Public Health England report that while the population may be healthier at every age group than it ever has been before, long term health conditions are more and more common; "Low back and neck pain as well as skin diseases (mainly dermatitis, acne and psoriasis) remain the two leading specific health concerns, for both males and females."

When it comes to our health, there are some things that we can't control. Our genetics play a significant part in mapping out our health roadmap in the future.

Dr. Rowley says: "We may not be able to control every aspect of our health, but we can always strive to educate ourselves more about our own bodies and specific health needs."

What Are The Leading Causes Of Death Globally?

The latest data shows that of 56.9 million deaths worldwide in 2016, more than half (54%) were due to the top 10 causes as documented by the World Health Organization.

The World Health Organization reports that the top 10 causes of death worldwide include:

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Pulmonary disease
  • Lower respiratory infections
  • Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias
  • Trachea, bronchus, lung cancers
  • Diabetes
  • Accidents
  • Diarrhoeal diseases
  • Tuberculosis

Dr. Dominic Rowley says: "Prevention really is the only cure and that is why I so strongly advocate on-going health testing as a regular practice as opposed to a reaction to symptoms."

If you would like to learn more about how you can better know your health from home with the use of at home health testing, you can contact us directly via live chat or schedule a call with a member of our medical team.

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Written by Hannah Kingston | Approved by Medical Director Dominic Rowley