Unhealthy lifestyle choices, like smoking and drinking too much, kill 16 million people every year, the World Health Organisation warned in its latest report.
Heavy drinking, smoking or a high intake of salt, sugar and fat kill people prematurely and pose a threat to public health "much greater than any other epidemic known to man," WHO warned in its Global Status Report on Noncommunicable Diseases 2014.
The so-called "lifestyle diseases" include diabetes, cancer, asthma and cirrhosis. They are part of the Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), which are not mostly preventable.
According to WHO, NCDs kill 38 million people each year. The majority of these deaths occurr in low and middle income countries.
At least six million people die because of tobacco intake, while 3.2 million die due to insufficient physical activity, the report found.
Wrong lifestyle choices lead to four factors that can increase the risk of NCDs: raised blood pressure, overweight/obesity, hyperglycemia (high blood glucose levels) and hyperlipidemia (high levels of fat in the blood).
"Not thousands are dying, but millions are dying ... every year in their 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s, not in their 80s and 90s," Shanthi Mendis, the lead author of WHO's Chronic Diseases Prevention and Management report, was quoted by AFP as saying.
"It's beyond belief that it is seemingly invisible."
WHO urged countries to take effective measures to prevent these diseases and tackle premature mortality.
"NCDs are driven by the effects of globalisation on marketing and trade, rapid urbanisation and
population ageing," the report said. "While individual behaviour change is important, tackling
NCDs definitively requires leadership at the highest levels of government."
WHO member states have committed to reducing alcohol, tobacco and salt intake and effectively promoting healthy lifestyles in the next ten years: "countries need to make progress on all these targets to attain the overarching target of a 25% reduction of premature mortality from the four major NCDs by 2025," stated the report.