Healthbeat: Preventing Death

Heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke and unintentional injuries are the top five leading causes of death.

They account for roughly 63 percent of deaths in the U.S. However, 20 to 40 percent of these deaths can be prevented.

For years, high blood pressure was the leading risk factor for death, but a recent study shows there are other factors that are more dangerous.

We all know that smoking can kill you, which makes it the number one risk factor for death in the U.S. More than 16 million Americans are living with diseases caused by smoking, and nearly 500,000 people die from these each year; 42,000 are from second-hand smoke. So not smoking can save your life and someone else's.

The second risk factor for death is not high cholesterol or high blood pressure, but prolonged sitting. A 45-year study found that low physical activity and being overweight puts people at a greater risk for developing heart disease and dying. Cardiac pathologist William Roberts says getting everyone up and moving would have a huge impact on this country.

"If everybody in America lost 10 pounds, the health of this nation would skyrocket. Two-thirds of Americans are overweight," he said.

Finally, rounding out the top factors is of course high blood pressure. It is called the silent killer because many people show no symptoms. But it still affects one in three U.S. adults and is responsible for one in six deaths. So doctors recommend getting your blood pressure checked regularly.

"We've got to prevent this from happening, and we prevent it from happening by more and more of us taking better care of ourselves," Dr. Roberts said.

Other factors on the list include high blood sugar, high cholesterol and high dietary salt.