A new study shows the U.S. lags behind comparable countries around the world in almost every cause of premature death.
"The U.S. spends the most on health care and actually gets rather mediocre outcomes compared to other nations," said Dr. Christopher Murray, the director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
University of Washington researchers found heart disease is by far the leading cause of premature death, followed by lung cancer, then stroke. Compared to 34 similar countries, the U.S. ranks 27th for its mortality rate, life expectancy and risk of dying from dietary factors. The study also shows Americans are living longer, an average of 78 years in 2010. But many are not in good health, dealing with chronic disabilities like mental health disorders, substance abuse and problems like low back pain.
Researchers found diet, tobacco, obesity and high blood pressure are the top reasons why Americans are less healthy.
Tobias Nunez, 45, is making better decisions about his health. He suffers from high blood pressure and diabetes and had a heart attack two weeks ago.
"That was a knock, knock. A heart attack, you know, I could get another one. I could get a stroke," Nunez said.
Nunez is getting more exercise and eating better. Doctors say everyone should think more about disease prevention.
"We all need to focus on dietary composition, the total number of calories and our exercise in order to maintain a healthy, long and productive life," said Dr. Robert Rosenson, a cardiologist at Mount Sinai Medical Center.
Nunez is already down 12 pounds in a month and is working to lose even more.
The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It's one of three new research papers released at the request of first lady Michelle Obama, who plans to present the findings to mayors of U.S. cities.