Britain is worse at preventing premature deaths and ill health than many of its European counterparts, a report has shown.

In 1990 the UK ranked 10th in a league table of 19 countries showing years of life lost (YLL) per 100,000 members of the population.

Twenty years later and Britain has slipped to 14th in the table, behind Romania and internationally, Mexico and Thailand, despite one of the best health services in the world.

Co-author Professor Kevin Fenton, director of health and wellbeing at the new Government agency Public Health England (PHE), said the report was a "wake up call" for the UK.

He added: "The reality is that nearly all of these conditions are either preventable or amenable to early intervention, providing opportunities to make a substantial difference in people's lives, and reduce the tremendous psycho-social and economic burden of poor health on our society.

"Ultimately, in order to really make a difference in improving our nation's health, concerted action will be required, with individuals, families, local communities, local councils, the NHS and government all taking responsibility and working together towards a healthier population."

What are the leading causes of ill health in the UK and what can you do about them?

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  • Smoking

    Smoking causes a host of major killer diseases including a quarter of all cancer deaths in the UK every year. It also causes heart disease, stroke and lung diseases and is the leading cause of ill health in the UK. Giving up smoking is the single most significant lifestyle change someone can make to improve their health. For help in giving up smoking call SMOKEFREE: 0800 022 4 332

  • High Blood Pressure

    High blood pressure is the second leading cause of ill health, usually caused by excessive salt consumption and obesity. Regular GP check-ups are recommended as it is easily detectable and treated.

  • Physical Inactivity

    A nation of people more acquainted with their couch than their trainers means that a lack of exercise is the fourth biggest cause of disease and mortality in the UK. 30 mins of gentle exercise a day should be enough to negate the risks.

  • Alcohol

    Britons love booze but it can be incredibly harmful to our health when drunk excessively. In the 20 years from 1990-2010, cirrhosis of the liver (the ninth major killer in the UK) rose by 65%. Men should only drink 21 units a week, women 14. See here for a <a href="">alcohol unit calculator</a>.

  • Salt

    Sodium in salt is essential for humans to live. But too much salt can lead to raised blood pressure which in turn can lead to heart disease and stroke. Many processed foods already contain a lot of salt so try to limit how much you add to food.

  • Fats

    Too much saturated fat and not enough good fats can be extremely damaging to health. Trans-fats, those added to foods to add bulk, are especially damaging and many suppliers and retailers are phasing them out. Too much bad fat can lead to not only weight gain but can also increase cholesterol and harm your arteries.

  • Fruit And Veg

    Some research suggests only one in five Brits eats the recommended five portions of fruit and veg each day. A diet with a variety of fruit and veg is essential to obtain the wide range of nutrients essential to good health.

  • Drugs

    Drug use disorders are now the 21st leading cause of death, up from 64th. For help and advice on drugs see <a href="">NHS Choices</a>

  • Obesity

    Third in the ill-health charts is a high BMI. Being overweight increases your chances of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke, liver disease, and a host of other unpleasantness. You are overweight if your BMI is over 25 you are overweight, over 30 and you are obese.