For many people, death isn’t something pleasant to think about. In fact, some people avoid thinking about it and their health altogether. While death is a scary thing, it’s important to remember that it’s going to happen one day – and while we may not have total control over it, we have some control in the way we go by preventing illnesses and valuing our health.
There are thousands of ways to die; while some may be uncommon and freak accidents, other ways, like heart disease, are incredibly common in the United States. Not only is it important to acknowledge that these diseases can happen to anybody, it’s important to know how they’re caused and what everybody can be doing to lessen the chances of falling ill. Read on to discover the 15 most common causes of death in the United States.
One cause of death that we don’t necessarily hear about often unless it’s a celebrity or young teen in the news is suicide. In 2015, suicide was the cause of death for 41,169 people – an overwhelming amount of men committed suicide in comparison to women; women were at just above 9,000, while 32,000 men committed suicide. According to Medical News Today, an estimated 8.3 million adults admitted to having suicidal thoughts between the years 2014-2015. In addition to that, 2.2 million adults admitted to having suicidal plans, while another one million admitted to making an actual suicidal attempt. For young adults (aged 15-24), for every one successful suicide, there are approximately 100-200 attempts. The thing that’s most important to remember about suicide is that it is completely preventable. Some things that influence suicide are depression and other mental disorders, substance abuse, violence, and more. Common symptoms of somebody that may be suicidal are talking about suicide or wanting to die, talking about being hopeless or without a reason to live, sleeping less, and an increased usage of alcohol and other substances. People who have ever had suicidal thoughts should taken into consideration that there are ways to go about making yourself better – whether that be talking to a family member or counselor, seeking medical advice, or trying to indulge oneself in hobbies or pasttimes.
14. Kidney Disease
Believe it or not, kidney disease actually claims almost as many lives per year as suicide does. Kidney disease accounted for 47,112 deaths in 2015. Between men and women, it was pretty much an exact tie – so there’s not much to support that men or women are more susceptible to dying from a kidney disease. There’s not just one type of kidney disease, though. There is nephritis, nephrotic syndrome and nephrosis, which are all conditions and disorders of the kidney. Chronic kidney disease is a condition where the kidneys cannot filter blood normally like healthy kidneys can. As a result of this, waste from the blood isn’t filtered out and causes more health problems down the road. It’s estimated that ten percent of adults in the U.S. have chronic kidney disease to a point. Most people don’t take the time to learn about kidney diseases, which makes it easier to believe that out of fifty percent of the 26 million that are burdened with a kidney disease did not even know that they had damaged kidneys. Luckily, common early symptoms of kidney disease are easy to spot. Some of these symptoms include fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss and headaches. If those symptoms don’t tip you off to get checked out by a doctor, severe kidney disease symptoms include abnormally dark or light skin, bone pain, easy bruising, frequent hiccups, problems with sexual functions, and more. Kidney disease can be prevented to an extent, and the steps to take to ensure you aren’t basically inviting it into your body is to avoid excessive alcohol consumption, try to maintain an active lifestyle, and quit smoking if you are doing so.
13. Influenza and Pneumonia
Year after year, it’s pretty common that you or someone that you know falls ill with the flu or with pneumonia. The flu isn’t nearly as big as a captor as pneumonia is – annually, influenza takes a little over 3,000 lives whereas pneumonia is responsible for taking over 50,000. As most people know, influenza and pneumonia are most commonly caught in the winter season. According to medicalnewstoday.com, it’s not exactly known why these viruses are spread easier during the colder months. However, we do know that they are extremely contagious and usually passed on by an infected person sneezing or coughing. The flu can actually be caught more than once, as there are different types of the flu virus strain. Type A influenza tends to attack adults more, while Type B makes a victim of children. Influenza can become complicated by pneumonia, which makes the sickness even more serious. Pneumonia is a condition that causes inflammation of the lungs, and the air sacs in the lungs start to fill with pus, water, and other liquids. In turn, this makes it so the body has trouble pumping oxygen throughout the bloodstream, which can lead to death. However, the flu and pneumonia are preventable. It’s important to remember to receive yearly vaccinations for influenza, to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle, and to distance oneself from individuals who may be infected with the virus.
Per year, diabetes claims 75,578 lives. Diabetes is a disease in which the body can no longer control blood glucose levels safely, which ends up in high levels of blood glucose. When the blood glucose level is consistently high, this can result in damage to body tissues, including nerves, blood vessels, and even tissues in the eyes. Almost all of the food that we eat is converted to glucose, which our bodies turn around and use for energy. Our pancreas creates insulin, which helps glucose get into our bloodstream – when a body is stricken with diabetes, it is no longer able to make insulin on its own, or can’t utilize it as well as it could before. After this, sugar starts to build up in the blood. Diabetes can lead to other health ailments, such as kidney failure, blindness, heart disease, and even amputation of limbs. Some common symptoms of diabetes include excessive thirst, frequent urination, extreme hunger, vision changes, and more. There are two different types of diabetes – type 1 and type 2. Unfortunately, there is no known way to prevent type 1. Type 2, however, is avoidable by maintaining a healthy body weight and eating properly.
11. Alzheimer’s Disease
Dementia is a pretty vague term for a condition and diseases in which someone starts to experience a sharp decline in memory or the ability to perform everyday activities because of loss of cognitive memory. Dementia is brought on upon damage to neurons – after the neurons are damaged, they no longer perform as well or may end up dying. After this occurs, changes in memory, behavior, and the ability to think clearly happen. Alzheimer’s Disease is just one type of dementia. However, Alzheimer’s is caused by changes in the blood vessels that supply circulation to the brain. Unfortunately, people with Alzheimer’s Disease end up losing the ability to walk or swallow, as the damage and death of the neurons is so severe. Ultimately, Alzheimer’s is fatal – it accounts for sixty to eighty percent of all dementia cases. Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s Disease is one of the many diseases that is not preventable.
Strokes are pretty far up as far as how many lives it takes per year goes – over 128,000. Strokes are a type of cerebrovascular disease, being one of the most common four. Every year, nearly 800,000 people have strokes. Strokes are most commonly associated with elderly people, but in 2009, 34% of people who had a stroke were younger than 65 years of age. Some major symptoms of an oncoming stroke are numbness in the face or an arm or leg on one side of the body, confusion and trouble speaking, dizziness, and a severe headache with no known cause. Strokes are somewhat avoidable – you can stick to a healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight, get enough exercise, don’t smoke, and more.
Accidents cause up to over 130,000 deaths a year. An accident can be classified as any one of the following: motor vehicle accident, any other sort of land transportation accident, water, air and space accidents, accidentally being shot, drowning, falls, exposure to smoke or fire, and exposure or ingestion of poisonous materials. Seeing how accidents are accidents, it’s hard to say if and when they can be prevented. There are plenty of ways to avoid accidents, but those ways are not thought about until the unintentional tragedy has happened. Some simple ways to avoid getting in a car accident alone are making sure you or anyone you’re in the car with is not intoxicated, avoid texting while driving, and making sure to be aware of surroundings.
8. Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease
Chronic lower respiratory diseases takes almost 150,000 lives a year. Chronic lower respiratory disease (CLRD) is a myriad of lung diseases that cause airflow blockages and more breathing related issues. CLRD can be detected by difficulty breathing, a constant phlegmy cough, and frequent chest infections. CLRD can be prevented by avoiding smoke and tobacco. This means avoiding smoking altogether, whether it means you or a friend smoking – even second hand smoke can be the culprit when it comes to respiratory diseases.
7. Drug Use
According to the World Health Organization in 2014, drug use was one of the top contributors to death in the United States. When any article comes out talking about “the war on drugs” and “drug-related deaths,” they usually aren’t speaking about marijuana. Drug use deaths are usually the cause of heroin, cocaine, and other hard drugs. Since drug use is ultimately a choice, death by drug use is completely avoidable. Most people overdose on drugs whether it be their first time or their three hundredth time – the best way to avoid death by drug use is to not partake in any sort of hard drug, no matter what.
6. Breast Cancer
Unfortunately, doctors and scientists still aren’t sure what causes breast cancer – we do know that it’s a cause of when cells start to grow abnormally. What happens after this, is that the cells start to divide much quicker than healthy cells do, bringing about lumps and masses. These lumps and masses can start to spread to other parts of your body. Breast cancer usually starts in the milk-producing ducts or glandular tissues. Only five to ten percent of breast cancers are linked to genetic mutations that are passed down from family. A lot of people don’t know that men are also susceptible to being diagnosed with breast cancer – so it’s not something that just women have to worry about (although more women than men are diagnosed with it).
5. Colon Cancer
Kind of similar to breast cancer, colon cancer starts to infect a body when cells continue to grow and divide – even when new, healthy cells aren’t needed. As time goes by, this starts to create a tumor. In addition to growing a tumor, colon cancer cells can (and will) also start to travel throughout the body, infecting other areas. Like breast cancer, it’s possible to inherit something that will bring about colon cancer, but it’s a very small percentage of people who actually deal with that. Symptoms of colon cancer are very noticeable. They can be one or more of the following: a change in bowel habits (diarrhea or constipation), rectal bleeding, constant abdominal pain, a feeling that your bowel hasn’t emptied after using the bathroom, and unexplained weight loss.
4. Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer starts like any other cancer – cells start growing rapidly and causing a tumor or mass to grow. The abnormal cells that grow tend to keep on living, while healthy cells die off. Some cells from the mass can break off and spread to other parts of the body, spreading the cancer. Unfortunately, there may be no symptoms that are easily detected in the very early stages. However, they eventually end up presenting themselves. Some of these symptoms include: trouble peeing, decrease force in stream of urine, bone pain, erectile dysfunction, and more. It’s important to schedule an appointment with a doctor whenever any sort of symptoms starts to become worrisome.
3. Pancreatic Cancer
Pancreatic cancer is a hard one to detect – even if it’s detected in the early stages, it spreads fast, and is often fatal. Pancreatic cancer starts in the pancreatic tissues, obviously, which lies near your stomach, horizontally. The job of the pancreas is to let out enzymes that help with digestion, hormones, and helps regulate sugars in the body. Any sort of symptoms might not be noticeable until after the cancer has spread far enough that surgery isn’t an option. When symptoms do start to become recognizable, they will present themselves in the following forms: upper abdominal pain that goes into your back, jaundice, blood clots, and more.
2. Lung Cancer
Amongst cancers, lung cancer is the number one cause of death, between both men and women. Like pancreatic cancer, symptoms often aren’t noticeable or recognizable until the disease is far too advanced. These symptoms include a new cough that doesn’t go away, coughing up blood, shortness of breath, chest pain, bone pain, headaches, and more. Like any other health concern, it’s important to schedule an appointment with a doctor if any sort of symptom becomes alarming. Some types of lung cancer are preventable, as some lung cancers are caused by smoking and being exposed to secondhand smoke. Despite this, people who don’t smoke are also diagnosed with lung cancer, so it’s not accurate to say that that’s the only for sure cause.
1. Heart Disease
Heart disease is the number one cause of death for men and women in the United States – and also worldwide. In the United States alone, over half a million people a year die from heart disease. Heart disease isn’t one thing though – it’s a term that’s used to describe several different conditions. What causes heart disease is plaque buildup in the arteries. This leads to a heart attack or a stroke – additionally, it can lead to angina, arrhythmias, or heart failure. The biggest thing to remember is that you only have one heart, so you need to take care of it! Some things to do to keep a healthy heart are eating a healthy diet that is low in salts, sugars, and fats, getting at least 150 minutes of exercise a week, no smoking, avoid too much alcohol, and manage stress well.