The Top 15 Killers And Avoiding Premature Death…

The Top 15 Killers And Avoiding Premature Death

Introduction

Here in the United States, only 3 causes led to 50% of all deaths and the top 15 causes led to 80% of deaths. Some of the most common causes are killing fewer people per year while others are killing more. Can you identify these most common killers and if they are getting better or worse over time? More so, do you what you can do as an individual to stem the tide? That is what I am discussing with you today.


Top Killers of Americans

Here are the top 15 killers in the US according to the CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr67/nvsr67_05.pdf

1. Heart Disease: 23.1%

2. Cancer: 21.8

3. Accidental Death: 5.9%

4. Respiratory Diseases: 5.6%

5. Stroke: 5.2%

6. Alzheimer ’s disease: 4.2%

7. Diabetes: 2.9%

8. Flu and pneumonia: 1.9%

9. Non-hypertensive kidney disease: 1.8%

10. Suicide: 1.6%

11. Blood infection (sepsis): 1.5%

12. Liver disease: 1.5%

13. Hypertensive crisis or renal disease: 1.2%

14. Parkinson’s disease: 1.2%


15. Food and liquid breathed into lungs: 0.7%

Heart disease (heart attacks, arrhythmias, and heart failure) and stroke deaths have been going down continuously from 1960 to the present, we have a lot to be proud of as a country. Lower rates of smoking, better awareness and control of hypertension and high cholesterol, and better drugs and procedures for people with heart disease are all contributing to this decline. It was thought that cancer would have surpassed heart disease as the number 1 killer by now but that didn’t happen because cancer deaths started dropping in the mid-2000s given new understandings and treatments of the diseases. Respiratory disease deaths (asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema) are also dropping, albeit slowly, with better ways to track lung function and advances in drug therapy.

Killers Becoming More Prominent

Unfortunately, death from unintentional injuries (motor vehicle accidents, falls, accidental shootings, poisonings) are up, but this increase is driven almost entirely by deaths from opioids and other drugs of abuse. The risk of death in this category has been going up since the year 2000 and from 2015 to 2016, the deaths in this category went up almost 10%. Even scarier, more people now die from poisonings than from motor vehicle accidents. Other causes of death that are increasing over time include Alzheimer’s disease, chronic kidney diseases, and Parkinson’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is surging much more as a cause of death than any other and is poised to be the number 3 or 4 cause of death in the next few years. The main reason death from these diseases are increasing is simply that people are not dying as frequently from heart attacks, strokes, and cancer so they are able to develop these other diseases of aging. No one lives forever and everyone will die of something.

What You Can Do to Avoid Death From These Causes

The most important things you can do as an individual to live longer is:

• Eat right (less saturated and trans fats, more fiber, fresh fruits and vegetables)

• Control your weight and lose weight if needed

• Exercise the equivalent of three days a week for 40 minutes

• Get enough sleep

• Control your stress (visualization, rationalization, yoga, counseling)

• Get your blood pressure and cholesterol checked, do cancer screenings (colonoscopy, mammogram, testicular and breast self-exam), and report serious changes in your health to your doctor earlier rather than later

• Get your flu and pneumococcal vaccine

• Don’t drink more than 1-2 alcoholic beverages a day

• Disease modification adherence

• Be wary of opioids and if addicted, don’t share needles

Eating and sleeping right, controlling weight, exercising, and stress reduction can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and kidney disease. See your doctor and get checked for common diseases or disease risk factors. Just because you don’t know or choose to avoid it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Vaccines are safe for virtually everyone and if you are a person at risk, get the flu shot and the pnueumococcal vaccine because pneumonia is a huge killer of the elderly in the US. A single alcoholic drink can be beneficial for your health but too much alcohol can hurt your liver and the added triglycerides can hurt your heart and pancreas as well. Finally, people do not want to take their medications to control their diseases be it blood pressure drugs for hypertension or inhaled corticosteroids for asthma. This is a big mistake because these drugs slow damage to vital organs, they can make the damage go away. Your best bet when you have one of these diseases that are common killers is to take your medication as prescribed and if you can’t, let your doctor and pharmacist know why so they can help you come up with a regimen that works for you. If you have a family member with chronic diseases, ask them if they are taking their drugs and if not, what the issue is. Support them as they try to make it a new habit for health. Natural products and approaches can support health but they should not be a substitute for drugs proven in major clinical trials to reduce the risk of death from these diseases. That is a dangerous game to play. Finally, stay away from experimenting with opioids or other drugs of abuse. If you have pain, take the fewest doses of the opioids you can and use them for the shortest time possible. Dispose of the extra pills when you no longer need them so neither you are visitor’s to your home are tempted to use them when you don’t need them. If you have a disease that requires chronic opioids, it is ok to take them and you shouldn’t feel shame to use something that gives you back your ability to function. However, if you or a loved one is addicted to opioids, get a naloxone prescription and learn how to use it, don’t share needles with others, and seek out treatment options sooner rather than later.

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C. Michael White, Pharm.D., FCP, FCCP

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C. Michael White is a pharmacist and researcher at the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy. His work focuses on…

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