Abilene Reporter-News September 10, 2013
By Drs. David Niesel and Norbert Herzog
How are you going to die?
The Centers for Disease Control would answer that life expectancy depends greatly on where someone lives. Life expectancy in the United States ranks 40th in the world with 77.97 years. That addresses when someone might die but what about how? Most likely, it will be from one of these top 10 causes, based on how many Americans they kill each year.
10) Suicide – 38,285. Many factors are now known to influence suicide: mental illnesses, genetics, certain pharmaceuticals, traumatic brain injuries, drug and alcohol abuse and chemical or hormonal imbalances. To decrease these rates, education about the signs preceding suicide and accessible treatment is necessary.
9) Kidney Disorders – 45,731. Although dialysis can help people survive a little longer without a kidney, it is no cure. Kidney damage can occur from infection, high blood pressure, or toxic reactions to drugs, leading to chronic kidney disease that affects more than 26 million Americans.
8) Influenza and Pneumonia – 53,667. Both these diseases mostly affect the very old, very young, or those with immune system problems. This figure could be lowered with vaccinations.
7) Diabetes – 73,282. The rate of diabetes is increasing, with one in 500 children being diagnosed, corresponding to trends in obesity, diet, exercise, and aging. Lifestyle changes could decrease diabetes rates.
6) Alzheimer’s – 84,691. This form of dementia affects older adults, mostly over 60, and is caused by the build-up of beta amyloid protein plaques in the brain. There is currently no cure.
5) Accidents – 122,777. The leading cause of accidental deaths depends on age. For children and young adults it’s car accidents, adults over 35 are most likely to accidentally overdose on drugs and for those over 65 it’s most likely to be related to a fall.
4) Stroke – 128,931. A stroke occurs when an area of the brain does not receive oxygen due to a ruptured or blocked blood vessel. Those with high blood pressure, diabetics, smokers and alcoholics are at the highest risk. The good news is that deaths from strokes decreased by almost 45 percent in 10 years but they still lead to more than 250,000 hospitalizations yearly.
3) Chronic Lower Respiratory Diseases – 143,382. These diseases of the lungs and airways include bronchitis and emphysema, although the latter kills 20 times more than the former. Smoking is the leading cause of this condition.
2) Cancer – 575,313. Lung, colon, breast, pancreatic and prostate cancers have the most victims out of more than 200 different types affecting more than 60 different organs. Another piece of good news is that five-year survival rates have increased about 15 percent since the 1970s.
1) Heart Disease – 596,339. Advances in science have improved care, reducing these deaths by 18 percent in 10 years. However, as 25 percent of adults have high blood pressure, 67 percent are overweight and 20 percent smoke, Americans have plenty of risk factors to improve on.
The United States has maintained its leadership role in biomedical science and needs to continue this in the future. Support biomedical research – your life may depend on that next scientific advance.
Medical Discovery News is a weekly radio and print broadcast highlighting medical and scientific breakthroughs hosted by professor emeritus Norbert Herzog and professor David Niesel, biomedical scientists at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. Learn more at www.medicaldiscoverynews.com.