9 Leading Causes of Death in the United States

In the midst of the heated gun control debate permeating over the country like a foul odor, we are led to believe that gun violence, suicides, and accidents are a major cause of death in the United States. However, gun related murder is extremely rare, accounting for about .005% of all deaths in the country last year. Even rarer are murders committed with so called “assault rifles,” which pans out to about .0002% of all murders in 2011. (Note: these numbers are based on mathematical analysis of FBI Uniform Crime statistics, and statistics from the U.S. Center for Disease Control.)

With all of our attention directed at a cause of death that turns out to be a statistical anomaly, we unfortunately skip over the biggest causes of death. While gun related murders and suicides are tragic, it is troublesome to miss these other issues and leave them unattended to.

Here are the nine leading causes of death in the United States:

1. Obesity and 2. Smoking

These two make the top of the list, and share a spot because of for one major reason. While obesity can occasionally be the result of thyroid problems or other medical disorders, it is in large part based on over consumption of sugar and fats and is thus preventable. Likewise, smoking is well-known as being an extremely unhealthy lifestyle choice. Furthermore, these two are both major causes of many of the other disorders that make up this list.

While these choices can be partially attributed to deeper cultural issues, the fact is that nobody is putting a cigarette in your mouth or shoving sweets and fast food down your gullet. Thus, the two major leading causes of death in this country can be all but wiped out if people treat their bodies with some respect. I've been known to have a cigar or a McDonald's burger a time or two, but moderation is key.

If we want to tackle major causes of death in this country, this is the place to start.Here are the nine leading causes of death in the United States:

3. Heart disease (approximately 598,000 deaths per year)

Though there is a large number of different heart diseases, one of the largest is Congestive Heart Failure.  The risk of getting Congestive Heart Failure increases with age, but also greatly increases if you are a smoker, have diabetes or high blood pressure, and/or have a diet with excessive sodium intake.

4. Cancer (approximately 575,000 deaths per year)

The causes of all cancers are not well known, but various daily activities for many people greatly increase the risk including smoking, excessive tanning, and diets high in processed foods.  Obesity, sedentary lifestyle and pollutants can also cause cancer.

5. Chronic lower respiratory disease (Approximately 138,000 deaths per year)

Chronic lower respiratory diseases in include asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema.  The latter of the three are typically caused by cigarette smoking or inhalation of other irritants such as dust and fumes while working in farming, carpentry, or manufacturing.  While asthma can sometimes be genetic, it can be caused or exacerbated by these same factors.

6. Stroke (approximately 129,500 deaths per year)

Stroke refers to the loss of brain function after a decrease in blood flow to the brain. This can cause vision loss, immobility of one side of the body, and slurred speech in its early stages. As the stroke progresses, loss of consciousness and eventually death will occur. Strokes can have a large number of causes, but your risk increases if you have high cholesterol, if you smoke, if you're overweight, when using illicit drugs such as cocaine or methamphetamine, or using birth control supplements such as estrogen.

7. Accidents (approximately 121,000 deaths per year)

This is a number that shocked me. Though still statistically a small number, over 120,000 deaths per year as a result of accidents seems excessive. The three most common types of accidents resulting in death are car accidents, falls, and unintentional poisonings.

8. Alzheimer's disease (approximately 83,500 deaths per year)

Alzheimer's is the most common form of dimension. It is an untreatable degenerative disorder which worsens as it progresses, causing severe confusion, memory loss, and eventually death. Though the cause of Alzheimer's disease is mostly unknown, the onset is thought to be associated with age and stress.

9. Diabetes (approximately 69,000 deaths per year)

Type 1 Diabetes results from the body's failure to produce insulin and Type 2 Diabetes results from insulin resistance. Both are at least partially genetic, though Type 2 Diabetes can result due to lifestyle factors such as age or unhealthy diet.