Sunday, April 24, 2016

America’s 10 Deadliest Diseases

10. Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis
> Total Deaths in 2013: 36,427
As is the case with many of the diseases killing the most Americans, liver disease and cirrhosis are often attributable to unhealthy behavior. The most common causes of liver disease are hepatitis B and C and alcohol abuse. However, the mortality rate for chronic liver disease and cirrhosis is on the rise while the incidence of alcohol abuse and hepatitis has remained relatively stable. Meanwhile, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a condition with no known cause, has seen a two-fold increase, likely contributing most to the rise in mortality from chronic liver disease.

9. Septicemia
> Total Deaths in 2013: 38,156
The septicemia mortality rate increased from 11.0 deaths per 100,000 people in 1999 to 12.1 deaths per 100,000 people in 2013. Septicemia, also known as sepsis, is a serious response of the body’s immune system to an infection. While infection of any kind can lead to sepsis, according to Allen, most are commonly caused by bacteria or fungal infection getting into the bloodstream from an underlying pneumonia, urinary tract infection, gut infection, or skin wound. Septicemia can also occur due to an infection caused by a surgical procedure. An estimated 10% of all hospital patients develop sepsis, and one in 10 of those patients die.

8. Chronic kidney disease
> Total Deaths in 2013: 47,112
The most common causes of renal failure, according to Allen, are chronic diabetes and high blood pressure. While the prevalence of high blood pressure in adults has decreased substantially from roughly 20% to 12% between 1999 and 2010, chronic kidney diseases have become more common. The death rate from nephritis — inflammation of the kidneys — increased from 12.7 to 14.9 deaths per 100,000 people over the period of 1999 through 2013. The increase is likely attributable to growing diabetes rates. As is the case with several other deadly diseases, Allen explained, the incidence of chronic kidney disease could be considerably reduced with lower smoking rates.

7. Influenza and pneumonia
> Total Deaths in 2013: 56,979
Flu and pneumonia are the most common infectious causes of death in America. The illnesses claimed a combined 56,979 lives in the United States in 2013. The mortality rate attributed to these diseases has decreased significantly over the past 15 years, from 22.8 to 18 deaths per 100,000 people. Certain forms of both pneumonia and influenza can be prevented with proper vaccination. Worldwide, vaccinations overall save roughly 6 million people per year, according to the World Health Organization. Many lives are saved due to the prevention of the flu and various infectious pnuemonias.

6. Diabetes mellitus
> Total Deaths in 2013: 75,578
Diabetes directly caused 75,578 deaths in 2013, the sixth highest death toll from a single disease in the United States. Further, diabetes is likely far more deadly than the numbers suggest. Only 10% of deaths of those with diabetes have the disease recorded on their death certificates. Diabetes is also a significant risk factor for stroke, heart disease, kidney disease, infection, and other diseases. The death rate attributed to diabetes has remained mostly stable over the 15-year reporting period from 1999 through 2013, decreasing slightly from 24.5 to 23.9 deaths per 100,000 people.

5. Alzheimer’s Disease
> Total Deaths in 2013: 84,767
The nearly 85,000 lives claimed by Alzheimer’s disease in 2013 is only part of the story. There are over 5 million Americans currently living with the disease. Not only does Alzheimer’s ruin lives and disrupt families, but also it takes a significant economic toll. The Alzheimer’s Association projects that the disease and other forms of dementia will cost the U.S. economy $236 billion in 2016 alone. As is the case with many of the deadliest diseases, Alzheimer’s is not entirely genetically predetermined. Based on evidence published in Lancet Neurology in 2014, approximately one-third of Alzheimer’s cases can be attributed to potentially avoidable risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and physical inactivity.

4. Stroke
> Total Deaths in 2013: 128,978
As is the case with many of the deadliest diseases in the country, the incidence of death attributable to stroke is decreasing. Over a decade and a half, the death rate from stroke has declined from 60.0 deaths per 100,000 people in 1999 to 40.8 deaths per 100,000 people in 2013. As with the associated decrease in deaths from heart disease, much of this can be attributed to declining smoking rates and improvement in the treatment of high blood pressure and cholesterol.

3. Chronic lung diseases
> Total Deaths in 2013: 149,205
While cancer and heart disease death rates have decreased since 1999, the incidence of death attributable to chronic lung diseases has increased over the same time period. There were roughly 47.2 deaths for every 100,000 people due to chronic lung diseases in 2013, slightly more than the 44.5 deaths for every 100,000 people in 1999. The main contributors to this category of disease are emphysema and other chronic lower respiratory diseases. Smoking and secondhand smoke exposure, air pollution, toxin exposure, and obesity are all significant risks for chronic lung disease.

2. Cancer
> Total Deaths in 2013: 584,881
Cancer was the underlying cause of more than half a million deaths in 2013 — despite improving treatment and earlier detection methods. Such improvements certainly helped lower the incidence of cancer death during the last 15 years, from 197 to 185 deaths per 100,000 people. However, as the U.S. population ages, the total number of new cancer cases is expected to increase as age is the most important risk factor associated with cancer. According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, cancer will overtake heart disease as the leading cause of death in the United States by 2030. While aging is unavoidable, there are multiple modifiable risk factors that can lower the risk of cancer; not smoking, minimal alcohol consumption, a healthy diet low in red and smoked meats, and avoiding radiation from the sun.

1. Heart disease
> Total Deaths in 2013: 611,105
The death rate from heart disease has decreased from 259.9 to 193.3 deaths per 100,000 people over the last decade and a half. This decline is likely due to lower smoking rates and improved medications for some modifiable risk factors such as high cholesterol and blood pressure, Allen explained. Despite recent improvements, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Diet is also a major factor. According to the CDC, 90% of Americans consume more sodium than is recommended. Excess sodium consumption can increase the risk of high blood pressure, which can in turn lead to heart disease and stroke. Cardiovascular diseases and stroke cost the nation an estimated $273 billion annually.

By Samuel Stebbins

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