Preventable death, however, is different. Just as it sounds, preventable death is any kind of death that we actually have the power to avert. Sadly, although these deaths are preventable, and therefore largely within our control, they still occur at an alarming frequency. For more information on preventable death, check out this infographic by Katherman Briggs & Greenberg.
Top Causes of Preventable Death
If you’ve ever thought about lighting up, you might want to think again. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death, causing 467,000 deaths in the U.S. annually, and it’s the culprit behind 1 in every 5 deaths. In addition to causing cancer, heart disease, stroke and lung disease, smoking can shorten your life span: smokers die on average 10 years earlier than their non-smoking counterparts.
The fix: If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you are a smoker, find a way to quit, whether it’s through a nicotine patch, joining a support group or both.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is the second leading cause of preventable death, resulting in 395,000 deaths in the U.S. annually. It’s the leading cause of death in adult women, killing roughly 230,000 American females each year, culminating in 19% of all female deaths. To put it in perspective, this number is over five times the 42,000 deaths that result from breast cancer. The problem with high blood pressure is that it can be a silent killer that comes without any symptoms. Making matters worse, people with high blood pressure are also more likely to suffer from heart attack, stroke, aneurysms and kidney problems.
The fix: If you’re concerned with your blood pressure stats, talk to your doctor about possibly going on a blood-pressure-lowering medication. You should also follow a healthy diet and exercise program, and try to cut out as much salt as you can.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
In the United States, 20 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are diagnosed annually, and all of these are preventable. Almost half of all cases occur among young adults ranging from 15-24 years old, and they cost the health care system nearly $16 billion each year. Left untreated, STDs can lead to severe infections in multiple sites of the body, and they can cause devastating irreversible problems, such as infertility, cancer and even death.
The fix: If you’re sexually active, practice safe sex. Use condoms for protection, and talk with your partner about his or her sexual history. If you’re concerned that you might have an STD, see a doctor so you can get tested and begin a treatment plan if necessary.
Each year in the United States, an average of 374,239 people die from obesity. Over 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. (35.7%) are obese, and recent data suggests that obesity is on track to overtake smoking as America’s number one killer! It’s the complications stemming from obesity that make it so deadly: heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancer are all closely linked to being severely overweight or obese. And obesity isn’t just costly in terms of our own personal health; the annual medical cost of obesity in the United States is estimated to be around $147 billion.
The fix: If you are obese, get on a healthy diet and exercise regimen ASAP. Consider seeing a dietician who can prescribe an eating plan for you. And don’t forget to enlist people for support. Try joining a group like Weight Watchers, where you’ll be motivated by other people who are striving to reach the same weight loss goals you are. You can also join a gym, or if the thought of setting foot in a gym terrifies you, make walking with a friend your new form of happy hour.
Nobody likes to think about death, but the good thing about preventable deaths is the fact that they are preventable. By making smart choices and incorporating healthy habits into your lifestyle, you can avoid being one of these statistics and start taking control of your health today!
Adrienne is a health-conscious freelance writer and blogger.