The 10 Leading Causes of Death in American Men

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

People don’t particularly enjoy facing their own mortality, but a little education can go a long way toward a full and healthy life. Many of America’s most deadly diseases are related to an unhealthy lifestyle, and nutrition is one of the biggest factors to reduce your risk. A diet rich in certain beneficial foods can slow aging and extend your life. Of course, food choice isn’t the only way to encourage a long and healthy life. Everything from exercise to sleep to mental health can contribute to increased longevity.

Interestingly, the leading causes of death among Americans can vary quite a bit based on race, age, and gender. Men face a shorter average life expectancy than women, yet a greater percentage of female deaths are attributed to stroke. Not surprisingly, unintentional injuries rank as the top cause of death in younger men, through the 35- to 44-year-old age group. Homicide ranks higher as the cause of death for Black and Hispanic men over other races, and Asian or Pacific Islander males see higher rates of stroke-related deaths, according to 2011 data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). For American Indian or Alaska Native men, suicide ranks higher than the average.

The chart below outlines the ten most common causes of death among all American men in the year 2011.

Source: Centers for Disease Control, 2011

Source: Centers for Disease Control, 2011

The top causes of death for American males saw some changes over the ten-year period between 2001 and 2011. As far as the top two killers go, cancer’s position stayed fairly steady, but heart disease showed a significant dip for men, dropping more than four percentage points. It’s also worth noting that stroke and respiratory disease flipped spots. Alzheimer’s wasn’t present at all on the top 10 list for 2001, but the disease was the eighth most common cause in 2011, accounting for 2% of deaths in males.

Let’s take a closer look at the leading causes of death in males in the United States, as well as some tips for prevention.

1. Heart disease (24.6%)

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

The No. 1 cause of death overall in America, as well as globally, is heart disease. It’s also the leading cause of death in both American men and women. To help reduce your risk, the CDC recommends a healthy diet consisting of plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, maintaining a healthy weight, and regular exercise. Cigarette smoking also increases your risk of heart disease, and alcohol consumption should be minimal to avoid developing high blood pressure.

2. Cancer (24.1%)

The most common types of cancer in American men are skin cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, and colorectal cancer. Lung cancer kills the most men, and men smoke tobacco in greater numbers than women. The CDC advises against smoking as well as contact with secondhand smoke. A healthy diet, exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight can also stave off cancer. Men age 50 or older should be screened for colorectal cancer, according to the CDC. Protecting your skin from the sun is especially important, as skin cancer is one of the most common but also most preventable cancers.

3. Unintentional injuries (6.3%)

The unintentional injuries category covers several causes of death, such as unintentional falls, traffic accidents, and unintentional poisoning (including drug overdose). According to the CDC, 31 million emergency room visits per year are a result of unintentional injuries. Of course, some degree of risk comes with simply being alive, but taking certain safety measures can help protect you from the most dangerous accidents. Practicing motor vehicle safety and avoiding drugs and alcohol are among the most effective.

4. Chronic lower respiratory diseases (5.4%)

Chronic lower respiratory diseases include bronchitis, emphysema, asthma, bronchiectasis, and other chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). For COPD, the CDC warns against inhaling tobacco smoke and repeated exposure to harsh chemicals, such as home and workplace air pollutants. Recognizing the symptoms, which include shortness of breath, chronic cough, and decline in activity level, can also be helpful since early detection can alter the course of the disease. A simple spirometry test can be performed to detect COPD.

5. Stroke (4.2%)

While stroke is a more common cause of death in women, it stills comes in at No. 5 for men in the U.S. A healthy lifestyle is strongly encouraged to help prevent stroke, including a healthy diet, a healthy weight, plenty of exercise, no smoking, and limited alcohol consumption. You can also reduce your risk of stroke by closely monitoring and managing other serious health conditions you might suffer from, particularly heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes.

6. Diabetes (3.1%)

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

Unlike stroke, diabetes actually ranks slightly higher in causing death in men as opposed to women. The Diabetes Prevention Program studied 3,234 people at high risk for diabetes, and found that people can delay and possibly prevent the disease by losing a small amount of weight through 30 minutes of exercise five days a week and healthy eating. Men with untreated diabetes can face health problems like erectile dysfunction, heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, and even the loss of a toe or foot. Those who are overweight, over the age of 45, or have other risk factors should be tested.

7. Suicide (2.5%)

About four times as many men commit suicide than women, even though women are twice as likely to be depressed. This is in part because women tend to use methods with higher survival rates, such as poisoning. Some of the major suicide risk factors include a history of previous attempts, family history of suicide, depression or other mental illness, alcohol or drug abuse, stressful life event or loss, easy access to lethal methods, and exposure to suicidal behavior of others. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).

8. Alzheimer’s disease (2.0%)

The risk of dying of Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, is higher for women, but it still ranks eighth for American men. Research in 2014 suggested Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are vastly under-reported as the underlying cause of death. Scientists don’t fully understand what causes Alzheimer’s disease, but high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and low levels of the vitamin folate may increase your risk. There is also growing evidence for physical, mental, and social activities to protect against Alzheimer’s. In addition to other healthy lifestyle behaviors, mental stimulation and an active social life could help stave off the disease.

9. Influenza and pneumonia (2.0%)

Influenza and pneumonia are most likely to cause death in older adults and children, but they still can be preventable in some cases. For both influenza and pneumonia, the CDC recommends vaccines for prevention, as well as healthy lifestyle habits. Reducing behaviors that transmit the flu is important, as is avoiding sick people and practicing good hygiene. In cases of pneumonia, it’s important to recognize whether the disease was contracted in a health care setting or in the community.

10. Kidney disease (1.8%)

Kidney disease can include nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis. The CDC says most people who have kidney disease are unaware of it, so looking out for the symptoms and getting tested is essential. People with diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, high cholesterol, old age, or a family history of kidney disease have a greater risk. The best ways to maintain healthy kidneys are to check your blood pressure and cholesterol, take medications as directed, eat foods lower in sodium, eat more fruits and vegetables, and stay active.

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