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These Ugly Statistics are killing us January 7, 2006

Posted by medicalanswers in Statistics.

godzillaWe can’t start discussing health without finiding which are the diseases that are affecting us the most.

The CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics has detailed statistics of mortality in the United States. The top 5 ranking causes of death for 2003 were:

  1. Diseases of the heart.
  2. Malignant neoplasms (a.k.a. Cancer).
  3. Cerebrovascular diseases (a.k.a. strokes plus bleeding in the brain).
  4. Chronic lower respiratory diseases (including COPD – a component of which is emphysema).
  5. Accidents (unintentional injuries). Approximately 40% of these are from motor vehicle accidents.car accident

“Honorable” mentions include Diabetes Mellitus (Number 6) and Suicide (Number 11).

Note that these are the causes of death of the whole population. Since older people die in much larger numbers, their diseases are ranked higher.

The results therefore change according to the population you observe. If you look at Children ages 1 to 4 years, the causes are different:

  1. Accidents.toddler
  2. Congenital Malformations, deformations, chromosomal abnormalities (a.k.a. birth defects, some of which are genetic).
  3. Malignant neoplasms (Cancer).
  4. Assault (homicide). Unbelievable!
  5. Diseases of the heart. It is important to note that the diseases of the heart that children get are different than the ones adults get.


Violence, either unintentional -accidents- , and intentional -both homicide and suicide-has a very intense presence in the following three age groups. Only when we reach the age group of 44 to 64 is that accidents leave the #1 spot.

These statistic tell us not only about what we are doing but also what we should be doing. 

Sometimes simple interventions result in impressive changes in the patterns of disease of the population (think clean water = decreased diarrhea = decreased infant and child mortality).

In the following posts will attempt to discuss those categories of disease that are most frequent.



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