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The Top 4 Leading Causes of Death for People Older Than 50 and How to Avoid Them

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The Top 4 Leading Causes of Death for People Older Than 50 and How to Avoid Them

With the average American’s lifespan holding steady at 76 years, awareness and prevention of the leading diseases and illnesses may be the difference between life and death. It’s vital to know the risks we expose ourselves to every day, especially since most of the diseases can be preventable by making healthier lifestyle choices.

The Top 4 Leading Causes of Death for People Older Than 50 and How to Avoid Them | Globe Life

We’ve listed the top four causes of death among people 50 years old or older and what you can do to you help avoid them.

Cardiovascular Diseases
Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in America, affecting about one in every three Americans.1 Heart disease, including heart failure, heart attack, and heart arrhythmia, can cause complications to your heartbeat and impair circulation.

28.2 million adults have a diagnosed heart disease and more than 840,000 deaths occur every year due to cardiovascular diseases.1

Avoiding Cardiovascular Diseases
The American Heart Association cites seven key health factors and behaviors that increase risks for heart disease called, “Life’s Simple 7.” These seven simple lifestyle choices that may help avoid cardiovascular diseases are:

  1. Not smoking
  2. Engaging in physical activity
  3. Consistently partaking in a healthy diet
  4. Reducing excessive body weight
  5. Control of cholesterol
  6. Control of blood pressure
  7. Control of blood sugar

The second leading cause of death in Americans is cancer. There are more than 100 different types of cancer, but all cancer can be generally defined by the uncontrollable division of abnormal cells.

The American Cancer Society says there were an estimated 1,735,350 new cancer cases and 609,640 deaths in 2018. With breast cancer being the most common form of cancer in women, and prostate for men, the lifetime risk of developing cancer in the United States is almost 40%, or one in three Americans.2

However, by knowing some basic research and statistics, Americans can help reduce the odds of developing and dying from cancer.

Avoiding Cancer
There are several lifestyle changes you can make to help avoid getting cancer.

  • Maintaining a healthy weight2 can help prevent cancer as being overweight or obese is a major risk factor for some cancers such as colon, breast, and kidney.
  • Exercising regularly2 has been shown to reduce risks of several cancers. Studies have found that an increase in physical activity can lower the growth factors that have been associated with cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends adults to get at least 150 minutes of moderate to intense activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week.
  • Eating a healthy diet2 is one of the best habits you can have. Studies have shown eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is linked to lower risks of developing cancer.
  • Avoid tobacco. Tobacco is responsible for almost one out of every five deaths in the United States. 80% of lung cancer deaths and 30% of all cancer deaths are caused by tobacco use.2
  • Alcohol consumption2 has been shown to increase your risk for certain cancers such as breast, throat, liver, and colon.

Chronic lower respiratory disease
Also known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chronic respiratory diseases are chronic diseases of the airways and other structures of the lung. Common occurrences may be known better as asthma, occupational lung diseases, and pulmonary hypertension. We can see the statistical breakdown in these diseases below:4

  • Number of deaths per year in the U.S. from chronic lower respiratory diseases: 154,596
  • Number of bronchitis (chronic and unspecified) deaths: 518
  • Number of emphysema deaths: 6,977
  • Number of deaths from other chronic lower respiratory diseases (excluding asthma): 143,583

Avoiding COPD
The best way to prevent chronic respiratory diseases is to avoid smoke at all costs as smoke and pollution can irritate, inflame, or destroy lung tissue.4

Additionally, you can:4

  • Avoid exposure to tobacco smoke
  • Avoid home and workplace air pollutants
  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water

According to the National Safety Council, 19 Americans die every hour due to an accidental death such as a car accident, poison, or drowning.3 For Americans between the ages of 23 to 65, opioid overdose is the leading cause of preventable deaths, while those older than 65 are at a higher risk of falling.3

Avoiding Unintentional Deaths
While most unintentional deaths are unavoidable, there are things you can try to help lower your risk of an unintentional death such as:

  • Refrain from drug use
  • Use safety belts while in a vehicle
  • Practice safe, undistracted driving
  • Request supervision if you’re a fall risk
  • Make your home fall-risk free

A lot of these common death occurrences can either be completely avoided, or help avoid the strength of the illness at the least. Understanding what you’re at risk for by your health history, lifestyle, and health choices can help you decrease your chances of getting one of these diseases.

1. American Heart Association, Heart Disease And Stroke Statistics at a Glance, 2019,

2., Cancer Facts and Figures, 2018,

3. National Safety Council, Injury Facts: Minute-by-minute, 2018,

4. Centers for Disease Control, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), 2018,

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