We live in a time of unrelenting media coverage of war and cataclysmic weather events.
There’s an old saying in the media industry: “If it bleeds, it leads.” And so we see widespread, relentless coverage of battlefields, mass shootings, local crime and violence, and natural disasters.
This focus generates fear and confusion, and it takes the focus off what’s really happening. But data needs no spokesman.
So what’s killing the majority of Americans? Is it violence? Is it weather and natural disasters? Is it war?
Let’s look at the data.
What’s Killing Americans?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists the top 10 killers in America in 2015 as follows:
- Heart disease: 633,842 deaths
- Cancer: 595,930 deaths
- Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 155,041
- Accidents (unintentional injuries): 146,571
- Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 140,323
- Alzheimer’s disease: 110,561
- Diabetes: 79,535
- Influenza and pneumonia: 57,062
- Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 49,959
- Intentional self-harm (suicide): 44,193
Thomas Seyfried has established a strong case for cancer as a metabolic disease—a lifestyle-driven disease. Additionally, heart disease, chronic lower respiratory diseases, strokes, Alzheimer’s, Type 2 diabetes and nephritis are all lifestyle-driven conditions.
Russ Greene, CrossFit HQ’s Director of Government Relations, uncovered informationindicating the relationship between The Coca-Cola Company and the CDC is far from transparent, so can we really trust the CDC to be forthcoming with information that might link their donors to aspects of the nation’s death rates?
As backup, I also gathered data from the top five cities in America by population.
The Big Five
The most populous cities in America are New York, New York; Los Angeles, California; Chicago, Illinois; Houston, Texas; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The combined population of all 5 cities is just over 19.1 million people, who represent roughly 6 percent of the U.S. population.
New York City (population 8,550,405)—In 2014, the leading causes of death in New York City were heart disease, cancer, influenza and pneumonia, chronic lower respiratory diseases, diabetes, strokes, accidents, kidney disease, drug overdose and Alzheimer’s disease. The numbers reported here were not too far off the CDC’s statistics.
Los Angeles (population 3,971,883)—In 2012, the leading causes of death in Los Angeles were heart disease, strokes, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, pneumonia, colorectal cancer, liver disease and hypertension. Again violence and significant weather events didn’t make the top-10 list.
Chicago (population 2,720,546)—Chicago proved to be very much like New York and Los Angeles despite a media focus on political issues such as firearms and violence. In Chicago, metabolic diseases are responsible for the overwhelming cause of deaths.
Houston (population 2,296,224)—Houston proved to be very much the same, based on 2012 data: Heart disease, cancer, accidents, strokes, chronic lower respiratory disease, diabetes, septicemia, kidney disease, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, suicide.
Philadelphia (population 1,567,442)—In Philadelphia, the list was similar: cardiovascular disease, cancer (neoplasms), neurological disorders, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases, diarrhea and common infectious diseases, mental and substance-use disorders, self-harm, unintentional injuries, cirrhosis and chronic liver disease.
This is America. This is what is killing us. And so many of these deaths can be prevented with proper nutrition and exercise—by getting off the carbs and off the couch, as CrossFit Founder Greg Glassman has said.
Violence and natural disasters kill Americans, too, but we can do far more good by focusing our efforts in the kitchen and the gym. The numbers don’t lie.
“In God we trust. All others must bring data.” —W. Edwards Deming
About the Author: Jason Cooper is a registered nurse and the owner of CrossFit Enoch in Conroe, Texas.