Leading Causes Of Death In The United States

Heart disease, cancer, and lower respiratory diseases are the three leading causes of death in the United States.

The United States is a developed country with an advanced system of healthcare technologies. As such, life expectancy here is high when compared to other nations around the world, 78.4 years of age. Each year, deaths reach an average of 821.5 individuals for every 100,000. Many of the most common diseases and causes of death are those that are typical to the lifestyle that people living in developed countries tend to have. This article takes a look at those conditions and which of them are the leading causes of death in the US.

Leading Causes of Death in the US

Heart Disease

The number one cause of death in the US is heart disease. This condition resulted in 614,348 deaths in 2014. Put another way, heart disease causes 1 in every four deaths. The disorder is preventable, though, through a healthy diet, exercise, and not smoking. Heart disease is often associated with developed countries. This association is because of its correlation to obesity which occurs at high numbers in these societies due to an over-abundance and overconsumption of processed, fatty, and high sugar foods. However, there is an underlying factor that contributes to the spread of this disease.

Geographically speaking, it is most common throughout the southeastern region of the country, an area that is filled with people living in low socio-economic conditions. Poverty directly contributes to the factors that cause heart diseases such as obesity, diabetes, smoking, kidney disease, lack of access to healthcare, and a lack of access to healthy foods. The fact that so many people die of this condition every year is indicative of a larger, social problem.


After heart disease, cancer is the next leading cause of death. In 2014, 591,699 deaths were attributed to cancer diagnoses. The US, being a developed country with a high life expectancy, is experiencing an aging society. As people are aging, cancer is becoming more common given that it is more likely to affect older people. Obesity is also a contributing factor to cancer, particularly the factors that lead to obesity: lack of exercise, smoking, and an unhealthy diet. Diets high in processed foods and red meat (like the diet found in the majority of the US) are commonly associated with cancer. Medical technology has also resulted in more diagnosed cases of cancer which has, in turn, increased the number of deaths caused by the disease.

A list of other leading causes of death in the US can be found below.

Preventative Actions

Given that the top two leading causes of death have historically been associated with lifestyle choices rather than as indicators of a social problem, the government has not enacted many policies to prevent the spread of these diseases. In fact, public health agencies contribute only a small portion of their budgets to preventative programs. However, now that the underlying causes of these killers have been identified, the government should work toward implementing public health policies to reduce risks in the most affected populations. These policies must first address socioeconomic conditions of at-risk communities then work to change the environments in which they live, making healthy food options accessible. Additionally, promoting public health counseling and education would have a significant impact on reducing the numbers of deaths every year attributed to these diseases.

Leading Causes Of Deaths In The United States

RankCauseNumber of Deaths, 2014
1Heart disease614,348
3Chronic lower respiratory diseases147,101
4Accidents (unintentional injuries)136,053
5Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases)133,103
6Alzheimer's disease93,541
8Influenza and pneumonia55,227
9Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis48,146
10Intentional self-harm (suicide)42,773

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