Heart disease claims 610,000 lives annually in the US and is the leading cause of death for both men and women, at every 1 in 4 deaths nationwide.
But according to the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC), that’s about to change. Cancer is the second leading cause of death nationwide at the moment but by 2020 it will become the leading cause of death ahead of heart disease.
The endemic of heart disease started when the consumption of sugar was widely promoted by health experts as a safer choice for better health. Although this practice is being discouraged by scientists, it has already caused significant damage due to the rising levels of obesity and diabetes.
Parallel to this social trend was the heavy advertisement of unhealthy fried food by fast food chains which has led to heart diseases, obesity and even cancer.
In addition, numerous carcinogenic chemicals like phthalates, acetaldehyde and benzene are commonly added to home based products like plastic containers, home cleaning products, air refreshers, hair dyes, fabric-softeners and even food emulsifiers in many baked products.
With the increasing number of aging population, age-standardized death rates have declined for the heart disease since 1960s and for cancer since 1990s, thanks to medical research. But there are several other factors which contribute to the decline in heart disease risk. One of them being a decrease in the trend of smoking among people, as the risk of dying is twice as high from heart disease in smokers than non-smokers. In addition, smoking also leads to lung cancer and other diseases related to the respiratory system.
However, the risk of dying from cancer has increased since the 1950s, the leading cancer types being lung cancer, colon and rectum cancer, prostate cancer and breast cancer. Collectively, these make up about 50% of all cancer related deaths in the US.
CDC has predicted that from 1969 through 2020, the number of cardiovascular deaths will decrease 21.3% among men and 13.4% among women while the number of cancer deaths will increase 91.1% among men and an astounding 101.1% among women.
However, they report that fewer people are dying prematurely from three of the leading causes of death: cancer, stroke and heart disease. In contrast, there is a significant increase in deaths due to preventable injuries and mishaps, like death from opioid overdose and driving under the influence (DUI).
The risk of dying from heart disease and cancer increases with age and as the US aging population will grow by 13% to 16% from 2010 to 2020, heart disease and cancer are expected to increase exponentially.
But the situation isn’t all gloom and doom. Overall longevity in the US has improved despite the uncertainty and increase in socioeconomic factors. According to estimations from CDC, 91,000 premature deaths due to heart disease and 84,000 deaths due to cancer are preventable as they are caused by similar consequences: obesity, smoking and sedentary lifestyle.
Some deaths can also be prevented by early diagnosis, physical activity and access to healthcare.
Watch this video to see how smoking causes cancer and heart disease.