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Obesity, Smoking and Death Statistics: Leading Causes of Death in the United States

Updated on January 25, 2010

Obesity, smoking and other leading causes of death in the United States are largely preventable.

Every year, millions of Americans are needlessly suffering and dying. Billions of dollars are spent by the United States providing health care for people with largely preventable chronic diseases and health issues.

An estimated 443,000 Americans die prematurely each year from smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke. In addition, 8.6 million Americans have a serious illness caused by smoking. An estimated 43.4 million adults in the U.S. smoke cigarettes. In addition to the health burden, the economic burden of tobacco use is enormous: more than $96 billion in medical costs and another $97 billion in indirect costs.

Nearly 112,000 deaths in the U.S. are associated with obesity each year, according to the latest study from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The risk of death rises with increasing weight. Excess weight -- even as low as 10 to 20 pounds for a person of average height -- increases the risk of death.

If the obesity epidemic continues to rise, more people will die prematurely from obesity-associated diseases.

More than 72 million people in the U.S. are obese. More than one third of U.S. adults and 16% of U.S. children are obese. According to a new study reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the medical cost of obesity may be as high as $147 billion annually. This is almost 10% of U.S. medical spending.

Based on a study done by RTI International on years of life lost associated with obesity and being overweight, life expectancy for U.S. adults may decrease in the future if the rising epidemic of obesity is not reduced.

What makes matters worse is that obesity is a risk factor for stroke, diabetes, heart disease, some cancers and other diseases that are the most common causes of death in the U.S.

According to CDC, the following diseases and health issues are the leading causes of death in the U.S. They have a huge economic impact on the nation's health care system.

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. It is a major cause of disability for Americans. The most common heart disease is coronary heart disease; this often appears as a heart attack. An estimated 785,000 Americans was projected to have a new heart attack in 2009 and about 470,000 will have a recurrent attack. About every minute, one American will die from a heart attack.
  • Cancer is the second leading cause of U.S. deaths. More than 559,000 Americans died of cancer in 2005; this is the most recent year for which incidence data are available. More than 1.3 million people in the U.S. are diagnosed with cancer each year. The overall costs for cancer in 2008 was estimated by NIH to be $228 billion.
  • Stroke is the third leading cause of U.S. deaths. Heart disease and stroke account for more than one-third of all U.S. deaths. More than 80 million Americans currently live with a cardiovascular disease. In 2009, the cost of heart disease and stroke was projected to be more than $475 billion in the U.S.
  • Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of U.S. deaths. Diabetes-related complications cause over 200,000 deaths each year. More than 23.6 million Americans have diabetes -- and about 5.7 million don’t know that they have the disease! The estimated cost of diabetes in 2007 was $174 billion.


In addition to the loss of millions of lives, the staggering health care costs due to unhealthy lifestyle pose a major threat to Americans and their families as well as the U.S. economy.

For millions of Americans and their families, medical bills and other health care costs lead to financial collapse. According to a recent study, medical debt prompts most personal bankruptcy filings.

By making better choices and developing healthier habits, you can avoid largely preventable chronic diseases, such as, diabetes and heart disease. You can avoid smoking and obesity which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease and other diseases that are the leading causes of death in the U.S.

You can avoid not only catastrophic diseases and premature death, but also financial devastation.

Americans making healthy lifestyle changes can soften the blow of high health care costs in the U.S. This can save millions of lives. This can save billions of dollars in health care costs. This can have a dramatic impact on U.S. global economic competitiveness.

Obesity and Smoking Are Risk Factors For Leading Causes of Largely Preventable and Premature Death in th U.S.

What do you think? Please share your comments.

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    • JAILTALK profile image

      JAILTALK 

      7 years ago from Oregon

      While these are all terrible ways to die, has anyone seen any correlation to medications taken vs cause of death? This may be another overlooked variable.

      Good topic. We should learn from all of these statistics and do something about it!

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