By Dr. Mercola
The latest data on the leading causes of deathi in the United States has been released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The report, which is based on 2010 data, lists the 10 leading causes of death as follows:
- Diseases of the heart
- Chronic lower respiratory diseases
- Cerebrovascular diseases (stroke)
- Accidents (unintentional injuries)
- Alzheimer's disease
- Diabetes mellitus
- Nephritis, nephritic syndrome and nephrosis (kidney disease)
- Influenza and pneumonia
- Intentional self-harm (suicide)
In an analysis, 24/7 Wall St. determined that the costs to the economy for these top 10 causes, including not only direct medical care but also the indirect loss of productivity, amounts to a whopping $1.1 trillion!
However, there is one leading cause of death that was left off of this list, and when that is factored in the costs to the economy, and the death toll itself, is actually even higher.
The CDC Left Conventional Medical Care Off of Their Death List -- It Should be #1
Over a decade ago, Professor Bruce Pomerance of the University of Toronto concluded that properly prescribed and correctly taken pharmaceutical drugs were the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. More recently, an article authored in two parts by Gary Null, PhD, Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, Martin Feldman, MD, Debora Rasio, MD, and Dorothy Smith, PhD, describes in excruciating detail how the modern conventional American medical system has bumbled its way into becoming the leading cause of death and injury in the United States.
From medical errors to adverse drug reactions to unnecessary procedures, heart disease, cancer deaths and infant mortality, the authors took statistics straight from the most respected medical and scientific journals and investigative reports by the Institutes of Medicine (IOM), and showed that on the whole, American medicine caused more harm than good.
In 2010 (the same year from which the CDC data came), years after the original article was written, an analysis in the New England Journal of Medicineii piqued my interest – as the researchers found that, despite efforts to improve patient safety in the past few years, the health care system hasn't changed much at all.
Instead, 18 percent of patients were harmed by medical care (some repeatedly) and over 63 percent of the injuries could have been prevented. In nearly 2.5 percent of these cases, the problems caused or contributed to a person's death. In another 3 percent, patients suffered from permanent injury, while over 8 percent experienced life-threatening issues, such as severe bleeding during surgery.
In all there were over 25 injuries per 100 admissions! In my update to the original Death by Medicine article, you can get an idea of just how deadly the conventional medical care system actually is:
- In a June 2010 report in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, study authors said that in looking over recordsiii that spanned from 1976 to 2006 (the most recent year available) they found that, of 62 million death certificates, almost a quarter-million deaths were coded as having occurred in a hospital setting due to medication errors.
- An estimated 450,000 preventable medication-related adverse events occur in the U.S. every year.
- The costs of adverse drug reactionsiv to society are more than $136 billion annually -- greater than the total cost of cardiovascular or diabetic care.
- Adverse drug reactions cause injuries or death in 1 of 5 hospital patients.
- The reason there are so many adverse drug eventsv in the U.S. is because so many drugs are used and prescribed – and many patients receive multiple prescriptions at varying strengths, some of which may counteract each other or cause more severe reactions when combined.
How Many Deaths by Medicine are Disguised as Other Causes?
Another issue is just how many "accidents" or "suicides" are actually the result of accidental drug overdoses. Prescription drugs are now killing far more people than illegal drugs, and while most major causes of preventable deaths are declining, those from prescription drug use are increasing -- and this is according to the CDC's own datavi.
In 2009, there were nearly 4.6 million drug-related visitsvii to U.S. emergency rooms nationwide, with more than half due to adverse reactions to prescription medications – most of which were being taken exactly as prescribedviii.
Further, between 2001 and 2008, there was a 36 percent increase in hospital admissionsix, and a 28 percent increase in emergency room visits, among children 5 and younger who had accidentally ingested medication. ER visits for ingestion of prescription opioid painkillers, such as Oxycodone, increased 101 percent! So it is unclear how many deaths from accidental drug overdose are classified as accidents or suicides.
The 9th and 11th Top Killers Might Also be Linked to Medical Care
The 11th leading cause of death according to the CDC is septicemia (sometimes called blood poisoning), which is bacteria in your bloodstream that is often caused by an infection in your body -- an infection that is often acquired in the hospital! A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicinex showed that sepsis and pneumonia caused by hospital-acquired infections killed 48,000 patients and ramped up health care costs by over $8 billion in 2006. The study also found that 20 percent of people who developed sepsis died; 11 percent of those who developed pneumonia died.
Pneumonia is the 9th leading cause of death, and in some cases may again be related to the high risk of acquiring an infection should you enter the hospital.
A different study in 2006 showed that "central-line-associated" bloodstream infectionsxi caused by catheters placed directly into veins resulted in a $26,839 loss for each patient that came down with this type of hospital-acquired infection. This same study estimated that 2 million people come down with hospital-acquired infections of any type in every year, and that approximately 100,000 die from those infections. Despite their high death toll, hospital-acquired infections make no appearance in the CDC's report.
Most of the Leading Causes of Death are Preventable
Most chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, are largely preventable with simple lifestyle changes. Even infectious diseases like the flu can often be warded off by a healthy way of life.
Imagine the lowered death toll, not to mention costs to the economy, if more people decided to take control of their health … heart disease and cancer alone accounted for 47 percent of deaths in the United States in 2010, and there are many strategies you can implement to lower your risk of these diseases … and most of the leading causes of death in the United States.
The added bonus to this is that the healthier you are, the less you will need to rely on conventional medical care, which is a leading cause of death. So what does a "healthy lifestyle" entail?
- Proper Food Choices
For a comprehensive guide on which foods to eat and which to avoid, see my nutrition plan. Generally speaking, you should be looking to focus your diet on whole, unprocessed foods (vegetables, meats, raw dairy, nuts, and so forth) that come from healthy, sustainable, local sources, such as a small organic farm not far from your home.
For the best nutrition and health benefits, you will want to eat a good portion of your food raw. Personally, I aim to eat about 80-85 percent of my food raw, including raw eggs and humanely raised organic animal products that have not been raised on a CAFO (confined animal feeding operation).
Nearly as important as knowing which foods to eat more of is knowing which foods to avoid, and topping the list is fructose. Sugar, and fructose in particular, acts as a toxin in and of itself, and as such drive multiple disease processes in your body, not the least of which is insulin resistance, a major cause of accelerated aging.
- Comprehensive Exercise Program, including High-Intensity Exercise like Peak Fitness
Even if you're eating the healthiest diet in the world, you still need to exercise to reach the highest levels of health, and you need to be exercising effectively, which means including not only core-strengthening exercises, strength training, and stretching but also high-intensity activities into your rotation. High-intensity interval-type training boosts human growth hormone (HGH) production, which is essential for optimal health, strength and vigor. I've discussed the importance of Peak Fitness for your health on numerous occasions, so for more information, please review this previous article.
- Stress Reduction and Positive Thinking
You cannot be optimally healthy if you avoid addressing the emotional component of your health and longevity, as your emotional state plays a role in nearly every physical disease -- from heart disease and depression, to arthritis and cancer. Effective coping mechanisms are a major longevity-promoting factor in part because stress has a direct impact on inflammation, which in turn underlies many of the chronic diseases that kill people prematurely every day. Meditation, prayer, social support and exercise are all viable options that can help you maintain emotional and mental equilibrium.
- Proper Sun Exposure to Optimize Vitamin D
We have long known that it is best to get your vitamin D from sun exposure, and if at all possible, I strongly urge you to make sure you're getting out in the sun on a daily basis. Vitamin D plays an important role in preventing numerous illnesses ranging from cancer to the flu.
The important factor when it comes to vitamin D is your serum level, which should ideally be between 50-70 ng/ml year-round. Sun exposure or a safe tanning bed is the preferred method for optimizing vitamin D levels, but a vitamin D3 supplement can be used as a last resort. Most adults need about 8,000 IU's of vitamin D a day to achieve serum levels above 40 ng/ml, which is still just below the minimum recommended serum level of 50 ng/ml.
- High Quality Animal-Based Omega-3 Fats
Animal-based omega-3 fat like krill oil is a strong factor in helping people live longer, and many experts believe that it is likely the predominant reason why the Japanese are the longest lived race on the planet.
- Avoid as Many Chemicals, Toxins, and Pollutants as Possible
This includes tossing out your toxic household cleaners, soaps, personal hygiene products, air fresheners, bug sprays, lawn pesticides, and insecticides, just to name a few, and replacing them with non-toxic alternatives.
- $1.1 Trillion: What the 10 Leading Causes of Death Cost the U.S. Economy, 24/7 Wall St., January 18, 2012.
- i Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2010, National Vital Statistics Reports, January 11, 2012: 60(4); 1-69, Sherry L. Murphy, BS, et al. (PDF)
- ii Temporal Trends in Rates of Patient Harm Resulting from Medical Care, New England Journal of Medicine, November 25, 2010: 363(22); 2124-34, C. P. Landrigan, et al.
- iii Are Hospitals Really More Deadly in July, When Novice Doctors Arrive?, JetLib News.
- iv Preventable Adverse Drug Reactions: A Focus on Drug Interactions, Centers for Education and Research on Therapeutics. (PDF)
- v Preventable Adverse Drug Reactions: A Focus on Drug Interactions, Centers for Education and Research on Therapeutics. (PDF)
- vi Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2009, National Vital Statistics Reports, March 16, 2011: 59(4); 1-51, Kenneth D. Kochanek, MA, et al. (PDF)
- vii InfoFacts: Drug-Related Hospital Emergency Room Visits, National Institute on Drug Abuse.
- viii Highlights of the 2009 Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) Findings on Drug-Related Emergency Department Visits, The DAWN Report, December 28, 2010.
- ix The Growing Impact of Pediatric Pharmaceutical Poisoning, Journal of Pediatrics, February 2012: 160(2); 265-270.e1, G. Randall Bond, MD, et al.
- x New Study Shows Sepsis and Pneumonia Caused by Hospital-Acquired Infections Kill 48,000 Patients, EurekAlert, February 22, 2010. (Press Release)
- xi Economics of Central Line-Associated Bloodstream Infections, American Journal of Medical Quality, November/December 2006: 21(6); 7S-16S, Richard P. Shannon, MD, et al.