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The Death Rate Is Rising

US Death Rate

Story at-a-glance -

  • For the first time in 10 years, the death rate for people in the U.S. has risen
  • This rise is a larger increase than has been experienced since 1992, when the rise was attributed to an increased number of deaths from HIV
  • The underlying conditions that may be responsible for the overall rise, and are responsible for the rise in death rates of middle-aged white people, are cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes, all of which are linked to obesity

By Dr. Mercola

For the first time 10 years, the death rate for people living in the U.S. has risen. Preliminary data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests both the overall number of deaths and the rate adjusted for the increasing likelihood of death as people age, rose in 2015.1

At the same time, the CDC also released numbers from one of the largest and broadest health surveys in the U.S., finding rising rates of obesity and diabetes. 2

Although in the past several decades the number of people who die from cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes and stroke has declined, this year the number of deaths related to CVD has increased.3

Declining rates of death from multiple sources, including diabetes, cancers and CVD have been attributed to growing technological advancements in medical treatment protocols.

However, there comes a point when technology and treatments cannot overcome the effects of poor lifestyle choices.

Measurement of Death Rate

The death rate is measured as a number of people who die per 100,000. The overall rate has been declining in the U.S. since 1935. In 1935, the CDC published a death rate of 1,860.1 persons per 100,000, and in 2014 that number was 723.2 persons per 100,000.4,5 In 2015, the number rose to 729.2 persons per 100,000.

Although single-year improvements in mortality have been small since 1935, there has been an overall 60 percent decline in death rate between 1935 and 2010. Despite declining rates, every year the leading causes of death were heart disease, cancer and stroke.6

The rise in death rate in 2015 is significant as it represents a larger increase in death rate than has been experienced since 1993, when the rate rose by 8.8 people per 100,000 or an overall increase of 1.7 percent.7

The rates for the leading causes of death that year were stable, but there was a significant rise in the number of deaths from HIV.

What Caused the Rise in Death Rate?

On the surface, the CDC report lists a rise in several causes of death, including suicide, Alzheimer's disease and drug overdose.8 The latter refers primarily to opioid prescription overdoses, which now far surpasses illicit drug overdoses.

In the past, although there have been increased numbers in specific groups noted, an increase in death rate for the entire population has been a relatively rare occurrence.

As of yet, the data from 2015 is preliminary and has not been completely broken down and evaluated. Using data from 1999 to 2014, researchers have demonstrated a rise in death rate in middle-class whites living in the U.S. and have found some disturbing trends.

Early evaluation of data revealed an increasing number of people who die earlier than expected from suicide and drug overdose.9

However, further exploration of CDC records by Commonwealth Fund researchers uncovered statistics that overdose and suicide could account for only 40 percent of the rise in early deaths. The remaining increases were from illnesses related to obesity.

Heart disease, respiratory disease and diabetes were responsible for the disparity between the percentage of expected declining deaths and the actual number of deaths.10

Researchers called this number the mortality gap, and found it accounted for an extra 100 deaths in middle-aged Caucasians per 100,000.

Evaluation of this data indicates that not only are more middle-aged white Americans getting sick with diseases that usually kill older people, when they do get sick, they aren't getting better.

Obesity Rates Climb

With an expanding waistline comes an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis and gout. High blood pressure also places you at greater risk for heart disease and stroke.

Every year since 1957, the CDC has taken a survey of individuals 18 years and older, asking them about their health. From the data in 2015, they learned that less people were smoking, more had health insurance and more considered themselves to be obese.11

The uptick of obesity amounted to half a percentage point, rising from 29.9 percent to 30.4 percent of respondents over the age of 18.

However, it's the continuation of a trend that began in 1985, when most states began reporting data to the CDC.12 In 1992 the majority of states reported rates of obesity at or lower than 14 percent.

This represents a rise of 15 percent over a 23-year period. Although already disturbing enough, the CDC's numbers may actually be too low.

In 2012, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found 34.9 percent of adults 20 years and older were obese. For this survey, researchers measured the height and weight of more than 9,000 people living in the U.S. instead of relying on self-reported data.13

This approach is likely more accurate since many people overestimate their height, which then affects their body mass index (BMI) indicator. Your BMI is a comparison of your weight to your height, using a mathematical equation. This number is then plotted on a graph and compared against normative values.

A BMI of 30 or greater is considered obese and 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight.14 These numbers may not accurately portray your obesity level if your body fat content is lower than normal.

Moreover, two brand new studies15 published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) show that 35 percent of American men, 40 percent of women and 17 percent of children and adolescents are obese, with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher.

Nearly 10 percent of women and 5.5 percent of men now fall into the class 3 obesity category with a BMI of 40 or higher.

How You Can Prevent Becoming a Statistic

While it is premature to fault the rise in death rate on one specific illness, even the preliminary data indicates an increase in deaths from illnesses commonly associated with obesity.

Weight loss is a complex and complicated process, involving many bodily systems and psychological choices. However, while there are intricate body mechanisms at work, it boils down to simple choices you make each day.

Use this list of nine strategies as a guide for change. They may significantly increase your potential for successful weight loss. Remember to implement each change slowly, over time.

If you make one addition every six weeks, you may experience results you didn't expect to both your weight goals and your overall health. Remember, success comes when you put knowledge into action.

Get motivated!

You need to have an internal reason for wanting to achieve your goal weight. When the carbs, sugar and nighttime snacks call your name, you must have a deep seated reason for turning them down.

Forget dieting

Dieting is something you do for a short time and then revert back to the habits that got you in trouble in the first place. Instead, it's time to make a permanent change to your lifestyle choices to impact your future health. This is not just about weight loss; it's about the overall quality of your life.

Think about the changes you're making as permanent changes you'll maintain throughout your life. Small steps you continue to follow will result in big changes.

Enlist support

Research demonstrates people who want to start exercising, lose weight, stop smoking or change other habits are more successful when they have a support system in place to help hold them accountable.16,17 Before you make major changes, enlist supporters you can rely on.

You may approach a group of friends who want to make the same changes, or people who are already in the middle of these health changes. You may even consider hiring a support person, like a psychologist or counselor. Paying for the service may motivate you to stay on track and finish the program.

Boost your fiber intake

Soluble and insoluble fiber in your diet has multiple benefits. It fills you up so you don't eat as much, it regulates your bowels, it may release a molecule that works in your brain to reduce your appetite, it helps control your blood sugar (also reducing your appetite), reduces the effect of carbohydrates in your diet and it is a simple addition to your daily regimen.18,19,20

Remember that the real foods you eat are more than just one thing. For instance, potatoes are high in fiber, but also high in carbohydrates.

The carbs spike your insulin levels, increase your risk of diabetes and increase the potential your blood sugar plummets two to three hours later, which can prompt overeating. Seek to get 40 to 50 grams (gm) of fiber for every 1000 calories you eat each day.

Choose healthy fats over net carbs

Although all fats had been lumped into one category of "bad-for-you-food," research has demonstrated it isn't the healthy fats found in organic, raw nuts and seeds, avocados, coconut oil, or pastured organic meats that are the culprit. Instead, it's the processing chemicals and trans fats found in baked goods, fast foods and boxed goods that trigger heart disease, inflammation and insulin resistance.

Once a low-fat diet became the primary recommendation for weight loss and cholesterol reduction, people turned to net carbs (total carbs minus fiber; think sugar) to fill them up. This results in high blood sugar and insulin and leptin resistance. Each of these factors leads to weight gain and rising cholesterol numbers.

Given the choice, choose healthy fats over carbohydrates. You can cut your net carbs, or the amount of carbohydrates that impact your body, by increasing your fiber. Net carbohydrates equal your total number of carbs in grams minus your total amount of fiber in grams.

As a general rule, keep your total fructose intake from all sources (including whole fruit) to a maximum of 25 gm per day, or as little as 15 gm a day if you're insulin resistant.

Consider intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting is a scheduled eating pattern that helps your body to burn fat instead of sugar as its primary fuel.

You accomplish this by not eating for approximately 15 hours or more. This reduces your glycogen stores and makes your body turn to burning fat, a better fuel for your muscles and brain. To learn more please see this previous article on intermittent fasting.

Exercise regularly

Your body has at least 360 moving joints. In other words, your body was made for moving. Exercise tones your muscles, boosts your metabolism, improves your mood and slows aging. The exercise you choose should be one you enjoy and will continue.

If you are new to exercise seek out a partner you can exercise with several times a week. Ideally, to optimize your chances of weight loss, consider high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which can be done with or without equipment, indoors or out. You can even turn your strength training routine into a HIIT session by slowing it down (so-called super-slow weight training). Last but not least, walk more. A goal of 7,000 to 10,000 steps a day, over and above your regular fitness regimen, is ideal.

Address your stress

Stress reduction is an important aspect to changing your nutritional habits and managing your weight.21,22,23 Find a stress reducer you enjoy. My favorite is the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). It's easy to learn and can be done anywhere at any time. Click here to learn more about how to do EFT at home.

Drink enough clean, pure water

Increasing the amount of water you drink each day by one to three cups is an easy way to feel full, hydrate your cells, increase your metabolism and help your weight management efforts.24,25

Plan your snacks

You will get the munchies, so plan for them. Keep snacks high in healthy fats and fiber nearby so you won't be tempted to snack on junk food. High-fiber foods will fill you up without adding low nutritional calories.

Keep in mind that once you've successfully shifted your body into fat-burning mode (by reducing net carbs and increasing healthy fats), sugar cravings will dramatically reduce or disappear altogether. Intermittent fasting can help speed up this metabolic transition.

+ Sources and References