Veteran – Leading Causes of Death in America

As you know, I love reading about nutrition.  I love learning and understanding the best way to take care of our bodies.  Along this nutrition journey of mine- I love finding interesting FACTS that make me think…

The FACTS that I love finding are the ones that I don’t think many people know about…but should!  And if they did know about them- maybe they would start thinking differently.

I would like to share one of these FACTS with you- one that I find very interesting and thought provoking:

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), which is a federal agency in the Department of Health and Human Services, the following were the leading causes of death in America for 2006.

  • Heart disease: 631,636
  • Cancer: 559,888
  • Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 137,119
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 124,583
  • Accidents (unintentional injuries): 121,599
  • Diabetes: 72,449
  • Alzheimer’s disease: 72,432
  • Influenza and Pneumonia: 56,326
  • Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 45,344
  • Septicemia: 34,234

Another interesting statistic of note can be found in “Is US Health Really the Best in the World?”, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2002 and written by Barbara Starfield, MD, MPH. In this paper Dr. Starfield gives the following statistics:

  • 7,000 deaths occur each year due to medication errors in hospitals
  • 12,000 deaths occur each year due to unnecessary surgery
  • 20,000 deaths occur each year due to other hospital errors
  • 80,000 deaths occur each year due to hospital borne infections
  • 106,000 deaths occur each year due to adverse effects to properly prescribed medications

This equals 225,000 deaths due to what are known as iatrogenic causes.  This would place them as the 3rd leading cause of death – just above cerebrovascular diseases at 137,119 deaths.

That makes our health care system the third leading cause of death in the United States, behind only cancer and heart disease.

Isn’t it interesting that the CDC doesn’t apply these deaths to their statistics?  I would like to know why?

The largest category of deaths (106,000) in this group are the hospitalized patients who die from the “noxious, unintended and undesired effect of a drug” which occurs at normal doses.  These people took their medicine as directed.

“If nutrition were better understood, and prevention and natural treatments were more accepted in the medical community, we would not be pouring so many toxic, potentially lethal drugs into our bodies at the last stage of disease.  We would not be frantically searching for the new medicine that alleviates the symptoms but often does nothing to address the fundamental causes of our illnesses.  We would not be spending our money developing, patenting and commercializing “magic bullet” drugs that often cause additional health problems.  The current system has not lived up to its promise.  It is time to shift our thinking toward a broader perspective on health, one that includes a proper understanding and use of good nutrition.” (T. Colin Campbell, The China Study)


This update is in response to the question posted on this blog:

Very interesting, are those 225,000 deaths within the healthcare system completely independent of the other statistics? Or, for example, would someone dying while taking a heart disease medicine be categorized in both the heart disease and the adverse effects to properly prescribed medications?  A very stunning statistic if the answer is no!

To try to answer this question I reviewed the NATIONAL VITAL STATISTICS REPORT published by the CDC in April 2009 for the final DATA for 2006 (

This report gives a ton of information regarding deaths in this country.  Did you know that they have determined my death rate, according to my age and sex, for 113 diseases?  Pretty interesting stuff.

There were 2,426,264 deaths in American in 2006.  Out of these deaths, 1,855,610 deaths are included in the top death causes of death listed above.  So that gives us 570,654 other deaths.  They have categorized these “other deaths” in about 113 different causes.  Here are some that I found:

  • 31,725 deaths were caused by symptoms, signs and abnormal clinical and laboratory findings not elsewhere classified
  • 2,521 deaths were caused by complications of medical and surgical care
  • 38,396 deaths were of persons who died of drug-induced causes in the United States.  This category includes not only deaths from dependent and nondependent use of legal or illegal drugs, but also poisoning from medically prescribed and other drugs.
  • 237,421 deaths were caused by ALL OTHER DISEASES/CAUSES (I guess this is how they classify the people who didn’t die of the top 10 causes of death as well as the 113 other causes they specifically identified).

So I can’t say where the CDC has placed the 225,000 deaths caused by our own health care system…but it looks like there is plenty of room for them in the categories above.  It wouldn’t surprise me if some of them really are not placed where they should be- but that is just my opinion of course 🙂

Source: WFM Blog – 2

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