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Reasons Most People Die Too Early and How to Prevent it Happening to You

Learn why 900,000 Americans die prematurely each year and how to help avoid an early death. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

According to the recent report  Dying young in the United States, co-authored by Colorado University Boulder Sociology Professor Richard Rogers and published by the nonprofit, Population Reference Bureau, more young people are dying and are not likely to see the age of 25. "Americans ages 15 to 24 are twice as likely to die as their peers in France, Germany, Japan, and other wealthy nations. While mortality rates for young people have been steadily declining in these nations, rates have remained stagnant or risen in the United States among every age group under 25. And the infant mortality rate is up to three times higher in the United States than in peer countries."

Mr. Rogers said "This is a bleak report, and it's tough to read. But it is also a call to action. The first step is to acknowledge that we have a problem here, and we document that not just with anecdotes but with hard data." The report said younger adults are prematurely dying from "unintentional injuries," whereas adults tend to die too early from diseases. However, Rogers said, "'Accidental' is a bit of a misnomer. "It assumes it is all purely by chance, but in many cases, these deaths can be prevented."

Premature death is considered dying before the age of 75 and in the United States, 900,000 people die too young. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Americans die prematurely from the five leading causes of death – yet 20 percent to 40 percent of the deaths from each cause could be prevented. The five leading causes of death in the United States are heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, and unintentional injuries. Together they accounted for 63 percent of all U.S. deaths in 2010, with rates for each cause varying greatly from state to state." Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Risk Factors for Premature Death


The report finds, "Poverty, race and ethnicity, gender, parental education, family structure, and regional location are important factors in young Americans' mortality risk, with those living in southern states facing a greater risk of early death."

Tomi Mitchell, a Board-Certified Family Physician with Holistic Wellness Strategies tells us, "Premature death is a risk for anyone, but certain demographics are at an even higher risk than others. Elderly individuals, those with chronic illnesses, and people in disadvantaged socioeconomic situations are especially vulnerable because of their weakened immune systems as well as their lack of access to important resources like proper nutrition and preventative health care. Genetics may also put some at an increased risk depending on family history. Even lifestyle choices such as smoking cigarettes or engaging in frequent drug abuse can put someone's life in danger both short-term and long-term. By being aware of these potential risks, we can take better steps to protect ourselves and our loved ones from premature death."


Many Premature Deaths are Preventable

Man eating pizza having a takeaway at home relaxing resting

Dr. Mitchell says, "Unfortunately, most people do not realize that many of the leading causes of death are preventable. Poor lifestyle habits such as smoking, obesity, and lack of physical activity can contribute to heart disease, stroke, and diabetes – all conditions which lead to early mortality. Unhealthy diets consisting of processed foods or high-fat meals can also be a factor in worsening the state of one's health. Furthermore, the dangerous behaviors associated with driving while under the influence or distracted can have severe consequences and put innocent lives at risk. In spite of this knowledge, it is still alarming that so many people succumb to preventable deaths each year when there are effective measures to address these issues and improve overall well-being."

"As a doctor, it is heartbreaking to lose just one patient to a preventable disease or injury – and it is that much more poignant as the director of the nation's public health agency to know that far more than a hundred thousand deaths each year are preventable," Tom Frieden, MD, MPH told the CDC. "With programs such as the CDC's Million Hearts initiative, we are working hard to prevent many of these premature deaths."


Injuries, Suicides and Homicides

Woman assisting an injured man on the running track at garden

According to the report, "Injuries, suicides, and homicides are the leading causes of death among children and young adults, while premature birth and congenital abnormalities are the top causes of infant mortality. Although it is too early to fully assess the impact of COVID-19 on mortality patterns, the authors warn that growing rates of mental health and substance abuse issues among young Americans during the pandemic could contribute to rising death rates."

The report says, "Recommendations to reverse these trends include:

Reducing child poverty through direct payments and expanded tax credits and funding for child care, preschool, housing, nutrition, and health care.

Addressing racial and ethnic barriers to improve access to quality health care and reproductive health programs.

Improving treatment for and prevention of mental illness and substance abuse, as well as enacting broad safety measures related to guns and gun ownership."



overweight woman at home lying on the floor, laptop in front of her, prepared to work out on mat according to video

Dr. Mitchell states, "Premature death is a frightening prospect and one that can often be prevented or delayed by changes in lifestyle. There are three key ways to avoid a premature death.The term 'lifestyle' entails a person's everyday habits and rituals that they partake in on a regular basis. This includes such things as diet, exercise, mental well-being, and any recreational activities that one may engage in. 

By addressing these aspects of our lives and attempting to lead an overall balanced lifestyle, we are taking the necessary steps needed to reduce our risk of premature death. For instance, by balancing work stress with relaxation periods and engaging in regular physical activity while eating healthy foods, we can do much to ensure good health over time. Together with proper medical attention at checkups and screenings where applicable, managing one's lifestyle can be integral to staying healthy now and avoiding problems down the road."


Safe Practices

mature couple jogging outdoors

According to Dr. Mitchell, "Developing safe practices for healthy lifestyles is essential to achieving long, successful lives. Eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise are two easy steps that can lead to lasting health benefits. Regular physical activity aids in maintaining a healthy weight, which decreases the chance of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Consuming nutrient-dense meals with plenty of fruits, vegetables, proteins and whole grains helps to maintain adequate vitamin and mineral levels, strengthening the immune system and helping to reduce stress levels.

Along with the consumption of alcohol in moderation, these everyday habits can help to reduce the risk of premature death due to heart attack or stroke, as well as certain types of cancer. Overall, leading a healthy lifestyle through a combination of habit changes can be simple yet highly effective at avoiding life-threatening illnesses."




Dr. Mitchell says, "Preventative healthcare is undeniably a crucial part of maintaining good health and making sure we do not succumb to preventable illnesses. Taking proactive approaches to our own well-being such as screenings and tests to detect diseases early, regular exercise, balanced diets, stress management, and other healthy lifestyle habits can go a long way in preventing weak immune systems, ensuring the body's defenses are at their strongest.

Regular screening tests can provide key insights into the overall well-being of an individual and can alert medical professionals to potential health issues before they become more serious. Early diagnosis of any medical issue is integral in reducing chances of premature death – when detected early, potential issues are treatable and individuals are able to live longer healthier lives. The benefits of seeing a healthcare provider regularly for preventive checkups and tests therefore far outweigh the risks; not only does it allow doctors to develop a fuller picture of our health, but it also gives us an opportunity for greater peace of mind if we can receive an all clear from our doctor. Seeing your healthcare provider for regular screenings is one of the best ways to help ensure you lead a long, healthy life."

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather
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