Top 15 Causes of Death in America

The top 15 causes of death in America are 1) heart disease, 2) malignant neoplasms, 3) chronic lower respiratory diseases, 4) cerebrovascular diseases, 5) accidents, 6) Alzheimer’s disease, 7) diabetes mellitus, 8) nephrotic syndrome and nephrosis, 9) influenza and pneumonia, 10) suicide, 11) septicemia, 12) chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, 13) hypertension, 14) Parkinson’s disease, and 15) pneumonitis. These top causes of death in the U.S. make having life insurance coverage and knowing your family’s medical history so important. Find affordable life insurance now with our free comparison tool below.

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Tim is a licensed life insurance agent with 23 years of experience helping people protect their families and businesses with term life insurance. He writes and creates stuff for QuickQuote and other insurance and financial websites.

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Benjamin Carr was a licensed insurance agent in Georgia and has two years' experience in life, health, property and casualty coverage. He has worked with State Farm and other risk management firms. He is also a strategic writer and editor with a background in branding, marketing, and quality assurance. He has been in military newsrooms — literally on the frontline of journalism.

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Reviewed by Benji Carr
Former Licensed Life Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Jul 19, 2021

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Each year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) releases the top causes of death for Americans. The leading causes of American deaths continue to be non-infectious diseases like heart disease, strokes and lung diseases. Here are the top 15 causes of death:

1. Heart Disease

Heart disease, or cardiovascular disease, is associated with several problems related to plaque buildup in the walls of the arteries, or atherosclerosis. As the plaque builds up, the arteries narrow, making it more difficult for blood to flow and creating a risk for heart attack or stroke.

2. Malignant Neoplasms

Cancer, or malignant neoplasm, is a large group of different diseases, all involving unregulated cell growth. In cancer, cells divide and grow uncontrollably, forming malignant tumors, and invade nearby parts of the body.

3. Chronic Lower Respiratory Diseases

Chronic lower respiratory diseases are a diverse group of disorders involving impairment of lung function. The primary chronic lower respiratory diseases include chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma. Each is characterized by a shortness of breath caused by airway obstruction.

4. Cerebrovascular Diseases

Cerebrovascular Disease, or stroke, is the rapid loss of brain function due to a disturbance in the blood supply to the brain. The result can often lead to the inability to move limbs on one side of the body.

5. Accidents

Automobile accidents top the list of deadliest accidents year-after-year.

6. Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia that impacts daily living through memory loss and cognitive changes. Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease usually develop slowly and worsen over time, progressing from mild forgetfulness to widespread brain impairment.

7. Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes mellitus is a group of diseases involving defects in insulin production, insulin action or both. Serious complications may result from diabetes, but there are preventative measures and treatments that can be used to manage complications caused by the disease.

8. Nephrotic Syndrome and Nephrosis

Nephrotic syndrome and nephrosis, or kidney disease, includes conditions that damage your kidneys and decrease their ability function. As the disease progresses, you may develop complications like high blood pressure, anemia, weak bones, poor nutritional health and nerve damage.

9. Influenza and Pneumonia

Influenza, or the flu, is an infection mainly affecting the nose, throat, airways, and lungs. It is caused by a virus and causes mild to severe illness. High-risk patients such the elderly, infants and those with health conditions are at high risk for serious complications, including pneumonia.

10. Suicide

11. Septicemia

Septicemia is an inflammatory response by the immune system to microbes in the blood, urine, lungs, skin or other tissues. It often occurs with severe infections and progressively gets worse.

12. Chronic Liver Disease and Cirrhosis

Cirrhosis is the result of chronic liver damage caused by chronic liver diseases. Common causes of liver disease include long-term alcohol abuse, autoimmune disorders of the liver and Hepatitis B and C.

13. Hypertension

Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is a chronic medical condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is elevated. This requires the heart to work harder than normal to circulate blood through the blood vessels.

14. Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a disabling condition of the brain characterized by shaking, stiffness and loss of balance. Many of these symptoms are due to the loss of certain nerves in the brain.

15. Pneumonitis

Pneumonitis is inflammation of the lungs due to breathing in a foreign substance, usually certain types of dust, fungus, or molds. The most common symptom of pneumonitis is difficulty breathing accompanied by a cough.

The above causes of death can make getting term life insurance tricky. It is because of high death rates that insurance companies are more apt to ask you questions about your health and family history. For more information check out our blog Term Life Insurance: Why Your Family History Matters.

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