Hardly anyone is ever prepared for death, even if it’s not unexpected. Unfortunately, most of the leading causes of death in Illinois and all over the United States are unexpected. On the other hand, most are also preventable. Here’s a look at the top five leading causes of death in Illinois.
#1: Heart Disease
Heart disease is the umbrella term for several diseases that affect the heart, and coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common. Not only is it the leading cause of death in Illinois, but in the United States as a whole. Common symptoms of heart disease include:
● Chest pain/discomfort
● Heart palpitations
● Shortness of breath
The biggest risk factor for heart disease is lifestyle habits. Being inactive and eating poorly leads to a variety of problems (e.g., obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, etc). Other risk factors include having a family history of heart disease and smoking tobacco— which is also related to an unhealthy lifestyle.
Cancer is characterized by uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in a part of the body. Although the number of cancer cases across the U.S. has been declining, it’s still the second leading cause of death in the U.S. and Illinois. There are five main types of cancers, categorized by where they start:
● Carcinomas start in the skin or internal organs
● Central nervous system (CNS) cancers start in the brain and spinal cord
● Leukemia starts in the blood and bone marrow
● Lymphomas start in the immune system
● Sarcomas start in the fat, bone, cartilage, and connective tissues
Lung and skin cancers are the most common type found in both men and women, whereas breast cancer is the most common in women and prostate the most common in men. Some of the known risk factors include environmental habits (e.g., smoking, increased sun exposure) and a family history of a certain type of cancer.
In the middle of 2020, COVID-19 became a leading cause of death in the U.S., and Illinois was no exception— although it lies on the lower end of COVID-19 deaths compared to other states. The COVID-19 disease (or coronavirus) is an infectious disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 strand. Because the virus is related to the common cold, it shares many of the same symptoms:
● Muscle and body aches
● Runny nose
Difficulty breathing and loss of taste and/or smell are also symptoms that are related to COVID-19. Some cases are mild and affected individuals can rest at home and take OTC (over-the-counter) cold medications. However, some cases are more severe and require hospitalization. Unfortunately, more than one million people in the U.S. have died from COVID-19.
Accidental deaths are the fourth leading cause of death in Illinois, and Illinois is among the states with the highest rates of accident mortality. Some examples of accidental death incidents include drowning, poisoning, and suffocation. However, when an accidental death occurs because of another individual’s negligence, this is referred to as wrongful death. Examples of wrongful death include:
● Abuse and violence
● Car, pedestrian, and bike accidents
● Dog bites and other animal attacks
● Medical malpractice
● Slips and falls
Fortunately, the families of victims of wrongful death can receive financial compensation by contacting a wrongful death attorney. Because the death was a result of another’s negligence, the other party can be held responsible.
Strokes are the fifth leading cause of death in Illinois and the U.S. This happens when the blood supply to the brain is reduced, resulting in less oxygen and nutrients going to the brain. The most common symptoms of a stroke include:
● Blurred or blackened vision in one or both eyes
● Headache (sudden and severe)
● Numbness in the face, arm(s), or leg(s)
● Slurred speech and difficulty understanding speech
● Trouble walking
The risk factors for having a stroke are very similar to the risk factors for having a heart attack. Other risk factors for stroke include heavy drinking, use of illegal drugs, obstructive sleep apnea, cardiovascular disease, family/personal history of stroke, and having (or having had) COVID-19.
Other leading causes of death in Illinois (and the U.S.) include chronic lower respiratory diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, kidney disease, and chronic liver disease. Most of these leading causes of death can be reduced by making certain lifestyle changes (e.g., eating healthy, exercising, and abstaining from smoking and heavy drinking).