How to Protect Yourself From 10 Top Causes of Death for Men
Changes in health are hard to anticipate. The best anyone can do is to take care of their body and prepare for the worst, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention makes it easier to be prepared with an annual list of the leading causes of death. Here's what the CDC found were the biggest risks for men in 2014, the most recent year for which data was available -- making up about three-quarters of all men's deaths that year -- accompanied by advice gathered from expert sources on the best way to stay safer.
Percent of deaths annually: 24.5
The No. 1 cause of death among U.S. men encompasses all diseases of the heart, which are caused by numerous risk factors including high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.
Prevention: The key is to live a generally healthy lifestyle. Don't smoke, exercise regularly for cardiovascular health, and maintain a balanced diet low in sodium and saturated fats and high in fiber and natural fats. Avoid processed meats and sugary beverages in favor of legumes, fruits, and vegetables.
Percent of deaths annually: 23.4
A large group of diseases characterized by malignant cell growth in one or more parts of the body, cancer is a close second to heart disease. It's the first leading cause among Hispanic and Asian men, at 20.6 percent and 26.4 percent, respectively.
Prevention: The risk factors for cancer are plentiful, and our understanding of prevention is still evolving. That said, there are lifestyle choices that could help keep cancer at bay: Don't smoke, eat a plant-based diet, drink in moderation, get vaccinated for Hepatitis B and HPV, use sunscreen, and avoid the midday sun, the Mayo Clinic says. Finally, see a doctor regularly to catch developing cancers early on.
Percent of deaths annually: 6.4
A steep decline from heart disease and cancer, but still nothing to scoff at, this includes all manner of accidental deaths -- the most common being falling, auto collisions, and accidental poisoning.
Prevention: There's no sure way to prevent death by unintentional injury, as it's far too broad and unpredictable a category. The best solution is just to be careful -- whether that means taking care in dangerous areas or declining to answer a text while driving.
Percent of deaths annually: 5.2
Bronchitis, emphysema, asthma, bronchiectasis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, are included in this category, with deaths highest among white men at 5.6 percent. The main symptoms of such diseases include shortness of breath, cough, and mucus production.
Prevention: Smoking cigarettes is far and away the main cause of COPD -- the deadliest in this group. Smokers are 12 times as likely to die of it; others should avoid secondhand smoke and irritants such as air pollution and chemical fumes.
Percent of deaths annually: 4.2
Stroke is caused by poor blood flow to the brain, resulting in cell death that can in turn result in reduced functioning or death. There's particular prevalence among Asian American men, for whom it is the third leading cause at 6.1 percent.
Prevention: High blood pressure can double or quadruple risk of stroke, so monitor yours closely to keep it around or lower than 120/80. Harvard Medical School pros say easy ways to manage this include exercising regularly, not smoking, and maintaining a diet based around whole grains, fish, and vegetables, and low in cholesterol and sodium. Such a diet can also prevent high blood sugar levels, another major contributor to stroke.
Percent of deaths annually: 3.1
This refers to a group of metabolic diseases characterized by high blood sugar levels over long periods that are particularly damaging for Hispanic men (4.5 percent) and Native American men (5.1 percent).
Prevention: Diabetes can also be prevented simply by eating healthy. The overweight or those who have a family history of diabetes are at a higher risk, though even they can take steps toward prevention by slimming down, exercising regularly, and eating better, with lots of fiber and whole grains.
Percent of deaths annually: 2.5
Suicide rates are generally highest amongst Americans aged 45 to 64 or older than 85, though all groups except those under 20 hover around the same area. The rate is higher for Native Americans, at 3.7 percent.
Prevention: Know the warning signs, including hopelessness, self-hatred, social withdrawal, and preoccupation with death, and take them seriously. Talk about them with an at-risk loved one and remove potential means of suicide. Encourage them to get help, call a suicide prevention line, or make other positive lifestyle changes.
Percent of deaths annually: 2.1
The chronic neurodegenerative disease hits white Americans slightly harder than other races -- 2.3 percent. The disease, the most common form of dementia, usually starts slowly and worsens in a span of years, causing memory loss, disorientation, mood swings, and other cognitive issues.
Prevention: There's some uncertainty, as researchers are still working on important large-scale studies. Some risk factors, such as genetics and age, can't be helped, but as with cardiovascular ailments, chances improve by reducing blood pressure and improving diet, according to the Alzheimer's Organization. Maintaining strong social connections into old age and avoiding head trauma also tend to lower risk.
Percent of deaths annually: 2
Frequently caused by influenza in children and by bacterial infection in adults, these afflict Asian men more, for 3.2 percent of their deaths.
Prevention: Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs caused by many viruses and bacteria, most of which have already been cured in the form of vaccines. The CDC says to keep up with vaccinations for influenza, measles, varicella, and whooping cough, and avoid infection by coughing into your elbow, cleaning frequently touched surfaces, and washing hands regularly.
Percent of deaths annually: 1.9
Most seriously affecting Hispanics (4.2 percent) and Native Americans (4.9 percent), this includes alcohol-induced liver disease as well as conditions caused by Hepatitis or metabolic issues.
Prevention: Chronic alcohol consumption is a common contributor, and reducing or ending use will reduce risk. Also, be careful with prescription and even over-the-counter drugs such as acetaminophen, beware of inhaling or touching insecticides or toxic cleaners, and avoid contact with used needles or bodily fluids.