Leading Causes of Death in America: #6 – #10

While statistics may have warned you about the top five diseases killing Americans today, numbers 6 through 10 might not be as obvious to you. Our last post focused on the top 5 leading causes of death in the United States today, and this post aims to continue this discussion by highlighting the next five diseases responsible for American deaths. Here are some details on these diseases, their causes, and important methods of prevention:


  1. Alzheimer’s disease

Although Alzheimer’s has climbed the “Top 10” list, this is largely due to better diagnostic criteria, meaning more deaths are being reported, not necessarily that they are occurring.[1] An estimated 5.4 million Americans currently have Alzheimer’s diseases, and it is one of the most expensive conditions in the nation.[2] It is the only cause of death in the top 10 that cannot be cured.[3]

What happens? Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia, so it is characterized by damage to nerve cells in the brain. Changes to the blood vessels that supply circulation to the brain result in neurons that can no longer function normally; when these neurons die, it impairs a person’s ability to carry out basic bodily functions, such as walking and swallowing.[4]


  1. Diabetes

Diabetes deaths are likely under reported, because though they may not be listed as the primary cause of death on death certificates, their mortality rate grows significantly when considering all cases where it is listed as a contributing factor; diabetes directly causes 76,000 deaths a year, but it’s listed as a contributing factor on close to 245,000 death certificates.[5]

What happens? Diabetes is a disease in which the body is incapable of carefully controlling blood glucose. People with diabetes are incapable of making enough insulin, which helps move glucose around the body, and this causes sugar to build up in the blood, damaging the body’s tissues, including nerves and blood vessels, and can ultimately lead to heart disease, blindness, or kidney failure.

Prevention methods: Though type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition that cannot be prevented, type 2 diabetes can be prevented through healthier diet, regular exercise, and weight loss.


  1. Influenza and pneumonia

Though many people may see this category and think these deaths are the result of the flu, only about 20% of the deaths in this category are flu-related.[6] Many of the deaths in this category are elderly individuals who developed pneumonia from a lack of mobility and remaining in a static position.

What happens? Influenza is a highly contagious viral infection that can result in fever, headache, sore throat, and congestion. Influenza can be complicated by pneumonia, which causes an inflammation of the lungs; the air sacs in the lungs fill with pus and other liquid, preventing oxygen from reaching the bloodstream.[7]

Prevention methods: Receive vaccination against flu every year, wash hands frequently, quit smoking, and stay physically active.


  1. Kidney disease

This category includes nephritis, nephritic syndrome, and nephrosis, which are all disorders of the kidneys. It is estimated that 10% of adults in the U.S. – more than 20 million people – have some degree of chronic kidney disease.[8]

What happens? Chronic kidney disease is a condition in which kidneys are damaged and cannot filter blood as effectively as healthy kidneys can. This causes blood waste to remain in the body, potentially causing high blood pressure, anemia, weak bones, poor nutritional health, and nerve damage.

Prevention methods: Though you may have little control over whether or not you develop kidney disease, avoid excessive intake of alcohol, follow instructions carefully on over-the-counter medications, maintain a healthy weight, quit smoking, and manage medical conditions with the help of a doctor.


  1. Suicide

The rate of deaths by intentional self-harm has gone up steadily in the U.S. since 1999. Each year 44,193 Americans die by suicide, and for every suicide, 25 others attempt to kill themselves.[9] Firearms account for almost 50% of all suicides.

Prevention methods: Seek help for depression, substance abuse, and other mental disorders and assist those with suicidal thoughts seek help.


Though specific mortality numbers may fluctuate from year to year, the problems these specific ailments bring to light demonstrate where our medical focus needs to be for the next decade. We may not be able to cheat death, but we can certainly put up a better fight.

[1] Brophy Marcus, “The top 10 leading causes”

[2] Nichols, “The top 10 leading causes”

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] Brophy Marcus, “The top 10 leading causes”

[6] Ibid

[7] Nichols, “The top 10 leading causes”

[8] Ibid

[9] “Suicide Statistics,” American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, n.d. https://afsp.org/about-suicide/suicide-statistics/