You probably won’t be killed by terrorists, die in an airplane crash or be eaten by sharks. Humans sure are a self-centered, emotional, dramatic lot. Worse, we watch cable news. We picture our own demise occurring with cinematic flourish, accompanied by fireballs, a hail of bullets and a dramatic John Williams score. The reality is that most deaths are predictable, boring and preventable. Here are the five most likely ways you’ll depart this planet.
The vast majority of accidental deaths in the United States are motor vehicle accidents. The way people act around bees (1 in 71,107 chance of dying), stray dogs (1 in 122,216) and lightning (1 in 126,158) is the way they should act around cars (1 in 108). Yes, you’d be wise to flail your arms and screech like a small girl next time you’re on the freeway, because you’re in much more danger there than when a bee lands on your macaroni salad at the neighbor’s barbecue. The number of auto deaths has been declining, a trend that some experts attribute to safer vehicles as well as people driving less due to the high cost of gas and DUI lawyers.
More common than you might think, cerebrovascular diseases such as strokes are the cause of 1 in 19 American deaths. Patients who get to an emergency room within three hours of first experiencing symptoms tend to be healthier three months after a stroke than those who did not. (Sudden numbness on one side is the major symptom.) Sadly, strokes tend to be racist jerks as African-Americans are twice as likely as whites to experience them.
3 Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease
These include chronic bronchitis and emphysema, which are diseases that make breathing difficult. Your body can survive without a lot of things (the Doritos Locos Taco comes to mind), but oxygen is not one of them.
The four most common forms of cancer are lung, colon, breast and prostate, each of which is awful. But there is good news—cancer mortality rates have been falling. For women, breast cancer has accounted for 34 percent of the drop. It’s believed that advances in cancer screening have saved more than one million lives since the early 1990s. For men, lung cancer has accounted for 40 percent of the drop. Some men have finally figured out that setting fire to dried leaves and inhaling them into your lungs isn’t compatible with long-term health.
1 Heart Disease
The most common cause of death is when the body part responsible for keeping you alive stops keeping you alive. Heart disease is an umbrella term that covers heart attacks, angina, coronary artery disease, arrhythmias, heart infections and heart defects. Fun fact: someone in the United States has a heart attack every 34 seconds, which, if you’re a sports fan, is less time than it takes the Jacksonville Jaguars to huddle, hike the ball and throw a pass directly to the opposing middle linebacker.