Top 10 Biggest Killers in the United States and How You Can Avoid Them

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Improving you day-to-day chances of survival dramatically now, before the SHTF, means you must take a long hard look at a specific set of factors that directly and substantially influence the threats you are living under.

There are three major issues that impact your overall chances of survival:

  1. Medical History And Overall Health
  2. Where You Live, Work, And Prep
  3. How Often And By What Method You Travel

Biggest Overall Survival Threats

For over 10 years, both heart disease and cancer have remained in spots one and two as the leading causes of death in the United States of America. When deaths caused by these two medical conditions are combined, they account for a grand total of 46% of American deaths.

Over the past three decades, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have been compiling and reviewing the causes of deaths in America to help doctors develop better preventative tactics.

Violent crime comes in a close second to medical issues on the day-to-day survival threats scale. Personal attacks on the street, and home invasions are the top two ways Americans are injured or killed annually.

Accidental injuries are the most difficult to predict and prepare yourself against, which is why occupational, recreational, and automobile accidents often take a tragic turn.

Heart Disease

More than 600,000 Americans die from heart disease, on average, each year. Those at prime risk include: men, people over 55, smokers, obese or overweight Americans, and those with a family history of the disease.

How to Improve Your Chances of Survival from Heart Disease

  • Do not smoke or stop smoking.
  • Lose weight and live a more active lifestyle (starting a homestead is a great way to stay active and productive at the same time).
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Consult your doctor regularly if you have a family history of heart disease.

Accidental Injuries

The leading cause of death in Americans aged 1 to 44 is accidental injury. Accidental deaths are the fourth leading cause of death in Americans overall.

The most common types of accidental deaths include:

  • Falls
  • Drowning
  • Poisoning
  • Suffocation
  • Industrial accidents
  • Fires
  • Firearms Accidents
  • Medical Mistakes

How to Reduce Your Chances of Dying in an Accident

Expecting the unexpected is an extremely difficult thing to do. To help reduce your chances of dying from any of the top modes of accidental deaths in the United States:

  • Never swing or engage in watersports alone, under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Never go into the water during unsafe weather conditions or with unsafe equipment.
  • Always wear your seatbelt, have your vehicle serviced regularly, inspect the tires on a routine basis. Do not drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, do not drive in unsafe weather conditions, when overly tired or ill, and always remain alert and watchful of other drivers – especially those passing lanes or entering the roadway from a ramp or side road.
  • Do not operate heavy machinery or agricultural equipment unless trained to do so. Only use machinery or farm equipment unless it is in good working order, do not work in unsafe conditions or in bad weather.
  • Always have a working fire detector and carbon monoxide detector in your home. Keep a folding emergency ladder in every room in a second story home, do routine fire hazard inspections of your home, clean the dryer out of your lint trap. Never leave a dryer or stove running unattended, do not use unsafe emergency heaters indoors, develop a fire escape plan, and practice it with your family.

Stroke

Far too often, the first warning sign that you are going to have a stroke, is the actual stroke. Strokes and other cerebrovascular diseases account for approximately 5.2% of annual deaths in America.

Subarachnoid hemorrhages, mini strokes or transient ischemic attacks, and vascular dementia.

Stroke Risk Factors That Are Impossible or Difficult to Control

  • People with high blood pressure that runs at least 140/90 are most susceptible to strokes. Also, individuals who have chronic kidney disease or are diabetic with blood pressure at 130/80 or higher are also at great risk for a stroke.
  • Americans with heart disease and atrial fibrillation that can cause blood clots, are also a high risk group for stroke.
  • The chance of stroke increases as we age. When younger, men are more at risk to have a stroke than women, but women are more likely to die from a stroke when older, or when taking birth control pills.
  • Diabetes causes blood sugar levels to increase because the body is incapable of producing enough insulin. Being a diabetic may increase the chances of having a stroke even in blood pressure levels largely remain in check.
  • Having bleeding disorders like vasculitis and sickle cell disease can expand your risk of having a stroke.
  • Strokes occur more frequently in Native Americans, African Americans, and Alaskans than Americans that are white, Asian, or Hispanic.
  • A person with a brain aneurysms of a history of them can be at an increased risk of stroke.
  • Americans with an individual or family history of stroke, or having already had a stroke or mini stroke, can increase the chance of this medical emergency from occurring again.

Stroke Risk Factors You Can Control

  • Smokers experience a reduction of oxygen in the bloodstream, which can increase the risk of stroke for themselves and, albeit to a potentially lesser degree, to second hand smokers.
  • Abuse of alcohol and drugs, especially amphetamines and cocaine, can increase the chances of having a stroke.
  • Living a sedentary life and being overweight can also increase the possibility of suffering a stroke.
  • Eating an unhealthy diet may also put you at greater risk of having a stroke.
  • Americans who are struggling with high levels of stress or depression can get a stroke.
  • Individuals who have high cholesterol levels also put themselves at risk of experiencing a stroke.
  • Americans who are taking anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for long periods of time, other than aspirin, could be placing themselves at a higher risk of stroke. Naproxen and ibuprofen are two of the most common over the counter forms of NSAIDs.

How to Reduce Your Risk of Dying From a Stroke

The best way to decrease your chances of having or dying from a stroke is to have regular screenings with a medical professional and to make healthy choices related to the risk factors that can be controlled and to routinely have screenings.

Violent Crime

There is a substantial and distinct link between population density and violent crime rates. In the rural area where I live, there has only been one homicide in over a decade, and that involved the likely transporting of a dead body into the region from a city.

Approximately 65 miles away (a distance that might seem long to city folks, but some rural men drive this far to work daily) in the state’s capitol, there are 100 to 143 homicides on an average annual basis.

Yes, the more people, the more potential for crimes, but when a bit of population per capita math is completed, the difference in violent crime statistics is still astonishing – and the same scenario plays out across the country.

There are almost always significantly more legally owned firearms (per capita, again) in rural areas than urban ones – and more illegally owned guns in cities than in rural areas. This likely plays an essential part in the disparity of homicides by geographic area.

Poverty and unemployment are often cited by the talking heads on television as the reason for violent crime. That might be a good sound bite to attempt to explain away the carnage, but both poverty and joblessness haunt rural areas as much as the urban inner city.

How to Reduce Your Chances of Being a Victim of Violent Crime

  • Move to a rural area where violent crime rates are low.
  • Get a concealed carry permit and keep a rifle in your home. Approximately 88,000 up to 4.7 million lives are saved each year by defensive gun use.
  • Work as near to your home as possible, and take extra safety precautions when traveling through or working in a city: legally carry weapons, never walk alone, park in well lit areas, etc.
  • Get guard dogs.
  • Install a surveillance system on your home.

Types Of Weapons Used In Violent Crimes

These statistics are from 2017, the most recent reporting year available at the time of publication.

Weapons Incidents
Handguns 7,032
Rifles 403
Shotguns 264
Other Guns 3,283
Knives 1,591
Hammers, Clubs, and other blunt objects 467
Body – Hands, Feet, fists 696
Poison 13
Fire 103
Narcotics 97
Drowning 8
Strangulation 88
Asphyxiation 105
Unidentified Weapon 979
Explosives 0

The Flu Or Pneumonia

On average, approximately 55,000 Americans die from pneumonia and the flu each year. The flu is highly contagious and some types of pneumonia can spread from person to person.

Deaths from these medical conditions account for roughly 2% of those that happen in the United States annually. Because pneumonia can cause a reduced amount of oxygen flowing through the body, it too could contribute to the risk of stroke.

  • Both of these illnesses become more prevalent during the winter months. Take steps to bolster your immune system before the annual “flu season” and for the long cold months of winter that follow.
  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Stay away from people who are sick and always cover your cough and use a tissue when sneezing.
  • Get enough rest.
  • Keep hydrated.
  • Clean and disinfect all surfaces inside the house regularly when someone gets sick and before to prevent the spread of germs carried in from school, work, etc.
  • Take common sense precautions when touching communal spaces when away from home like: gas pump handles, door handles, copy machine control panels, vending machine buttons, etc.
  • Getting vaccinated against the flu may help, but because new strains of the flu emerge faster than vaccines designed specifically to address them can be created, they might not prove successful.

Where you choose to live, work, and prep may have the most drastic impact on your chances of day-to-day survival – and is the most controllable risk reducing factor on this list.

In 2018, the latest reporting year statistics available at publication, there were 16,214 homicides in the United States. That figure is a 6.2 percent drop from the year prior.

Environmental Hazards

Where you choose to live and work also may expose you to potentially hazardous environmental conditions. If you work in a city you will be exposed to more air pollution than Americans who live and work in rural areas and the suburbs.

Water quality disparity may also be more prevalent in cities, especially in poor inner city neighborhoods. In some rural areas sanitary sewer systems are still emerging which could expose residents to improperly processed raw human solid waste.

  • Live and work in areas that are free or nearly so, from air and water pollution. Have your water tested and purchase bottled water to drink and wash with, if necessary.
  • If you home is not hooked up to a sanitary sewer system or properly installed and leeched septic tank, take steps to correct that problem and use extra care when exposing yourself to parts of the property where raw human waste could be pooling or flowing.

How to Protect Yourself When Traveling

When traveling for work or pleasure, you may be placing yourself at greater risk from accident, injury, or death. If you are using any mode of public transportation or air travel, you are literally placing your life in the hands of a complete stranger. Assuming the individual behind the wheel is well-trained, sober, and mentally stable might be a deadly mistake.

Also, taking for granted the bus, train, plane, or boat is in proper working order and has been maintained by trained professionals might also be an assumption that could get your hurt or killed.

  • Know before you go. Research the company providing the travel service online to see if they have been sued for negligence, injury, or death.
  • Research available law enforcement records to determine if any passenger units in their line have been involved in accidents or have had criminal charges filed against them.
  • Visit the OSHA website and search the clickable “citations” database to see if the company providing the travel service as been cited for violations during inspections.
  • Speak with an experienced member of the company providing the travel service and find out in detail what training and maintenance rules and policies are in place. Ask specifically for the name of the person who will be behind the wheel when you are traveling so you can search available law enforcement and legal records databases to check them out thoroughly. Do not assume a pilot, bus driver, or boat captain would lose his or her job if they have been arrested for a DUI or related driving while impaired infraction.
  • Always travel with a first aid kit.

Personal Assault

In 2017, the most recent year for FBI statistics at the time of publication, an estimated total of 810,825 people were assaulted in the United States. That estimated shows a one percent increase from the previous reporting year.

The type of personal assault threat can vary widely, from a strong-arm mugging to being accosted at knifepoint in a car jacking, and rape.

  • Practice situational awareness no matter where you are or the time of day – personal attacks can (and do) happen in broad daylight even in nice neighborhoods.
  • Live and work in a low violent crime area.
  • Carry legal protection devices such as: mace, stun gun, striker flashlight, pepper spray, personal alarm system electronic device, etc.
  • Get a concealed carry permit and carry a lawfully owned firearm anywhere it is legal – and skip going into any place, event, or building that does not respect your Second Amendment right to personal protection.
  • Do not walk to your car alone.
  • Take self-defense training.
  • Do not stop your car or roll down your window for anyone you do not know.
  • Do not allow anyone into a building where you live or work unless they are supposed to be there – supposed delivery guys and gals included.

Car Crash

There are more than six million car crashes in the United States each year, on average. Approximately three million people are injured in car crashes in America annually.

Approximately two million of the victims of those accidents are left with permanent injuries. On average, 90 people are killed in car crashes every single day.

The vast majority of car accidents in the United States are caused by reckless driving, speeding, distracted driving, and alcohol.

  • Never drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol – or ride with anyone who is.
  • Drive defensively – assume any car on the road with you could have a driver under the influence behind the wheel, be driven by a novice, sick, or tired person.
  • Do not drive long distances without getting out of the car to stretch your legs, and assess your level of alertness. Never drive when you are too tired.
  • Obey the speed limit and observe all driver safety rules.
  • Be on the watch for animals, people, cars, children, debris, or road damage that could be in your path and cause an accident.
  • Drive more carefully during inclement weather, if driving cannot be avoided. Watch out for black ice and slick overpasses and bridges – even if the road itself is not icy.
  • Always carry a first aid kit that include a quick-clotting bandage, tourniquet, burn cream, and other potentially life-saving medical supplies.
  • Inspect your tires, brakes, and lights regularly to ensure they are in full working order and will not possibly cause your vehicle to break down or wreck.
  • Do not text and drive or allow yourself to become distracted by a ringing phone, misbehaving children, changing your music, or eating and drinking while behind the wheel. Sending a single text can divert your attention for close to five seconds. If you are driving 55 MPH while sending or reading that text, you have driven the length of a football field.

Dying During SHTF

Prepping should be looked upon as a learning experience – one that never ends. To increase your day-to-day chances of survival you must have an in-depth survival plan in place.

  • Develop a bugout plan even if you are living on a rural and sustainable survival homestead. A fire, disease, or band of marauders too large to defend could force your to evacuate – rapidly.
  • Keep a detailed inventory of all your preps so you know exactly what you have, when it goes out of date, and what you need.
  • If you must work more than 10 miles from your home, keep a “get me home bag in your car” and – or bury caches along your travel route, especially if your commute is longer.
  • Develop and work a self-reliance training program and cross-training schedule to enhance the skillset of your prepping family or survival tribe.
  • Develop an off grid communications plan and rally points so you can meet up with your loved ones if you all work or live away from home.
  • Strongly considering homeschooling your children and learning to live more simply so one (if not both) parents can work from.

There is no way to 100% decrease the threats we all could face on a daily basis. But, through proper planning, diligence, common sense, and making smart health choices, we can vastly improve our day-to-day chances of survival.

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Tara Dodrill
About Tara Dodrill 28 Articles
Tara is a completely off the grid homesteader and prepper, living on a large farm with her mutual assistance survival group. She's raising a wide variety of animals, farms, gardens, living an organic lifestyle.

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