leading causes of death

The Leading Causes of Death

Whether you’re researching your family tree, or navigating the legal steps to take after the loss of a loved one, knowing how to read death records can be important to help answer questions. Medical care has come a long way in the last several hundred years, Perhaps in your searches to fill in your family tree, you’ve stumbled across death codes or other listed causes of death and don’t quite know how to interpret them. Perhaps, while handling the estate of a deceased loved one, an insurance company asks for the cause of death to process claims or close out accounts. Or maybe you’re just interested in the statistics surrounding causes of death in the United States. The leading causes of death are ever changing each year, but below we’ll take a look at the top 10 leading causes of death, and how they might be reflected on a death certificate. 

The top 10 Leading Causes of Death

Due to advancements in healthcare and medical treatments, disease and disorders are diagnosed more quickly, and medical records can be more thorough. Due to less than healthy diets, lack of adequate physical activity, and sedentary lifestyles, chronic heart disease, diabetes, pulmonary disease, and other health issues relating to a less active lifestyle have become leading causes of death in many U.S. citizens. 

The top 10 leading causes of death as of 2017 according to the CDC are as follows:

  1. Heart Disease
  2. Cancer
  3. Accidents (unintentional injuries)
  4. Chronic lower respiratory disease
  5. Stroke
  6. Alzheimer’s
  7. Diabetes
  8. Influenza and pneumonia
  9. Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis
  10. Intentional self-harm, suicide

Knowing and understanding how cause of death is listed on a death certificate can be helpful when organizing your family tree or answering estate related questions after the death of a friend or loved one. 

Understanding Death Certificates – Listed Cause of Death

When someone passes away and a death certificate is filled out for them, the coroner must state the cause or causes of death. To understand why there may be more than one cause of death on a death certificate, it’s important to understand what sort of health challenges a person experienced before they passed away. For example, if a patient was suffering from cancer, but experienced a cardiac event that caused them to pass, cancer would be listed as the secondary cause of death, while the first and immediate cause of death would be listed as the cardiac event that caused them to pass away. All health events that lead to the person’s immediate cause of death will be listed on the certificate to help identify all the health impacts that lead to their passing. 

The leading causes of death across the world from 1990 to 2018

When reading a death certificate, you may observe a code or codes that medical professionals use to identify causes of death. These codes are called ICD codes, and are tied to a database known as the International Classification of Diseases. In the event that you need help identifying these codes, they are available to the public through the CDC. One reason a family member may be interested in the cause of death listed on a relative’s death certificate could be to track a family medical history. Propensity for certain genetically inherent disorders or diseases can help some people take precautions and keep an eye on their own personal health.

Understanding what the leading causes of death are may help you better read and understand the death certificate of a lost loved one, or can help you identify common health issues within your own family. If you need to obtain a certified copy of a death certificate, you can order safely and conveniently from your own home with VitalChek.

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