Leading Causes of Morbidity and Mortality in the US Essay

The Leading Causes of Morbidity and Mortality in the United States

  • Crystal Mullen

ASSIGNMENT: Research the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the United States. What are the leading causes? Why is it important to be aware of them? Write a 4-5 page APA formatted paper discussing your findings. You will need to include a minimum of 3 references to support your findings and opinions.

Before beginning this assignment I was thought morbidity and mortality referred to things that are scary, gross and filled with gruesome deaths.

I thought that morbidity referred to what I saw on Halloween or some horror movie. As it turns out morbidity refers to:

“the incidence or prevalence of a disease or of all diseases in a population (Medical Dictionary, 2014)”

Based on this definition I can see that morbidity is data collected regarding the various diseases that can afflict a population (Diffen, 2014). Furthermore, I saw mortality simply as a fancy way of saying that everyone is going to die.

Because my view of mortality was overly simplified, I didn’t appreciate the weightiness of this information:

“Death, especially of large numbers; heavy loss of life (The Free Dictionary, 2014).”

Based on this definition, mortality is more than just dying, it’s documenting populations that have died. This data can be separated into different categories: perinatal mortality rate, crude death rate, maternal mortality rate, infant mortality rate, child mortality rate, age-specific mortality rate, and standardized mortality rate. Once the data is collected it goes to the National Vital Statistics System so that the information can provide cause of death information based on geography and demographics (Diffen, 2014). Therefore, having an understanding of the difference between morbidity and mortality, I can further research the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the United States.

Based on what I’ve found, the top five causes of death, or mortality, in the United States are heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, strokes, and accidents.

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has documented that approximately 600,000 individuals will die of heart related illnesses in the United States every year. In fact one of every four individuals will die of heart disease. Furthermore, coronary heart disease, the most common form of heart disease will kill over 385,000 people in the United States this year alone. Finally, though not exhaustively, every year, 715,000 Americans suffer from a heart attack. These are simply the statistics for heart disease (CDC, 2014).

There are quite a few risk factors that enable individuals to be susceptible to heart disease. First of all, individuals who smoke, have high blood pressure or high LDL cholesterol. Furthermore, individuals will increase their risk for heart disease if they struggle with a healthy weight, eat unhealthy live a sedentary lifestyle or drink alcohol excessively (CDC, 2014). Sadly because this is the lifestyle of many Americans, they are continuously vulnerable to hearth disease.

However, while these risk factors are excessive, there are ways for Americans to reduce their susceptibility to heart disease simply by making healthy food choices that are low in salt and fat and high in fiber and protein. Furthermore, it has been proven that limiting alcohol intake and daily aerobic exercise will lower a person’s blood pressure and LDL cholesterol. These changes will lower a person’s vulnerability to hearth disease (CDC, 2014).

The second leading cause of death, mortality, in the United States is cancer. The ten most prevalent in the United States include cancers of the prostate, breast, lung and bronchial, colon and rectum, corpus and uterus, urinary bladder, skin, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, kidney and renal pelvis, and cancer of the thyroid (CDC, 2014).

At this time there are no explanations why one person will develop cancer while another person won’t. However, there is research that links certain risk factors to a person’s susceptibility to suffer from cancer. Certain risk factors, such as growing older, family history, sunlight, and even certain hormones and radiation may be beyond an individual’s ability to control. However other risk factors, such as excessive alcohol consumption, poor diet, a sedentary lifestyle, or obesity are risk factors every individual can avoid. Furthermore, annual check-ups with a healthcare clinician can also warn an individual of additional risk factors to avoid (National Cancer Institute, 2014).

Chronic lower respiratory disease is the third leading cause of mortality in the US. Chronic lower respiratory disease refers to persistent, continuing diseases of the lower respiratory tract. Examples of Chronic lower respiratory disease includes COPD, Emphysema, Chronic bronchitis, and Cystic fibrosis. The symptoms of this disease include are shortness of breath, coughing up blood, chest pain, wheezing, loss of appetite, loss of weight, and bluish discoloration of fingers and lips (Right Diagnosis, 2014).

There are quite a few risk factors that increase a person’s chances of chronic lower respiratory disease. Certain risk factors, such as chemical fumes, air pollution, and long term to exposure second hand smoke is beyond a person’s control to prevent. However, risk factors such as smoking can be eliminated so minimize a person’s vulnerability to chronic lower respiratory disease.

Strokes are the fourth leading cause of death, mortality, in the United States. Strokes are the equivalent to a heart attack in the brain. This is because the blood vessels in the brain rupture when the blood supply to the brain is blocked. When this happens, brain tissues die and generates a weakness or numbness on half of the body. A stroke is a medical emergency, but with quick treatment to the stroke victim, it is possible for the victim to avoid physical disability and death (CDC, 2014).

As with the other causes of morbidity, there are quite a few risk factors of having a stroke that are both within, and beyond an individual’s control. For example, risk factors like family history are beyond an individual’s control. However, behavioral choices such as poor eating habits, sedentary lifestyle, obesity, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption are risk factors that can be avoided to reduce a person’s chance for suffering a stroke (CDC, 2014). I believe that because there so many ways to prevent a stroke, this must be the reason why it is the fourth and not the first leading cause of morbidity.

Finally, the fifth leading cause of death, mortality in the United States is accidents. There are many forms of fatal accidents including (but not limited to) death by motor vehicle, vehicles, poison, slip-and-fall, choking and even fire. Motor vehicle accidents happen all too quickly and far too easily simply when the drivers get distracted. Car (vehicle) accidents often happen when the driver is doing everything else while driving such as texting, talking on the phone, applying makeup, or even shaving. Poisoning occurs either with tainted food or water, as well as ingesting legal and illegal drugs as well as various pesticides. The most common forms of poison are hydrocodone, heroin, cocaine and even alcohol. Although people do die from falls, this isn’t usually a problem for individuals under 65 years old. Death by fire occur either from carelessness such as a paper close to a fire or perhaps falling asleep while smoking. Finally, just as senior citizens are at the highest risk for falling, toddlers are at the highest risk of choking. So it’s a good idea to remove food or small toys out of a child’s unguarded reach so that they won’t suffer from choking (Listosaur.com, 2011). Based on what I’ve read, all accidents are preventable yet all accidents can be deadly.


Based on what I’ve read, and based on my own lifestyle, it is very important not only to be aware of risk factors of diseases because I am then armed to prevent them in my life. First of all, if I know risk factors for heart disease include poor eating habits, then I can create a meal plan that is low in salt and fat and high and fiber and protein. Furthermore, if I know that one way to avoid lung cancer is to avoid situations where I’m ingesting second hand smoke, then I know to avoid areas of work where people are taking their smoke break. Finally, though not exhaustively, if I know that a risk factor for a child to choke are innocuous food like grapes, stew meat, or nuts, then I know I need to cut up my little one’s food into tiny bite sizes so that he or she can enjoy the food without obstructing his or her windpipe. Therefore, if I take care of my health, I have a greater chance of living a long and healthy life.


CDC. (2014). Cancer Prevention and Control. Retrieved March 2, 2014, from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/dcpc/data/types.htm

CDC. (2014). Health Disease. Retrieved March 2, 2014, from Center for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC): http://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/

CDC. (2014). Stroke. Retrieved March 2, 2014, from Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): http://www.cdc.gov/stroke/

Diffen. (2014). Morbidity vs Mortality. Retrieved March 2, 2014, from Diffen: http://www.diffen.com/difference/Morbidity_vs_Mortality

Listosaur.com. (2011, July 22). Top 5 Causes of Accidental Death in the United States. Retrieved March 2, 2014, from Listosaur.com: http://www.listosaur.com/miscellaneous/top-5-causes-of-accidental-death-in-the-united-states.html

Medical Dictionary. (2014). Morbidity Definition. Retrieved March 2, 2014, from The Free Dictioary: http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/morbidity

National Cancer Institute. (2014). Cancer Causes and Risk Factors. Retrieved March 2, 2014, from National Cancer Institute: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/causes

Right Diagnosis. (2014). Chronic lower respiratory diseases. Retrieved March 2, 2014, from Right Diagnosis.com: http://www.rightdiagnosis.com/c/chronic_lower_respiratory_diseases/intro.htm

The Free Dictionary. (2014). Mortality – Definition. Retrieved March 2, 2014, from The Free Definition: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/mortality

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