Death is the most mysterious and inevitable part of the human experience. But how will we go? Join Ben as he takes a closer look at the most common causes of death across the globe.
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Benjamin Franklin famously said nothing’s certain but death and taxes, and so far he’s been half-right. Barring some astonishing medical breakthrough, we’re all gonna croak. You, me, even Nicolas Cage and our producer, Paul. Hey Paul.
But how? How will we die?
There are a few ways to approach this question. First, should we look at deaths in a specific country, like the US or China? While we can pull some interesting statistics from a more narrowly defined study, doing so means we’re essentially ignoring the rest of the world. So let’s take a shot at the Big Kahuna of Mortality Studies: the global statistics on death.
In 2012, the most recent database available, just five conditions were responsible for 40% of annual deaths. Can you guess which one led the pack? If you thought “something about heart disease,” then congratulations. You are correct. You’re still going to die, but always remember: you died a winner.
Cardiovascular diseases wiped out an estimated 17.5 million people in 2012, accounting for 31% of all deaths. Of these fatalities, 7.4 million were due to coronary heart disease and 6.7 million were due to stroke.
The most common cause of ischaemic heart disease is atherosclerosis – that’s where this gross plaque made of fat, cholesterol, calcium and other substances builds up within your arteries. Eventually this gunk hardens, reducing the amount of blood that can run through your system – and this means less delicious, necessary oxygen reaches your organs.
While some causes of death, such as AIDs, have declined over time, heart disease is on the rise. Why? According to the World Health Organization, behavioral factors play a huge role in this affliction. All the fun stuff: smoking, drinking too much booze, obesity and physical activity (or specifically lack thereof) can all contribute to the most unpleasant (and perhaps final) surprise of your life.
Fortunately, experts around the globe are tackling this problem together. As we record this episode, the Member States of WHO are working to achieve the goals created in the oh-so-suavely named “Global action plan for the prevention and control of Noncommunicable Diseases 2013-2020.”
While the title doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, the concept itself is worthwhile. In the US alone 1 out every 4 deaths are caused by heart disease, and many people don’t recognize the symptoms. Sure, one day we may be able to replace our bodies or upload our minds to the internet, but for now the one body you have - the one you're watching this video in - and it's the only one you’ll get – so take care of it!
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