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COVID Was the #3 Cause of Death in America. Here's #1 and #2.

“COVID ranked as the third leading cause of underlying death,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

The coronavirus has killed so many people, it became the third leading cause of death in 2020. "COVID ranked as the third leading cause of underlying death," said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention yesterday at the White House COVID-19 Response Team Briefing. "The underlying cause of death after heart disease and cancer was approximately 378,000 COVID-19 deaths accounting for roughly 11% of all deaths in the United States in 2020." Read on to see what other causes of death are the most common—ranked from least to most common—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Signs Your Illness is Actually Coronavirus in Disguise.


Kidney Disease

Woman with pain in kidneys at home on couch

"Chronic kidney disease, also called chronic kidney failure, describes the gradual loss of kidney function," says the Mayo Clinic. "Your kidneys filter wastes and excess fluids from your blood, which are then excreted in your urine. When chronic kidney disease reaches an advanced stage, dangerous levels of fluid, electrolytes and wastes can build up in your body. In the early stages of chronic kidney disease, you may have few signs or symptoms. Chronic kidney disease may not become apparent until your kidney function is significantly impaired."


Influenza and Pneumonia

Doctor examining chest x-ray film of patient at hospital

"Seasonal influenza activity in the United States remains lower than usual for this time of year," likely due to the pandemic, says the CDC. "An annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect against flu and its potentially serious complications. There are also flu antiviral drugs that can be used to treat flu illness."



Doctor checking blood sugar level with glucometer. Treatment of diabetes concept.

"Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes—and it means that your body doesn't use insulin properly," says the American Diabetes Association. "And while some people can control their blood sugar levels with healthy eating and exercise, others may need medication or insulin to help manage it."


Alzheimer's Disease

Mature Woman Comforting Man With Depression At Home

"Alzheimer's is a type of dementia that affects memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms eventually grow severe enough to interfere with daily tasks," says the Alzheimer's Association. "Alzheimer's is the most common cause of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other cognitive abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer's disease accounts for 60-80% of dementia cases."


Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease


Sick man holding his chest in pain while coughing in the living room.

"Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, refers to a group of diseases that cause airflow blockage and breathing-related problems. It includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis," says the CDC.



CT scan of the brain of a patient with intracranial hemorrhage

"Stroke is a leading cause of death in the United States and is a major cause of serious disability for adults. About 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke each year," says the CDC.


Unintentional Injury

Woman falling in bathroom because slippery surfaces

"The most common unintentional injuries result from motor vehicle crashes, falls, fires and burns, drowning, poisonings and aspirations," says one expert. "The top three causes of fatal unintentional injuries include motor vehicle crashes, poisoning, and falls," adds Johns Hopkins.



Infected patient in quarantine lying in bed in hospital

More than 550,000 Americans died of COVID so far. Tweeted the CDC: "As of March 28, 2021, 30+ million US cases of #COVID19 were reported to CDC. Cases are rising again. The 7-day average of new daily cases is over 60,000, over a 10% increase from the previous week. Help stop the spread & protect your community."



woman in bed suffering from cancer

"Cancer is a term used for diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control and can invade other tissues," says the CDC. "Cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body through the blood and lymph systems. Cancer is not just one disease, but many diseases. There are more than 100 kinds of cancer."


And the #1 Cause of Death Remains…Heart Disease

Man With Heart Attack

"Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States," says the CDC. "One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease. About 655,000 Americans die from heart disease each year—that's 1 in every 4 deaths." 

Terrible, and one hopes COVID-19 won't get higher on the list. "Sadly, based on the current state of the pandemic, these impacts have remained in 2021, where we continue to see that communities of color account for an outsize portion of these deaths," said Walensky. "The data should serve, again, as a catalyst for each of us to continue to do our part to drive down cases and reduce the spread of COVID-19 and get people vaccinated as quickly as possible." So get vaccinated when it becomes available to you, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Alek Korab
Alek Korab is a Co-Founder and Managing Editor of the ETNT Health channel on Eat This, Not That! Read more about Alek
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