At the beginning of the 20th-century, the communicable infectious diseases, pneumonia, tuberculosis, and diarrheal disease were the three leading causes of death in the U.S. Heart disease was fourth on the list. Over the century, the disease pattern among Americans shifted markedly, improved sanitation, vaccination, antibiotics, and other health measures cut infectious disease rates, at least until 2020. By the end of 2020, the U.S. coronavirus pandemic has caused 20 million cases and 350,000 deaths.  This has vaulted COVID-19 into third place as the most frequent cause of death in the U.S. in 2020.

Even in the midst of the pandemic, chronic diseases, also called noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), are a leading cause of death and disability in the U.S. and other wealthy countries. They are also an increasing burden in developing countries as they adopt the unhealthy Western lifestyle. Heart disease, cancer, and stroke alone have been causing about 50% of all U.S. deaths, and many NCD deaths occur prematurely—defined as before age 70.

Modifiable behavioral risk factors, including misuse of tobacco and alcohol, physical inactivity, and an unhealthy diet high in sodium (salt), saturated fat, and added sugar, are important causes of NCDs. These lifestyle factors lead to unhealthy changes in the body’s metabolism that increase the risk of NCDs.  Among the health “biomarkers,” that damage health are high blood pressure (hypertension), overweight and obesity, hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol and triglycerides). These changes in the body’s physiology, in turn, lead to the four main types of noncommunicable diseases that account for most of NCDs worldwide: cardiovascular diseases (e.g., heart attacks and stroke), cancers, chronic respiratory diseases (e.g., chronic obstructed pulmonary disease and asthma) and diabetes. Drug overdoses, accidents, and Alzheimer disease are also leading causes of death in the U.S.

This blog presents opinions and ideas and is intended to provide helpful general information.  I am not engaged in rendering advice or services to the individual reader. The ideas, procedures and suggestions in that are presented are not in any way a substitute for the advice and care of the reader’s own physician or other medical professional based on the reader’s own individual conditions, symptoms or concerns. If the reader needs personal medical, health, dietary, exercise or other assistance or advice the reader should consult a physician and/or other qualified health professionals. The author specifically disclaims all responsibility for any injury, damage or loss that the reader may incur as a direct or indirect consequence of following any directions or suggestions given in the book or participating in any programs described in this blog or in the book, The Building Blocks of Health––How to Optimize Wellness with a Lifestyle Checklist. References for most of the health related information in this blog can be found in the book, The Building Blocks of Health now available on Amazon at Copyright 2020 by J. Joseph Speidel.