For the first time since records have been kept on such things, the odds of someone accidentally dying from an opioid overdose in the United States are greater than those of dying in an automobile accident. This shocking finding was extracted from a new report by the National Safety Council and is a part of a comprehensive analysis of all leading causes of preventable deaths in America in 2017.
Considering deaths in the U.S., the odds of dying in a vehicle crash in 2017 were 1 in 103. To die in a motorcycle crash: 1 in 858. As another way of looking at it, the National Safety Council estimated that automotive fatalities topped 40,000 in 2017. According to data from Highway Safety Offices and the District of Columbia, 4,990 people were killed on motorcycles in 2017. New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that nearly 49,000 opioid-related deaths occurred in 2017. This lines out to about 200 people dying from overdoses every day of the year. The odds of dying from an opioid overdose are now estimated to be 1 in 96 as this epidemic rages on.
The report points out that most Americans remain most likely to die of what are considered natural causes, led by heart disease (a 1-in-6 chance). What the report reveals in stark numbers is that certain everyday events, such as falling down (a 1-in-114 chance of dying), are much more dangerous than more feared causes of death such as an airplane crash, a shark attack or murder.
“Human beings, we just are not good at estimating our own risk,” Ken Kolosh, the manager of statistics at the National Safety Council, explained to the New York Times. “We tend to fixate or focus on the rare, startling event, like a plane crash or a major flood or a natural disaster, but in reality, when you look at the numbers, the everyday risks that we face and have become so accustomed to form a much greater hazard.”
The odds formulated in the report are statistical averages over the whole U.S. population. They do not necessarily reflect the chances of death for a particular person from a particular external cause. While deaths from natural causes have gone down in recent years, deaths from preventable causes have increased to an all-time high. As a result, life expectancy in this country continues to be on the decline.
I hope these numbers are cause for alarm, because you have the power to change them, particularly when it comes to preventable diseases. A wealth of new health information out there can be used to change the odds in your favor. You merely need to act on it to recalculate your risks.
Here are some examples. A recent report from researchers at Britain’s University of London points out that unhealthy diets now cause more death and disease worldwide than alcohol, drug and tobacco use combined. Unhealthy diet contributes to more than 11 million premature, preventable deaths each year. Enter the “Planetary Health” diet. It’s simple. Just cut in half your consumption of meat and sugar and double your consumption of nuts, fruits, vegetables and legumes. You will lower your odds of a number of life-threatening chronic diseases including obesity, diabetes and several types of cancer as a result. The proposed planetary diet is the product of a three-year project commissioned by the Lancet health journal.
Want to reduce your risk of dementia in older age? Then move as much as you can. So says a new study from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. The study finds that even simple housework like cooking or cleaning may make a difference in brain health as we reach our 70s and 80s. The findings show higher levels of daily movement to be linked to better thinking and memory skills. A previous study found just 45 minutes of walking three days a week increases brain volume among individuals 65 and older.
According to another new study, doing less sitting and more moving is tied to living longer. Published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, the study found that replacing 30 minutes per day of sedentary time with 30 minutes of physical activity at a light intensity was associated with a 17 percent lower risk of early death.
I have addressed the issue of sleep deprivation in the past. A new study from the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University has found that sleeping fewer than six hours a night or waking frequently raises your risk of developing damaging plaque – not just in your heart, but in arteries throughout your body. This puts you at increased risk for stroke, digestive problems and poor circulation that leads to numbness and pain in your extremities, as well as heart disease.
Sleep is critical to the body’s rejuvenation. Deep sleep, the kind that comes only after a full cycle, is necessary for the release of hormones designed to repair cells and build tissue in the body and brain. As reported by CNN, researchers found that subjects who slept fewer than six hours a night were 27 percent more likely to have atherosclerosis throughout the body than those who slept seven to eight hours. Participants with fractured sleep were 34 percent more like to have plaque buildup than those who slept well. As noted by the National Sleep Foundation, as little as 10 minutes a day of walking, biking or other aerobic exercise can drastically improve nighttime sleep quality.
Want to give your immune system a boost? According to a study by the Human Performance Lab at Appalachian State University, move your body, get some sleep and eat your fruits and vegetables. Do that, they say, and friends will be asking you why you never seem to get sick.
Write to Chuck Norris with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook’s “Official Chuck Norris Page.” He blogs at ChuckNorrisNews.blogspot.com.