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How COVID-19 projections compare to leading causes of death in America

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How COVID-19 projections compare to leading causes of death in America

Until the unforeseeable novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, deaths from infectious diseases had been on a decline in the U.S thanks to achievements like increased sanitation, vaccinations, and campaign programs. We haven't seen an episode of horrifying disease-related death rates since HIV (first recognized in 1981) or the 1918 influenza pandemic that killed 500,000 Americans in less than one year.

In April 2020, COVID-19 became the leading cause of death. To date, this respiratory disease has already caused more deaths in the U.S. per year than all but the top seven leading causes of death; by August, it’s projected that COVID-19 will cause more deaths than every leading cause of death (except heart disease) in a full year.

To determine the leading causes of death in America, Stacker consulted the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s WONDER System database on Underlying Causes of Death. The top 50 causes of death from 1999 to 2018 are ranked here according to their rate per 100,000 people. To compare the annual deaths due to these causes to the deaths from COVID-19, Stacker consulted two additional sources. First, we compared annual deaths of every major cause to COVID-19 deaths as of May 18, via the COVID Tracking Project. Second, we compared annual deaths of every major cause to the projected deaths that COVID-19 is likely to cause by Aug. 4, via modeling by data scientist Youyang Gu.

Youyang Gu’s estimates are widely cited by researchers and journalists, including by the CDC, as analysis that takes into account epidemiological factors and state-by-state reopenings. According to these sources, COVID-19 has caused 84,640 total deaths as of May 18 and will have caused 195,077 total deaths by Aug. 4. It is important to note that these figures do not reflect a full year of COVID-19; modeling data beyond August are not yet available. Additionally, because of insufficient and unavailable COVID-19 testing and America’s encumbered medical system, the number of deaths quoted in this article are likely less than the true death toll.

Related: Biggest population groups vulnerable to COVID-19 in every state

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#50. Motor vehicle accident in traffic

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 10,742
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 3.5
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 7.9 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 18.2 times the deaths of this cause

In 2018, the rate of motor-vehicle fatalities was 12 deaths per 100,000 people—which is actually a 61% improvement from when the death rate peaked in 1937 (30.8 deaths per 100,000). Since the early 20th century, vehicle safety features and technology has greatly improved, as has driver behavior, which makes traveling by car a lot safer.

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#49. Stomach cancer

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 10,750
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 3.5
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 7.9 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 18.1 times the deaths of this cause

According to the American Cancer Society, stomach cancer was the leading cause of death in the U.S. until the late 1930s. There are a lot fewer new cases in the U.S. today, with a 1.5% decrease of diagnoses over the past 10 years, mostly affecting the elderly.

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#48. Alcoholic cirrhosis of liver

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 10,886
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 3.6
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 7.8 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 17.9 times the deaths of this cause

As reported by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases in April 2013, death rates from alcohol-related liver cirrhosis had decreased from 20–25 per 100,000 people (early 1900s) to less than 10. This positive change is thanks to better education around alcohol’s harmful effects and applied policies that control sales.

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#47. Chronic ischemic heart disease

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 11,123
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 3.7
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 7.6 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 17.5 times the deaths of this cause

Chronic ischemic heart disease (IHD), also called coronary heart disease or coronary artery disease, is a condition that involves limited blood flow to the heart. According to a study published in the AHA Journal, IHD is a major cause of death worldwide. Between 2005 and 2015, mortality rates took a steep decline; a decrease in smoking and hypertension, plus an increase in diabetes and obesity were also observed.

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#46. Multiple myeloma

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 11,161
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 3.7
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 7.6 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 17.5 times the deaths of this cause

Thanks to new developments, drug combinations, stem cell transplants/maintenance therapy, and other treatments over the past few decades, patients suffering from multiple myeloma have continued to experience much better outcomes. However, MM is a cancer of the white blood cells (plasma cells), which makes it difficult for these patients to fight off infections; thus, MM patients are especially at risk for catching and becoming very ill from COVID-19.

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#45. Emphysema

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 11,430
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 3.8
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 7.4 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 17.1 times the deaths of this cause

Emphysema is a type of COPD that weakens the lungs’ air sacs. Smoking tobacco is the leading cause, but poor air quality, secondhand smoke, and genetics may play a role. A 2014 study published by NCBI concluded that lower emphysema death rates were strongly tied to decreased levels of air pollutants in North Carolina.

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#44. Hypertensive heart disease with heart failure

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 11,533
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 3.8
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 7.3 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 16.9 times the deaths of this cause

According to the CDC, heart failure was responsible for one in eight deaths in 2017. As obesity and diabetes have become increasingly bigger health issues in America over the years, those death rates from heart failure have been increasing as a result.

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#43. Unspecified fall

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 11,627
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 3.8
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 7.3 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 16.8 times the deaths of this cause

The CDC declares that unintentional falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths for people who are 65 years of age or older. Unfortunately, the age-adjusted death toll from unspecified falls is rising, since the 65-plus population is among the fastest-growing age groups in the U.S.

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#42. Intentional self-harm with a firearm

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 11,831
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 3.9
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 7.2 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 16.5 times the deaths of this cause

According to the CDC, gun suicide rates in the U.S. have increased by 30% over the last two decades and has increased every year over the past decade in almost every age group. America’s growing suicide problem can primarily be attributed to easy access to firearms and their lethal nature.

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#41. COPD with acute lower respiratory infection

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 11,897
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 3.9
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 7.1 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 16.4 times the deaths of this cause

According to the World Health Organization, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) with acute lower respiratory tract infections is one of the three leading causes of death among children and adults in the world—and the death numbers are on the rise. Research shows that COPD patients have a much higher risk of experiencing severe COVID-19 infections.

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#40. Ischaemic cardiomyopathy

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 12,160
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 4.0
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 7.0 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 16.0 times the deaths of this cause

Ischaemic cardiomyopathy is a condition caused by coronary heart disease (also called coronary artery disease, CAD) that results in a weakened heart muscle. According to an article published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences in 2018, CAD is the cause for one-third of deaths in people over 35 years old in both developing and developed countries; however, “In the last decade, significant advancements in CAD treatment have been made.” Since the new coronavirus is a respiratory virus, patients with preexisting conditions like CAD may be more vulnerable for not only contracting COVID-19, but exhibiting severe symptoms.

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#39. Interstitial lung diseases with fibrosis

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 12,262
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 4.0
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 6.9 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 15.9 times the deaths of this cause

Interstitial lung disease (ILD) causes scarring of the lungs, making breathing increasingly difficult overtime. Certain fatal cases with unknown causes like idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis have increasing cases worldwide. When it comes to COVID-19, “People with interstitial lung disease and pulmonary fibrosis are considered to be in a higher risk group for serious infection,” says Danielle Antin-Ozerkis, MD, associate professor (pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine) and medical director of the Yale Interstitial Lung Disease Center of Excellence.

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#38. Aortic (valve) stenosis

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 12,427
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 4.1
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 6.8 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 15.7 times the deaths of this cause

Aortic stenosis has notoriously high death rates—these numbers increased between 2008–2017 in the U.S. and are expected to rise more with today’s growing aging population. The American Heart Association warns that while COVID-19 mainly attacks the lungs, it “could affect the heart, especially a diseased heart, which has to work harder to get oxygenated blood throughout the body.”

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#37. Urinary tract infection

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 12,637
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 4.2
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 6.7 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 15.4 times the deaths of this cause

In an article published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, UTIs are the most common bacterial infection. While a UTI should not kill you, when left untreated, it can lead to sepsis; those death trends have thankfully been on the decline since 1990.

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#36. Type 2 diabetes

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 12,776
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 4.2
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 6.6 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 15.3 times the deaths of this cause

Type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM) is becoming an epidemic all over the world. According to the American Diabetes Association, if a person has diabetes and contracts the coronavirus, they have a higher chance of experiencing symptoms and complications.

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#35. Kidney cancer

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 12,808
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 4.2
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 6.6 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 15.2 times the deaths of this cause

As reported by Cancer.net, “Between 2008 and 2017, deaths from kidney cancer have decreased by 1% per year.” While there is no proof that COVID-19 has harmful effects on the kidneys, patients with advanced cancer in their bodies may be at higher risk for experiencing severe complications associated with the coronavirus.

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#34. Brain cancer

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 13,117
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 4.3
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 6.5 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 14.9 times the deaths of this cause

In an article written by Danielle Ternyila for Targeted Oncology, it was reported that between 2001–2017, death rates for many of the most common cancers among women have decreased, but brain cancer death rates had actually risen.

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#33. Esophageal cancer

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 13,801
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 4.5
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 6.1 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 14.1 times the deaths of this cause

According to the American Cancer Society, rates of esophageal cancer in the U.S. have been on the decline for the past decade. While many patients unfortunately die from this cancer, treatment over the years has improved vastly and positively impacted survival rates—today, there is about a 20% survival rate at least five years after being diagnosed, while 50 years ago it was only 5%. If a patient has surgery to remove a tumor of the esophagus, contracting a respiratory illness like COVID-19 could be deadly.

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#32. Accidental poisoning by medicaments and biological substances

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 13,940
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 4.6
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 6.1 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 14.0 times the deaths of this cause

According to the CDC, “Carbon monoxide (CO) causes the most non-drug poisoning deaths” in the United States. Plants, household products, personal care and topical products, and pesticides are also culprits. CDC also reports that deaths caused by accidental poisonings have thankfully decreased about 60% since 1979.

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#31. Kidney failure

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 14,109
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 4.6
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 6.0 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 13.8 times the deaths of this cause

Kidney failure, the final stage of chronic kidney disease, has increased by the alarming rate of over 41% between 1990–2017. Populations in less-developed nations have higher mortality rates, since many countries’ health care systems can’t meet the ever-growing need for dialysis. Patients on dialysis for kidney failure have weakened immune systems, putting them at higher risk for developing diseases like COVID-19.

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#30. Accidental poisoning by narcotics and hallucinogens

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 14,184
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 4.7
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 6.0 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 13.8 times the deaths of this cause

The CDC reports that “overall, the majority of unintentional poisoning deaths in the United States are attributable to misuse and abuse of drugs.” Poisoning deaths that involve prescription narcotics like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone continue to be on the rise; their death numbers have surpassed those involving illegal substances like heroin and cocaine combined.

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#29. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 14,220
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 4.7
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 6.0 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 13.7 times the deaths of this cause

According to Cancer.net, Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) “is the ninth most common cause of cancer death among both men and women.” But thanks to advances in treatments over the years, NHL’s survival rate has been greatly improving since 1997. Additionally, from 2008–2017, the annual death rate went down by 2%.

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#28. Cardiac arrest

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 14,248
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 4.7
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 5.9 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 13.7 times the deaths of this cause

According to a report written by the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation, episodes of cardiac arrest (outside of the hospital) in the U.S. are high and survival rates remain extremely low at around 10%. Unfortunately, monitoring and understanding patterns associated with cardiac arrest remain difficult since there are no set standards for monitoring instances.

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#27. Bladder cancer

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 14,252
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 4.7
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 5.9 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 13.7 times the deaths of this cause

Bladder cancer has the 13th-highest death toll of the world’s major cancers, according to the NCBI in 2017. Death rates have been on the decline in most developed nations, which is closely linked to how common tobacco smoking is there—a major risk associated with bladder cancer. In relation to COVID-19, bladder cancer is a “solid tumor,” which does not directly increase your risk of contracting the virus; that said, frequent doctor’s office visits can increase a patient's risk of exposure.

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#26. Ovarian cancer

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 14,355
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 4.7
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 5.9 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 13.6 times the deaths of this cause

Ovarian cancer is the fifth-largest cause of cancer death for women. SEER data from 2016 demonstrates that over the past 25 years, death rates related to the disease have declined slightly, albeit steadily. In the midst of today’s coronavirus pandemic, patients with gynecological malignancies like ovarian cancer who contact COVID-19 have a 38% higher death rate.

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#25. Intracerebral hemorrhage

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 15,012
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 4.9
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 5.6 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 13.0 times the deaths of this cause

Intracerebral hemorrhage is a life-threatening stroke that involves bleeding within the brain tissue. Unfortunately, stroke mortality rates in the U.S. have been on the rise in recent years, according to the Cleveland Clinic. “Concerning national trends in recent years have highlighted the need for continued surveillance of stroke outcomes,” says Andrew Russman, DO, Medical Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Comprehensive Stroke Center.

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#24. Cirrhosis of liver

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 15,663
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 5.1
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 5.4 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 12.5 times the deaths of this cause

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) can cause scarring of liver tissue (cirrhosis), which can lead to liver cancer or liver failure. Unfortunately, the U.S. death rate associated with NAFLD is on the rise, which may be linked to the fact the United States has the highest obesity rates among adults.

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#23. Atrial fibrillation and flutter

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 16,141
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 5.3
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 5.2 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 12.1 times the deaths of this cause

Atrial fibrillation is a common type of heart arrhythmia. According to UChicago Medicine, viral infections like COVID-19 cause sepsis and put increased stress on the body, which can in turn trigger arrhythmias like AFib to arise.

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#22. Essential hypertension

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 16,321
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 5.4
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 5.2 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 12.0 times the deaths of this cause

Essential hypertension (aka, high blood pressure) is a “silent killer,” and according to the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, annual U.S. death tolls have been on the rise since the mid-2000s. Unfortunately, those numbers aren’t slowing down and high blood pressure-related deaths have since increased by 72% in rural areas and 20% in urban areas. These patients have a higher risk of dying from COVID-19 complications as well, since hypertension compromises a person’s immune system.

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#21. Pneumonitis due to food and vomit

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 17,693
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 5.8
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 4.8 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 11.0 times the deaths of this cause

Also called aspiration pneumonia, pneumonitis is a lung infection caused by breathing food, saliva, or vomit into the lungs. From 2002–2010, in-hospital death rates caused by aspiration pneumonia decreased exponentially from 18.6% to 9.8%. The NCBI reports that it can be difficult to differentiate symptoms from aspiration pneumonia and COVID-19 on a radiological CT scan.

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#20. Heart muscle disease (cardiomyopathy)

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 17,942
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 5.9
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 4.7 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 10.9 times the deaths of this cause

Cardiomyopathy is a form of progressive heart disease. According to Kaiser Permanente, "The United States is now experiencing a dramatic increase in the number of older people dying from heart disease, and especially heart failure," said lead author Stephen Sidney, MD, MPH, senior research scientist with the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research.

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#19. Parkinson disease

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 22,040
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 7.2
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 3.8 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 8.9 times the deaths of this cause

According to the CDC, age-adjusted death rates for Parkinson disease for adults aged 65 years and older increased from 41.7% to 65.3% between 1999–2017. Most people with Parkinson’s are seniors, the most vulnerable age bracket for experiencing deadly symptoms from COVID-19; preparedness during these times is especially important for these patients.

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#18. Hypertensive heart disease without congestive heart failure

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 22,104
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 7.3
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 3.8 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 8.8 times the deaths of this cause

Hypertensive heart disease involves heart problems related to high blood pressure or hypertension. In a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, results revealed an increase in hypertension-linked deaths between 2007–2017 in the United States, across all age groups and regions.

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#17. Cancerous tumors, unspecified

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 26,550
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 8.7
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 3.2 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 7.3 times the deaths of this cause

As reported by the American Cancer Society, cancer’s death rate rose until 1991, then steadily declined 29% through 2017. Advanced treatment, earlier diagnosis, and awareness has helped slow these numbers. However, patients with cancerous tumors are at increased risk of coming down with more severe symptoms if they contract COVID-19.

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#16. Prostate cancer

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 29,323
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 9.6
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 2.9 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 6.7 times the deaths of this cause

Prostate cancer’s death numbers decreased by more than 50% from 1993–2017, which directly correlates with an improvement in available medical treatments for the disease. That said, the American Cancer Society reports that prostate cancer is still the second-biggest cause of cancer death for men in the U.S. If a patient with prostate cancer develops COVID-19, their death rate elevates by 20%.

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#15. Sepsis

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 32,965
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 10.8
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 2.6 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 5.9 times the deaths of this cause

Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that occurs when a person’s body reacts to fighting an infection in a damaging way. A study that appeared in The Lancet examined worldwide sepsis death trends between 1990–2017; researchers discovered that while mortality numbers related to sepsis have been on the decline, the illness still causes one in five of the world’s deaths.

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#14. Pancreatic cancer

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 35,549
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 11.7
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 2.4 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 5.5 times the deaths of this cause

Between the years of 1990–2017, death rates for pancreatic cancer have more than doubled, which can be attributed to the growing aging population. According to a recent study published in the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) journal Cancer Discovery, patients with pancreatic cancer who contract COVID-19 have a 67% higher death rate.

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#13. Diabetes

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 36,876
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 12.1
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 2.3 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 5.3 times the deaths of this cause

Per the NCBI, the annual number of U.S. deaths resulting from diabetes (Type 1 and Type 2) have increased by 17.5% between the years of 2015–2020. Additionally, diabetes patients have a higher chance of developing more severe symptoms and complications from COVID-19.

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#12. Breast cancer

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 41,643
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 13.7
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 2.0 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 4.7 times the deaths of this cause

Since 1989, breast cancer mortality rates have been on the decline, thanks to great advances in early detection, awareness, and treatments. However, this trend is mostly propelled by white women; lack women saw 40% higher death rates from 2013–17, even though their diagnosis rates are lower. In the wake of COVID-19, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) journal Cancer Discovery showed Cancer patients with coronavirus were almost three times more likely to have severe or critical illness—but the risks proved to be much higher among blood, lung, and metastatic cancer patients.

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#11. Colon cancer

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 42,052
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 13.8
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 2.0 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 4.6 times the deaths of this cause

According to the American Cancer Society, “colorectal cancer death rates declined 53% from 1970 to 2016 among men and women because of increased screening and improvements in treatment.” However, as noted in a recent study published by AACR journal Cancer Discovery, patients with colon cancer who contracted the coronavirus have a 38% higher death rate.

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#10. Pneumonia

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 48,111
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 15.8
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 1.8 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 4.1 times the deaths of this cause

The novel coronavirus is known to cause pneumonia, a potentially threatening lung infection. In an article published by USA Today, federal data reports that pneumonia deaths have skyrocketed well above the national average since late March 2020.

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#9. Congestive heart failure

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 55,809
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 18.3
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 1.5 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 3.5 times the deaths of this cause

According to Kaiser Permanente, heart failure death tolls have been on the steep incline in the U.S., especially among the elderly. As said by lead author Stephen Sidney, "This research underscores the importance of focusing on heart health in the population of people over age 65, which grew by 10 million between 2011 and 2017 and is projected to increase by another 22 million by 2030."

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#8. Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 62,674
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 20.6
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 1.4 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 3.1 times the deaths of this cause

Atherosclerosis is a cardiovascular disease that involves the hardening of a person’s arteries. In wealthier countries like America, there has been a steadily declining mortality rate from the disease in the past few decades; this is most likely attributed to the fact the risk factors associated with atherosclerosis are well known (including diabetes, tobacco smoking, and blood cholesterol).

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#7. Stroke

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 72,039
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 23.7
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 1.2 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 2.7 times the deaths of this cause

Per the Cleveland Clinic, mortality rates from stroke have “plateaued and even worsened in recent years.” In another concerning turn of events, the Washington Post’s Ariana Eunjung Cha reports that there has been a recent surge of stroke episodes among younger people in their 30s and 40s who contracted COVID-19.

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#6. Alzheimer disease

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 78,350
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 25.7
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 1.1 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 2.5 times the deaths of this cause

According to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, death rates for Alzheimer’s disease, a fatal form of dementia, rose 55% between 1999–2014. While Alzheimer’s doesn't directly increase a person’s risk for contracting COVID-19, the Alzheimer’s Association warns that these patients are at greater risk for forgetting to take preventative measures to prevent sickness (e.g., washing their hands).

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#5. Dementia

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 79,203
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 26.0
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 1.1 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 2.5 times the deaths of this cause

As the world’s aging population grows, so has dementia as a pandemic, which affects more than 50 million older adults around the world today. Determining a person’s underlying cause of death to be dementia (which includes Alzheimer’s as well as other forms of dementia) can be difficult to pinpoint; according to the CDC, most patients with dementia are older adults who often have multiple chronic conditions.

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#4. COPD

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 103,959
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 34.1
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 0.8 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 1.9 times the deaths of this cause

Per Earl S. Ford of the CDC, who looked at COPD mortality rates in US adults between 1968–2011, COPD death rates reached a peak in 1999, but have since leveled off. That said, COPD is a lung disease and patients must be careful about contracting the coronavirus—according to research, COPD patients are at increased risk of experiencing severe COVID-19 infections.

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#3. Heart attack

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 138,939
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 45.6
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 0.6 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 1.4 times the deaths of this cause

According to the AHA’s 2019 Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics Update, an American experiences a heart attack almost every 40 seconds. It was expected that the reported rates of heart attack deaths would climb during the pandemic since respiratory infections and stress can increase risk; however, Harlan M. Krumholz, M.D. reported for the New York Times that the number of people coming to the ER with heart attacks has recently decreased, likely because “people stay home and suffer rather than risk coming to the hospital and getting infected with coronavirus.”

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#2. Lung cancer

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 154,074
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 50.6
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 0.5 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 1.3 times the deaths of this cause

Lung cancer has the highest death rate of all major cancers, and smoking cigarettes is a huge factor in the development of this disease. According to the American Lung Association, lung cancer deaths hit a peak in 2005, but by 2016 they had declined 6.5%. As noted in the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) journal Cancer Discovery, patients with lung cancer who contract COVID-19 have a 55% higher mortality rate.

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#1. Atherosclerotic heart disease

- Annual deaths due to this cause, 1999 to 2018: 186,213
- Deaths per 100,000 people: 61.2
- As of May 18: COVID-19 has caused 0.5 times the deaths of this cause
- By Aug. 4: COVID-19 is projected to cause 1.0 times the deaths of this cause

Atherosclerosis, which refers to the plaque that builds up on artery walls, is a type of arteriosclerosis. Between 1950–2010, mortality rates from this cardiovascular disease had been on the decline in wealthy countries like the U.S. For lower-income countries to follow suit on the declining death rate, they will need to up their efforts in tackling identified risk factors (diabetes, tobacco smoking, and blood cholesterol).

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