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Leading cause of death is unintentional injury

Ask your neighbors, friends and family members - what is the leading cause of death in the United States for people ages 1 to 44? Cancer? Heart disease? Suicide?

Nope. For that age group, the leading cause of death is unintentional injury. Car accidents, overdoses, slips and falls, pianos falling from fifth-floor apartments - in 2016, they accounted for nearly 62,000 deaths for those 44 and younger.

Among all age groups, unintentional accidents caused the third-most deaths behind heart disease and cancer - both of which rocket to the top of the list for those older than age 45.

CDC ranking

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, using information from the National Center for Health Statistics, made a list of the 10 leading causes of death by age group in the U.S. in 2016.

Along with unintentional injury, cancer, heart disease, homicide and suicide round out the top five from about age 10 to 54. After that, deaths from chronic low respiratory disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease and cerebro-vascular issues sneak near the top.

The statistics are a bit misleading because the total number of people dying in each category more than doubles in the age 45 to 54 group, doubles again in the age 55 to 64 group and then skyrockets in the older than age 65 group.

What this means to you

There's not a lot you can do to battle diabetes, heart disease or cancer, but you can try to mitigate unintentional injuries. Here are some things you can do:

  • Kit out your home with smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Make sure the batteries are active
  • Use your seat belt
  • Put children in child safety seats and install the seats properly with regards to their age and weight
  • Don't text and drive. Pay attention to the road
  • Wear a helmet when you ride a motorcycle or bicycle
  • Learn how to swim and wear a life preserver when you are active on the water
  • Set your water heater to 120 degrees to prevent scalding
  • Store medicine and caustic cleaning ingredients in a safe place

It's also a good idea to have a list of emergency contacts at hand. These should include police, fire department, poison control, local hospital and your healthcare providers.

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