Welcome back! Last week, we talked about pancreatic cancer. If you missed that blog and would like to catch up, click HERE.

I found myself in a conversation with someone revolving around death, and how long Americans can expect to live, on average, all things being equal. They guessed the average age of expiration was around 85, I guessed 78 and we were both wrong. Let’s talk about what is killing Americans both the well-considered and the sometimes not even thought about…the animals, reptiles, and bugs!

What IS the life expectancy in America at the moment?

The CDC tells us that as of 2020:

The U.S.

  • Number of deaths: 3,383,729
  • Death rate: 1,027.0 deaths per 100,000 population

Source: National Vital Statistics System – Mortality Data (2020) via CDC WONDER

  • Life expectancy: 77.0 years
  • Infant Mortality rate: 5.42 deaths per 1,000 live births

Source: Mortality in the United States, 2020, data tables for figures 1, 5

The number of deaths for leading causes of death:

  • Heart disease: 696,962
  • Cancer: 602,350
  • COVID-19: 350,831
  • Accidents (unintentional injuries): 200,955
  • Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 160,264
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 152,657
  • Alzheimer’s disease: 134,242
  • Diabetes: 102,188
  • Influenza and Pneumonia: 53,544
  • Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 52,547

Source: Mortality in the United States, 2020, data table for figure 4

What are the numbers per state?

The National Vital Statistics report breaks it down further for us:

Among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, Hawaii had the highest life expectancy at birth, 81.0 years in 2018, and West Virginia had the lowest, 74.4 years.

Life expectancy at age 65 ranged from 17.5 years in Kentucky to 21.1 years in Hawaii. (This means if you reach the age of 65, you can expect to live another “x” amount of years, depending on where you live).

Life expectancy at birth was higher for females in all states and the District of Columbia.

The difference in life expectancy between females and males ranged from 3.8 years in
Utah to 6.2 years in New Mexico.

The most promising

People who live in the following states tend to live the longest with a range of 79.4 to 81 years of age:


Washington State





New Jersey

New York


Rhode Island

Maryland and


The most concerning

People who live in the next list of states have a life expectancy of 74.4 to 77.2 (the lowest in the US):

New Mexico








South Carolina




West Virginia and


*** If you don’t see your state and want to know where you stand, click HERE to be redirected.


The CDC ranks the following as causes of death for 2021:

COVID-19, listed as the underlying cause of 415,399 deaths in 2021, ranked as the third leading underlying cause of death after heart disease (693,021 deaths) and cancer (604,553 deaths). COVID-19 was the underlying cause of 13.3% of all deaths in 2021, increasing from 10.4% (350,831 deaths) in 2020, giving it the third place ranking.

Unintentional injuries, the fourth leading cause of death in 2020 and 2021, increased from 200,955 in 2020 to 219,487 in 2021. 

Other leading causes of death maintained the same ranking from 2020 to 2021, except for chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, influenza, and pneumonia. Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, which was not among the 10 leading causes of death in 2020, were the ninth leading cause in 2021 with 56,408 deaths (51,642 deaths in 2020). 

Influenza and pneumonia, which was the ninth leading cause of death in 2020 (53,544 deaths), dropped out of the 10 leading causes in 2021 (41,835 deaths).

We all know about diseases, but what about the category of “other”?

Some surprising statistics in the “other” category for 2021…

Interestingly enough, the animal that kills the most humans every year isn’t an animal, but a mosquito! According to World Atlas, “Mosquitoes are responsible for around 1,000,000 deaths per year. Most people consider them nothing more than a summer evening nuisance, but they are the deadliest animal on earth. Mosquito-borne illnesses such as malaria, dengue, West Nile disease, yellow fever, and Zika disease cause widespread suffering and death.”

Hatred, Intolerance, and Greed, Oh MY!

The next on their list isn’t a wild animal, but an animal of our own doing…humans. “Approximately 475,000 people die every year at the hand of fellow man.” Lovely. The article cites “Hatred, intolerance, and greed for money and power trigger attacks of humans against humans.

Snakes…they are underappreciated

The next most deadly animal, again, isn’t an animal, but a reptile. “Perhaps one of the least appreciated animals on earth is also the third most dangerous. Snakes kill at least 50,000 people annually. Fatal bites by venomous snakes often go unreported which could mean that the figure of 50,000 could be even higher. Public health officials often overlook this potential threat.”

Your best friend?!

Say it isn’t so! My favorite of the favorites! “Man’s best friend? Not always. Dogs kill 25,000 people yearly. These deaths are not because of vicious maulings by household pets, however. Feral and stray dogs infected with rabies attack people and spread the disease.” Keep your dogs on a leash in public, my friends…

Don’t let a bug kiss you

Assassin bugs, also known as Kissing bugs, are attracted to lights in homes where they find their prey, humans. These bugs bite people spreading the parasite that causes Chagas disease. The Chagas disease leads to major organ failure and kills 10,000 people every year. 

Wait, what…snails???

Another 10,000 lives are lost to freshwater snails which carry another type of parasite. Infected snails can pass along schistosomiasis to humans which causes flu-like symptoms, blood vomits, and leg paralysis. All of these parasites have increasingly spread to wider areas due to the rise in global climate change and increasing populations that lead to unsanitary living conditions.

What about Hippos?

The hippopotamus is the world’s deadliest land mammal (PetPedia), killing up to 3,000 people a year. I’ve always had a saying, “hippos always win”. Never mess with a hippo. Trust me. They are fast and they are large.

Most commonly, hippos kill humans when they are on their boats. The animals are typically submerged, so it’s hard to notice them from the surface. The hippo will usually launch itself and capsize the boat. 

In most cases, Hippos kill people by crushing or biting them. But on water, it’s not uncommon for a person to drown as well. 

Alrighty then!

I know what my nightmares will consist of for the coming week! Now that we know our risks, we can take actions that limit our participation in activities that may or may not, be the cause of our demise.

Certainly, a lot of the medical causes can be limited by diet (eating plant-based foods), exercise (getting in 30 minutes of walking a day), limiting our stress levels, making sure we are hydrated, and getting enough good sleep.

As for the animals, reptiles, angry humans, bugs, dogs, snails, and hippos, well, to each their own. Just know that with exposure comes risk.

Never forget…Hippos always win. Carry on…


As always, this blog is not a replacement for sound medical advice. I am not a doctor. Please make an appointment to see your healthcare provider and put a good plan in place that works for you and the needs of your body.

That’s all I have for you this week, dear reader. I’ll see you back here next Wednesday to share another cup of coffee. Until then, be good to yourself and each other.

Mind, Body, Spirit…Osteopathic Doctors treat the whole person, not just the ailment. Is your PCP a DO? Would you like to learn more about Osteopathic Physicians? Click HERE!

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