COVID-19 claimed 375,000 deaths in the United States in 2020, according to provisional mortality data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This number is even more sobering when compared to tragic historic events that cost many American lives. For example, the Vietnam War claimed nearly 58,200 deaths, and World War I took 116,500 lives.
A healthy lifestyle can help prevent heart disease and stroke
Although deaths caused by COVID-19 may likely be higher than what confirmed data indicate, the substantial loss of life due to cardiovascular disease — which can refer to a number of conditions, including heart disease, heart attack and stroke — in 2020 doubles that caused by COVID-19, at 690,000 deaths. That is an alarming 1 in every 4 deaths caused by cardiovascular disease, one of the most preventable diseases.
“Some of the ways to reduce your risk of heart disease are rooted in eating healthy, staying physically active, not smoking, lowering your cholesterol and maintaining a healthy weight,” says Dr. Steven Rough, a cardiologist affiliated with Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center. “Since the pandemic began, our ability to interact and maintain physical activity was reduced. Anecdotally, I do feel that patients have delayed receiving care because of fear of contracting COVID-19.”
Cancer was the second-leading cause of death in 2020
Cancer accounted for 598,000 deaths in 2020, with lung, colorectal, pancreatic, breast and prostate cancer being the most common causes of cancer death in the U.S. And like cardiovascular disease, a healthy lifestyle and early detection can help people prevent cancer and have better cancer treatment outcomes.
“1 in 3 Americans will be affected by cancer in their lifetime, with more than 1.7 billion people being diagnosed each year,” says Dr. Ryan Bair, radiation oncologist at the Douglas & Nancy Barnhart Cancer Center at Sharp Chula Vista. “According to research, more than half of cancer deaths could be avoided by making healthier decisions, getting screened by your physician and protecting yourself with vaccinations.”
While efforts are underway to vaccinate and protect the country from COVID-19, this data should act as a catalyst for each of us to do our part in putting an end to this pandemic without risking our own health by delaying essential and emergency treatment.
“Those being treated for cancer are immunosuppressed, which increases your risk of severe illness from COVID-19,” says Dr. Bair. “Screening appointments could reduce the incidence of cancer in the United States and can increase the life expectancy of those who may one day be diagnosed.”
“Making an appointment with your doctor will help get you back on track,” Dr. Rough says. “Checking your cholesterol and blood pressure, and getting evaluated for concerning signs and symptoms, will help recognize potential serious events such as a stroke or a heart attack.”