When asked what the leading causes of death are, people tend to think of highly visual causes like plane crashes, terrorism, and murder. I think that there are two reasons for this. The first is because these are the causes that are portrayed most frequently in the media. And the second is because these are causes that are to a large extent out of our control, and we tend to fear what we can’t control much more than what we can.
However, the reality is that these highly visual and uncontrollable ways of dying actually account for a very small fraction of deaths. A recent UK study shows that heart disorders are the leading cause of death, with cancer and respiratory disorders coming in second and third. The top risks leading to death are high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol, and obesity. Although the study was conducted in the UK, the results are likely valid for most developed markets and many emerging markets where people lead similar lifestyles to those living in the UK.
In other words, leading a less stressful lifestyle, not smoking, and eating healthier are the best ways to lower your chances of dying and live longer. And each of these is in your control.