The biggest risks to our life change as we grow and develop. When we're toddlers, being near water can put us in serious danger, while in middle age, our DNA is more susceptible to damage.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracks the 10 leading causes of death for Americans at every stage of life. The health agency's data from 2016 reveals that some of the greatest hazards to our young lives include everyday activities like riding in a car, while deadly cancers and heart conditions become more dangerous as our bodies take on more wear and tear.
The list below describes most common causes of death at every age, from dangerous accidents that pose threats when we're young to diseases that are likely to take our lives when we're older.
Here's a map of what to watch out for from age 0 to 65. Notice that the majority of deaths that occur before age 45 are caused by accidents.
The single biggest threat to life for everyone between the ages of 1 and 45 is some kind of accident, whether that be consumption of a toxic chemical or a deadly crash.
But just looking at the leading cause of death for every age group doesn't tell us the whole story. Suicides are on the rise across the US and have become the second leading cause of death in many age groups.
For that reason, we've also included the second leading cause of death for each age group in the categories below.
The biggest risk to newborns' nascent lives — from birth to their first birthday — is birth defects.
In the US, one in every 33 babies is born with a birth defect, according to the CDC.
These development issues include critical and potentially deadly malformations of the heart or brain, as well as more mild birth defects like a smaller-than-usual ear or misshapen foot.
Most birth defects crop up during the first three months of a woman's pregnancy, when the organs of a fetus are beginning to form. But some abnormalities can go undetected until months later. Many issues like hearing loss or heart problems can't be diagnosed until after a baby is born.
Factors like family history, the health of the mother, use of medications, and consumption of alcohol or drugs can all have some effect on birth defects. But the reasons why some babies are born with potentially devastating or deadly health problems are still not completely understood.
The second leading cause of death for babies from 0 to 1 year old is premature birth.
From ages 1 to 4, babies, toddlers and their caregivers should be extra cautious around water.
The CDC estimates that two children under the age of 15 die from drowning every day in the US. Babies can drown in just a single inch of water, according to the Mayo Clinic.
"A curious toddler can fall into a toilet, bucket, or fish tank," the Mayo website reads.
New parents should consider toilet locks, keep the bathroom door closed, and always supervise bath time.
The second leading cause of death among children between 1 and 4 years old is birth defects.
From age 5 to 24, car crashes pose the greatest threat to any child, teen, or young adult's life.
As kids begin to grow up and head off to school, motor vehicle crashes become one of the greatest dangers they face.
More than 2,800 teens died in car crashes in 2016, according to the US Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The threat of a deadly crash increases when teenagers and start driving themselves around, and drivers who are just learning face the highest level of risk. The rate of fatal crashes per mile driven is nearly twice as high for 16- and 17-year-olds as it is for teens who are 18 or 19 and have a bit more of experience behind the wheel.
The second leading cause of death among kids from 5 to 9 years old is cancer.
The second leading cause of death among young people from 10 to 24 years old is suicide.
Between the ages of 25 and 44, the leading cause of death shifts from accidents to poisoning.
The most common unintentional poisoning deaths are caused by drugs, both prescription and illegal.
Poisoning deaths from pain killers like heroin and synthetic opioids have skyrocketed since 2010, according to CDC data, and cocaine-overdose deaths are also on the rise.
But drugs aren't the only way that people can die by poisoning. Alcohol and household chemicals like pesticides or bleach contribute to poisoning deaths every year.
Another dangerous poison is one you can't see or smell: carbon monoxide can waft from gas furnaces, fridges, cars, and other appliances at deadly levels if a home is not well ventilated. The winter season, when doors are sealed and windows are shut, is the most dangerous time of year for carbon monoxide poisoning in US homes. More than a third of carbon monoxide poisoning deaths occur between December and February every year, according to the CDC.
The second leading cause of death for people between 25 and 34 years old is suicide.
The second leading cause of death for those from 35 to 44 years old is cancer.
From 45 to 64, as our cells age and DNA gets damaged, cancer becomes the greatest risk to our lives.
Cancer is the number two cause of death overall in the US. For middle-aged people, it's the most common way to die.
The class of deadly diseases fundamentally changes the way our bodies work: toxic cells divide, grow into unruly tumors, and spread into essential organs. Cancers can cut off our oxygen supply to the lungs, cause internal bleeding that leads to fatal strokes, and deprive the body of essential nutrients, making it more prone to infection.
Some cases of cancer are out of our control — they can be determined by genetic defects and predispositions passed down through generations, or by genetic changes we undergo through our lifetime. Other kinds of cancer crop up when we're exposed to toxins during our lives, including smoke, UV rays, pollution, weed killers, and even alcohol.
The second leading cause of death for people from 45 to 64 years old is heart disease.
From age 65 on, heart disease (sometimes called the silent killer) becomes a bigger threat than cancer.
As we age into our 60s, heart disease begins to take its toll.
By this time, plaques on the walls of our arteries have had decades to build up. They can make it harder for blood to flow freely through the body, reduce the flow of fresh oxygen to cells in our brain or heart, and lead to deadly clots.
It can be difficult to see outward signs of pressure building up in a person's blood vessels until it's too late. At that point, people can experience a heart attack, stroke, or heart failure.
That's why many people call hypertension the silent killer. In 2013, the problem contributed to more than 1,000 deaths in the US every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If you're worried about your own blood pressure, there are a few simple things you can do right now to help lower it: reducing stress, getting enough physical activity, slimming down, and slashing extra salt from your diet can help.
The second leading cause of death after age 65 is cancer.
Average life expectancy in the US is now 78.5 years old.
In 1960, Americans had the highest life expectancy of any country in the world.
But today, the US has plummeted to the bottom of the life-expectancy list relative to other countries with similar GDP and average income. The average life expectancy for Americans is now shorter than it is for the Japanese, Canadians, Germans, residents of the UK, and people in seven other countries, according to data compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Life expectancy in the US is currently about two years more than it is in China. But last month, the Chinese boasted that their healthy life expectancy, which measures the number of years a person can expect to live relatively illness and injury-free, just soared higher than the US for the first time in recorded history.
Chinese people can now expect to spend 10 more weeks healthy and disease-free than Americans, on average.
Things aren't expected to get better in the coming years. Scientists predict that Americans will have the lowest life expectancy of any high-income country by 2030, with a predicted life expectancy just shy of 80 years old. Life expectancies in other wealthy countries like South Korea are expected to rise above 90 years old by the same year.
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