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What are my odds of dying?

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Americans, in general, underestimate their own mortality. We live in a world where the statement “It won’t happen to me,” reigns supreme.

In the U.S., the average life expectancy for a male is 76.3 years old and for females it’s 81.4. Dying prior to these ages is considered “premature death”.

Data from the World Health Organization shows that there is a 16.1% chance that a male will die prematurely between the ages of 30 and 70. And a 11.1% chance for females.

What are your odds of dying?

What Will Kill Me?

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for Americans. It kills one person every 36 seconds in the U.S.

Top 10 Causes of Death in the U.S. in 2019
Heart disease161.5 deaths per 100,000
Unintentional injuries49.3
Chronic lower respiratory disease38.2
Alzheimer’s disease29.8
Kidney disease12.7
Influenza and pneumonia12.3

Can I Prevent Death?

Obviously, you can’t avoid dying, or odds of dying, but you can at least avoid dying by certain means. Let’s cover the top five causes of death and how you can lower your risk.

Cardiovascular Disease

As mentioned, cardiovascular disease is the number one killer in the U.S. And many of these deaths could have been prevented.

Heart disease risks include tobacco use, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, poor diet, being overweight, and lack of physical activity. Most, if not all, of these risks can be managed.

The American Heart Association has tips on how you can prevent heart disease, no matter your age.


Cancer is the number two killer in America. Scientists still don’t know all the causes of cancer, but there are ways to lower your risk of certain cancers. Your lifestyle choices play a big part. The Mayo Clinic offers seven cancer prevention tips:

  1. Don’t use tobacco
  2. Eat a healthy diet
  3. Maintain a healthy weight and be physically active
  4. Protect yourself from the sun
  5. Get immunized
  6. Avoid risky behaviors
  7. Get regular medical care

Unintentional Injuries

Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death for Americans aged 1-44 years old. The leading causes of death for unintentional injury include: unintentional poisoning (e.g., drug overdoses), motor vehicle accidents, drowning, and falls.

Notably, in 2014, the 9th leading cause of death was drug overdoses with 47,055 deaths. In 2019, however, drug overdose deaths from opioids alone was 49,860. Overdose deaths involving opioids, both illegal and legal, continue to increase in the U.S. each year.

Lowering your risk of dying from unintentional injuries can be chalked up to making good life decisions (i.e. don’t do hard drugs) and being careful and aware of your surroundings.

Obviously, you can’t avoid dying, but you can at least avoid dying by certain means.

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Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease

Chronic lower respiratory diseases are diseases that affect the lungs. Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are the two main illnesses that make up the most deadly of respiratory diseases which is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Respiratory diseases can be prevented to lower odds of dying:

  1. Don’t smoke, or quit if you do. Smoking is the most common cause of chronic respiratory diseases like COPD. Smoking cessation is the most important part of treatment for smokers diagnosed with chronic respiratory disease.
  2. Avoid prolonged time in highly polluted areas. Indoor and outdoor air pollutants can cause respiratory problems. Air pollution can irritate, inflame, or destroy lung tissue.
  3. Wash your hands. It is estimated that hands spread 80 percent of common infectious respiratory diseases like colds and flu. Washing hands regularly with soap and water can prevent respiratory infections.


A stroke, or “brain attack,” occurs when blood circulation to the brain fails. Brain cells can die from decreased blood flow and the resulting lack of oxygen. 

Not only are strokes the 5th leading killer in the U.S., but it is the most common cause of adult disability. Some stroke factors cannot be modified, such as family history and race, but there are risk factors that can be worked on.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, there are seven treatable stroke risk factors:

  1. High Blood Pressure

    If your blood pressure is high, you and your doctor need to work out an individual strategy to bring it down to the normal range.  

    • Maintain proper weight.
    • Avoid drugs known to raise blood pressure.
    • Cut down on salt.
    • Eat fruits and vegetables to increase potassium in your diet.
    • Exercise more.

    Controlling blood pressure will also help you avoid heart disease, diabetes, and kidney failure.

  2. Cigarette Smoking

    Cigarette smoking has been linked to the buildup of fatty substances (atherosclerosis) in the carotid artery, the main neck artery supplying blood to the brain. Blockage of this artery is the leading cause of stroke in Americans. 

    By quitting, at any age, you also reduce your risk of lung disease, heart disease, and a number of cancers including lung cancer.
  3. Heart Disease

    Common heart disorders such as coronary artery disease, valve defects, irregular heart beat (atrial fibrillation), and enlargement of one of the heart’s chambers can result in blood clots that may break loose and block vessels in or leading to the brain. 

    See “Cardiovascular Disease” above for tips on how to prevent it. To treat heart disease though, doctors often will prescribe medication such as aspirin to help prevent blood clots.
  4. Transient Ischemic Attack

    While a transient ischemic attack (TIA) is often labeled “mini-stroke,” it is more accurately characterized as a “warning stroke.” This is a temporary blood clot that lasts typically less than five minutes and usually causes no permanent damage to the brain; however, about a third of people who experience a TIA will go onto have a stroke within a year. 

    By recognizing TIA symptoms and getting to the hospital, the patient can get help in identifying why the TIA occurred and get treatment – either through medication or surgery – that can prevent a stroke from occurring.
  5. Diabetes

    Diabetes causes destructive changes in the blood vessels throughout the body, including the brain. Hypertension is common among diabetics and accounts for much of their increased stroke risk. Treating diabetes can delay the onset of complications that increase the risk of stroke.
  6. Cholesterol Imbalance

    Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) carries cholesterol (a fatty substance) through the blood and delivers it to cells. Excess LDL can cause cholesterol to build up in blood vessels, leading to atherosclerosis. 

    Atherosclerosis is the major cause of blood vessel narrowing, leading to both heart attack and stroke. WebMD offers 11 tips to lower your LDL cholesterol.
  7. Physical Inactivity and Obesity

    Physical inactivity and obesity are associated with many health issues, including strokes. The American Heart Association lists seven small steps that make big changes. They refer to it as Life’s Simple 7. Check them out if you are looking to improve your health.

Staying healthy lowers your risk of dying prematurely, which also means you’re going to pay less for life insurance. The cost of life insurance is primarily determined based on an applicant’s age and health. The further you are from death, the less you will have to pay in insurance premiums.

Term life insurance is the best financial protection solution for most families.

Term insurance is affordable and covers the period in a family’s life when they would need protection the most. This period of time is when you’re newly married, just bought a home, or just had your first child. Coverage that lasts until you’re in or near retirement is ideal.

Most of us hope to live past age 60. And most of us will regardless of the odds of dying. So, you may wonder “Why would I buy term insurance when the chances of it actually paying out are slim?”

Buying term insurance isn’t an investment. People who purchase term insurance would rather have it not pay out, because if it does pay out that means you’ve died before your time.

Term insurance is life-saving, however, for those families who lose a husband or wife, a mom or dad, too soon.

Statistics say there is a greater than 1-in-6 chance for males and 1-in-9 chance for females to die between the ages of 25 and 65. It’s these situations in which life insurance saves families.

The death benefit from a life insurance policy can protect your family’s standard of living. Families can continue to put healthy food on the table. They won’t need to sell their home. They can still send their children to college.

This is what term life insurance is for. It’s protection against the what-ifs, no matter the odds.


Photo credit to: Zdenko Zivkovic

Watch the Odds of Dying Video

Video Transcript

Welcome to Quotacy’s Q&A Friday where we answer your life insurance questions. Quotacy is an online life insurance broker where you can get life insurance on your terms.

I’m Jeanna

And I’m Natasha.

Today’s question is:
What are my odds of dying?

We live in a world where the statement “It won’t happen to me,” reigns supreme.

People don’t typically assume they’re going to die prematurely. Most people stick to the average circle of life. You’re born, you grow up, you work, you retire, and you die in your 80s.

But did you know that a 40-year-old man has over a 10% chance of dying by age 60? For women, this probability is 6.5%. And after age 40, this percentage only continues to increase.

Heart disease, cancer, respiratory diseases, accidents and strokes consistently round out the top 5 causes of death for Americans.

You can’t avoid dying, but you can increase your odds of surviving by lowering your risk. Many of these top causes of death are actually preventable.

Avoiding tobacco and maintaining a healthy weight are the two of the most important things you can do to lower your risk of premature death.

But, of course, no one can predict the future. Accidents can’t be avoided. And you can do all the right things and still be diagnosed with cancer.

You can take steps now to protect your loved ones from the what ifs of the future. Like, what if you die unexpectedly?

A term life insurance policy can protect against this risk.

Term life insurance is affordable income replacement for your family. It provides a death benefit if you die prematurely.

And once you buy a policy, you lock in your premium payments. In other words, even if you were to develop heart disease or cancer or some other serious illness later on, if you already own a life insurance policy, your health won’t impact your rates.

Depending on your age when you apply, you can buy a term life insurance policy that lasts anywhere from 10 to 40 years.

The cost of your policy will be affected by your current age and health, so we advise you to buy a term life insurance policy as soon as you need it.

This may be when you have your first child. Or it’s when you get married. Or perhaps it’s when you start a business.

Whatever your reasons for needing life insurance, and there may be more than one, don’t hesitate on applying. Because, as we discussed today, you never know what life may throw at you.

Term life insurance is life-saving for those families who lose a provider too soon. With life insurance, groceries can be bought, bills can be paid, and the kids can stay in their home.

Most of us hope to live past age 60, and most of us will, regardless of the odds of dying. Term life insurance doesn’t pay out if you live past your term, but that’s a good thing. You’re still alive. Your family can still depend on you.

Term life insurance is protection against the what-ifs, no matter the odds.

If you have any questions about life insurance, make sure to leave us a comment.

About the writer

Headshot of Natasha Cornelius, a life insurance writer, for Quotacy, Inc.

Natasha Cornelius

Marketing Content Manager

Natasha is a writer and content editor at Quotacy. She is also co-host of Quotacy’s YouTube series. She can't get enough of life insurance and outside of work is also working toward her Chartered Life Underwriter designation. Connect with her on LinkedIn.