Heart disease is an equal-opportunity killer, the number one cause of death in men and women. Cancer follows at number two, irrespective of gender. But from there on out, the way women leave this world compared to men begins to diverge.
The CDC offers the following ratings of the top 10 causes of death in the United States. 3,4
The leading causes of death among American women by percentage:
1) Heart disease - 22.9 percent
2) Cancer - 21.8 percent
3) Stroke - 6.1 percent
5) Alzheimer's disease - 4.7 percent
6) Unintentional injuries - 3.7 percent
7) Diabetes - 2.8 percent
8) Influenza and pneumonia - 2.3 percent
9) Kidney disease - 1.8 percent
10) Septicemia - 1.5 percent
The leading causes of death among American men by percentage:
1) Heart disease - 24.6 percent
2) Cancer - 24.1 percent
3) Unintentional injuries - 6.3 percent
4) Chronic lower respiratory diseases - 5.4 percent
5) Stroke - 4.2 percent
6) Diabetes - 3.1 percent
7) Suicide - 2.5 percent
8) Alzheimer's disease - 2.0 percent
9) Influenza and pneumonia - 2.0 percent
10) Kidney disease - 1.8 percent
More women than men die of Alzheimer’s disease (4.7 percent vs. 2 percent). The cause of the gender discrepancy in Alzheimer’s diagnoses is still not completely understood, but research is beginning to focus on the role genes play, specifically the APOe4 gene.
In the Washington Post, Walter A. Rocca, professor of neurology and epidemiology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota was quoted, “We have now seen again and again that women that have [APOe4] have a much higher risk of getting Alzheimer’s than men of the same age who don’t have the gene.”
Scientists suspect that the interaction of the gene with the female hormone estrogen may play an underlying role in the development of Alzheimer's.
Suicide, the seventh leading cause of death for men, doesn’t make the list for women. Women are twice as likely as men to attempt suicide, according to Science Daily. But three-quarters of the 30,000 suicides that succeed each year are men.