What Are The Top 3 Ways To Die In Your Part Of The World?

I think it's fascinating to get beyond a Westerner's view of life and death and see how other parts of the world live. And die.

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Narrator: It may surprise you to learn that there is in fact technically only one way to die. Not enough blood gets to your brain.

That means not enough oxygen and not enough glucose. That's how you die. That's how you will die.

But how does blood stop getting to your brain? There are a lot of ways that can happen.

Most likely, if you live in a rich country like the U.S., something goes wrong with your heart. An artery might get blocked, and part of your heart muscle dies, and it stops pumping blood to your brain. Heart disease is the leading killer in rich countries.

Second is stroke, which is when one of the blood vessels in your brain is blocked or ruptures.

Third on the list are diseases that affect your lungs and breathing.

But the situation looks pretty different in poor countries, especially in the poorest 34 countries on earth. In these places, people still die of heart disease and stroke, but they're much more likely to die-and die earlier-from other things.

The top killers are respiratory problems, many of which are caused by breathing in smoke. The smoke mostly comes not from cigarettes but from cooking with smoky fuels like wood and dried animal poop.

Number two is HIV/AIDS. In the poorest countries, condoms can be difficult to get, and lifesaving pills and treatments for people who already have the disease aren't always available. Social stigma and lack of safe sex education in many places doesn't help either.

Number three is diarrhea, mostly caused by drinking contaminated water. Because at the same time you're needing a bathroom, you probably don't actually have a bathroom. And most people you know probably don't either, which is how your poop gets into your water supply and your disease spreads.

So, depending on where you're born, cooking dinner, having sex, and going to the bathroom are either three of life's many pleasures or three of the riskiest things you can do.

The good news is that given enough study, money, education, and time, the world can fight all of these diseases. The bad news is that, at some point, you're still going to die.

There may be small errors in this transcript.

This little ditty was made by the good people at NPR. Their Facebook page and Twitter.

Aug 20, 2014

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