In 1900, the average life expectancy of a United States resident born and raised in the country was just 47.3 years, according to the University of California at Berkeley. Today, the average American is expected to spend approximately 79 years on planet Earth, per the consulting group Carolina Demography at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Interestingly enough, the most common causes of death have evolved throughout the years. In the United States back in 1900, infectious diseases influenza and pneumonia killed about 202 people per 100,000. The painful, slow death tuberculosis causes followed closely behind the aforementioned pair at roughly 194 deaths per 100,000. Together, these two lung diseases contributed to 397 deaths per 100,000 United States citizens. Today, various types of cancer come in second place on the morbid list of most-deadly diseases at 186 fatal manifestations per 100,000 Americans, with pneumonia or influenza causing roughly 16 of every 100,000 to pass away.
In other words, at least 25% of all modern deaths result from lung disease. Roughly 120 years ago, at the turn of the twentieth century, lung disease counted for fewer deaths – 23 percent of all fatalities.
Lung disease is obviously a major killer – but what is lung disease?
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the go-to in defining words, a disease is defined as “a condition of … [a] animal or plant … that impairs normal functioning.“
To understand lung disease, one must understand how lungs regularly function
Oxygen and water are arguably the two most basic substances required by the human body to perform cellular functions. Without oxygen, every cell in the human body couldn’t operate. The diaphragm, a stout muscle located in the abdomen, pulls the lungs downwards roughly 12 to 15 times every minute. Small sacs called alveoli are filled with air, which capture oxygen from breathed-in air and distributes it throughout the body via the cardiovascular system.
Here’s what lung disease is
Lung diseases are conditions that cause the respiratory system to not function fully up-to-par. Tuberculosis, though it’s not common in modern times, acts by essentially rotting lung structures. Cancer of the lung most often kills through massive tumors that obstruct airflow, followed by infections, bleeding of lung tissue, and pulmonary embolism, a phenomenon by which blood clots formed in the legs travel through blood vessels and arteries and end up in lung tissue.
Other common lung diseases are asthma, which doesn’t often kill its sufferers; COPD, bronchitis, and cystic fibrosis. All of these, like all lung diseases, disrupt regular lung function in one way or another.