Thanks in part to Donald Trump and his angry GOP competitors, who have been stoking the fear card for months, Americans have placed the fear of terror at the top of their lists of concerns. The fact of the matter is that we are still far more likely to die from disease than from a terror attack. For instance, American males have a 1 in 4 chance of dying from cancer. This means it is almost 34,000 times more likely that cancer will be the terrorist that kills you.
But Americans fear disease almost as irrationally as they do terrorism. Earlier this year, a poll was conducted to see which diseases Americans and Europeans fear the most. The results were somewhat surprising. The survey, presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference and conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health, showed that Alzheimer’s disease has caught up with cancer as the most-feared disease, even though the risk of developing Alzheimer’s is far lower than the risk of getting cancer (over the age of 65, you have a 1 in 14 chance of developing Alzheimer’s). People may overestimate their chances of getting Alzheimer’s, but they underestimate other disease risks like heart disease, stroke and diabetes. More people die of heart disease and strokes every year than any other disease.
So, while it is definitely time to stop losing sleep over ISIS, it’s time to get a little more realistic about what might really kill you. The good news is that even when it comes to deadly diseases, there are some reasons for optimism. Incredible advances in medicine are shining a light on the causes and possible treatments of diseases that have both frightened and killed us.