By Marcia Chaiken and Jan Chaiken
Mexico is known throughout the world for fiestas. And fiestas are times for eating wonderful food, lots and lots of high-calorie food washed down by beer or supersized glasses of colas and other refrescos. Even without a fiesta, typical comida corridas (lunch on the run) consist of three courses including dessert and a large pitcher of delicious flavored sugary water. So it should be of little surprise that the number one cause of death in Mexico is diabetes. Among 172 nations included in the World Life Expectancy data, Mexico ranks ninth in deaths from diabetes; in comparison the U.S. ranks 122nd and Canada 140th.
Coronary heart disease, which of course is also related to diet, is the second most prevalent cause of death in Mexico, while in both Canada and the United States heart disease is the top killer. And stroke, the third most likely cause of death in Mexico is also prevalent in the U.S. and Canada, respectively the number 4 cause in the U.S. and number 5 in Canada. Given these statistics, it’s quite possible that the high rate of death from diabetes compared to the U.S. and Canada may be due to earlier diagnosis and treatment north of the border, since Americans and Canadians are also known to be eating far too much sugar and fatty foods.
Those who follow the media reports of drug wars in Mexico are not likely to be surprised that violence is the fourth major cause of death. Even though U.S. has a “wild west” reputation, and mass shootings appear to be frequent occurrences, violence doesn’t even make the top 25 causes of American deaths and in Canada violence drops to the 39th cause. Among the 172 nations reporting causes of death, Mexico is relatively far from the top of most violent countries, ranking 15th in the world with El Salvador taking the dubious top honor and Japan coming in dead last.
Liver disease is Mexico’s fifth most prevalent cause of death – maybe all those cervezas and margaritas are not as good for you as they taste. Although people in Iceland are least likely to die from liver disease, what exactly is there to do in Iceland during the winter other than watching the northern lights with a drink in hand?
The sixth most prevalent cause of death in Mexico is lung disease. Before pointing fingers and blaming horrid pollution and high rates of smoking in Mexico, realize that lung disease is the fifth major cause of death in Canada and fourth in the U.S.
Influenza and pneumonia rank seventh in the major causes of death in Mexico, not too different from its rank in the U.S. (10) or Canada (8), followed by hypertension, which is also a major cause of death north of the border.
People who say that driving in Mexico is taking your life in your hands are not exaggerating. Road accidents rank number nine as the instrument of death. Think of those youngsters you see careening around on motos in Mexico – no license or driver training required – haven’t you wondered how they survive more than a few days? Still, it’s better to be driving in Mexico than in Iran or Iraq – the leading countries in deaths by motor vehicles. The safest country to drive appears to be the Maldives. Of course, the low rate of deaths from road accidents may be due to the fact that cars are not present on most of those islands. The rate of motor vehicle ownership in the U.S. (over 400 per 1,000 population) is more than 38 times as high as in the Maldives.
Finally, the tenth top cause of death in Mexico is injuries other than road accidents. All the pesky rules and regulations in the U.S. meant to prevent injuries that are lacking in Mexico appear to be paying off, since such injuries rank 25th in the U.S. (in Canada,19th). And the country in which injuries are least likely to be a cause of death is Singapore, which has rules and regulations that shape every breath and step of citizens and visitors.
In sum, while in Mexico you should eat plenty of the delicious fruits and vegetables; if you smoke, stop; limit your fat, sugar and alcohol; and if someone tries to pass you on the road, pull over and let them go by. All of us have to die someday, but why not at age 103 or so?