Each year, nearly 900,000 Americans die prematurely from the five leading causes of death, but 20% to 40% of the deaths from each cause could be prevented, according to a CDC study.
The five leading causes of death in the U.S. are heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke and unintentional injuries. Together they accounted for 63% of all U.S. deaths in 2010, with rates for each cause varying significantly from state to state.
The report, published in the May 2 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, analyzed premature deaths (before age 80) from each cause for each state from 2008 to 2010. The authors then calculated the number of deaths from each cause that would have been prevented if all states had same death rate as the states with the lowest rates.
The study suggests that, if all states had the lowest death rate observed for each cause, it would be possible to prevent:
34% of premature deaths from heart diseases, prolonging about 92,000 lives;
21% of premature cancer deaths, prolonging about 84,500 lives;
39% of premature deaths from chronic lower respiratory diseases, prolonging about 29,000 lives;
33% of premature stroke deaths, prolonging about 17,000 lives;
39% of premature deaths from unintentional injuries, prolonging about 37,000 lives.
Modifiable risk factors are largely responsible for each of the leading causes of death:
Heart disease risks include tobacco use, hypertension, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, poor diet, overweight and lack of physical activity;
Cancer risks include tobacco use, poor diet, lack of physical activity, overweight, sun exposure, certain hormones, alcohol, some viruses and bacteria, ionizing radiation and certain chemicals and other substances;
Chronic respiratory disease risks include tobacco smoke, secondhand smoke exposure, other indoor air pollutants, outdoor air pollutants, allergens and exposure to occupational agents;
Stroke risks include hypertension, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, overweight, previous stroke, tobacco use, alcohol use, and lack of physical activity.
Unintentional injury risks include lack of seatbelt use, lack of motorcycle helmet use, unsafe consumer products, drug and alcohol use (including prescription drug misuse), exposure to occupational hazards and unsafe home and community environments.
Many of these risks are avoidable by making changes in personal behaviors, according to a CDC news release. Others are due to disparities relating to the social, demographic, environmental, economic and geographic attributes of the neighborhoods in which people live and work.
We think that this report can help states set goals for preventing premature death from the conditions that account for the majority of deaths in the United States, Harold W. Jaffe, MD, the studys senior author and CDCs associate director for science, said in the news release. Achieving these goals could prolong the lives of tens of thousands of Americans.
Southeastern states had the highest number of preventable deaths for each of the five causes. The study authors suggest that states with higher rates can look to states with similar populations, but better outcomes, to see what they are doing differently to address leading causes of death.