According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year, nearly 900,000 Americans die prematurely from the five leading causes of death . However, the Centers for Disease Control estimate that a large percentage of those deaths 20 percent to 40 percent from each cause could be prevented. The percentage varies greatly from state to state.
In the United States the five leading causes of death are heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, and unintentional injuries. Collectively they caused 63 percent of all U.S. deaths in 2010. Unintentional injuries include car accidents, slip and fall accidents and other personal injury accidents. The Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) seminal study of preventable medical errors estimated as many as 98,000 people die every year from medical negligence and is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
The report, in a recent issue of the CDC’s weekly journal, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, examined 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 percent of premature deaths from heart diseases, prolonging about 92,000 lives
21 percent of premature cancer deaths, prolonging about 84,500 lives
39 percent of premature deaths from chronic lower respiratory diseases, prolonging about 29,000 lives
33 percent of premature stroke deaths, prolonging about 17,000 lives
39 percent of premature deaths from unintentional injuries, prolonging about 37,000 lives
Tom Frieden, MD, MPH was quoted in a CDC article as stating “As a doctor, it is heartbreaking to lose just one patient to a preventable disease or injury – and it is that much more poignant as the director of the nation’s public health agency to know that far more than a hundred thousand deaths each year are preventable,”. “With programs such as the CDC’s Million Hearts initiative, we are working hard to prevent many of these premature deaths.”
Not surprisingly, there are many modifiable risk factors that are largely responsible for each of the leading causes of death, the CDC cites :
Heart disease risks include tobacco use, high blood pressure, 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, second-hand smoke exposure, other indoor air pollutants, outdoor air pollutants, allergens, and exposure to occupational agents.
Stroke risks include high blood pressure, 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.
As you can see by making changes in personal behaviors many of the risks are avoidable. Others risk factors are attributable to disparate conditions in social, demographic, environmental, economic, and geographic attributes of the local areas in which people work and live.
The study authors note that if health disparities were eliminated, as called for in Healthy People 2020 all states would be closer to achieving the lowest possible death rates for the leading causes of death.
Harold W. Jaffe, MD, the study’s senior author and CDC’s associate director for science was quoted in the CDC article as saying “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,” He was further quoted as saying “Achieving these goals could prolong the lives of tens of thousands of Americans.”
One can learn from these findings and change their and their family’s lifestyle for a healthier life.