Death rates from diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and unintentional injuries (such as those caused by motor vehicle deaths) — five of the leading causes of mortality in the United States — fell over a recent 44-year period, according to new research published in The Journal of the American Medical Association. This trend may reflect nationwide improvements in control of high blood pressure and high cholesterol, a decline in smoking, and improved medical treatments, according to the study authors.
Evaluating long-term trends in death rates is important for large-scale health planning and for identifying factors that can be changed to reduce the rates of premature death. To examine the trends in death rates for the six leading causes in the United States, the researchers looked at death certificate data from 1969–2013 to determine the total number of deaths, yearly changes in death rates, and years of potential life lost before age 75.
Over the time period analyzed, the death rate from all causes decreased from 1,279 per 100,000 people to 730, a 43% decrease. And for every 100,000 people, the death rate for diabetes decreased by 17%, for heart disease by 68%, for stroke by 77%, for cancer by 18%, and for unintentional injuries by 40%. Potential years of life lost for every 1,000 years decreased from 1.9 to 1.6 for diabetes, from 28.8 to 9.1 for heart disease, from 6.0 to 1.5 for stroke, from 21.4 to 12.7 for cancer, and from 19.9 to 10.4 for unintentional injuries.
For chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD, a lung condition that can make it hard to breathe), a sixth leading cause of death in the United States, no decrease was seen in potential years of life lost. Additionally, in the most recent period of time, the rates of decline in death slowed for diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, likely due to the obesity epidemic, the researchers state. They suggest that increasing lifestyle interventions for weight loss, such as exercise and healthful eating, can help curb this trend.
“We are making progress in reducing death rates from all causes and from most leading causes of death,” noted lead study author Ahmedin Jemal, DVM, PhD. “We can do more to accelerate the decrease in mortality rates by applying what we know in prevention broadly and in all populations,” he added in an interview with CNN.
For more information, read the article “Fewer deaths from leading causes” or see the study in The Journal of the American Medical Association. And to learn how to increase your chances for a long life by setting and following through on your personal goals for healthy living, see these expert tips.
With World Diabetes Day just a few weeks away, the University of Florida is sponsoring the annual WDD Blue Circle Photo Contest. Bookmark DiabetesSelfManagement.com and tune in tomorrow to learn how to enter.