Fewer Dying from 3 of the 5 Leading Causes of Death in the U.S.

Fewer Dying from 3 of the 5 Leading Causes of Death in the U.S.

A study published online in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report says that fewer people are dying from 3 of the 5 leading causes of death in the United States – heart disease, cancer, and stroke. [1] [2]

Potentially preventable deaths from asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and other chronic lower respiratory diseases didn’t budge, though.

But, eh, more people died from unintentional injuries, mainly caused by falls and by overdoses from both prescription and illegal drugs.

Former CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a statement:

“Fewer Americans are dying young from preventable causes of death. Tragically, deaths from overdose are increasing because of the opioid epidemic, and there are still large differences between states in all preventable causes of death, indicating that many more lives can be saved through use of prevention and treatment available today.” [3]

The rates of death from each cause vary geographically. Where people live is generally a good indicator of the health problems they face, their access to and use of social services, and public health efforts. Deaths from all leading causes are highest in the South.

Macarena C. García, DrPH, from the Center for Surveillance, Epidemiology and Laboratory Services at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), wrote:

Source: NIDA

“Public health officials can use the decreases observed as benchmarks for improving population health, while using observed increases to direct targeted efforts to reduce the number of potentially preventable deaths.

Specifically, given the reported increase in potentially preventable deaths from unintentional injuries, these findings might inform the selection and implementation of evidence-based interventions to prevent deaths from injuries such as falls and drug overdoses, based on epidemiologic burden.” [2]

For the study, Garcia and her team analyzed mortality data from the National Vital Statistic System, using the same model as that used in a 2010 analysis to allow for comparison.

Overall, the 5 top causes of death in the U.S. – heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease (CLRD), stroke, and unintentional injuries – increased from 2010 to 2014, which was consistent with population increases. But the rate of heart disease, cancer, and stroke deaths increased more slowly than the population grew.

Of those who died of heart disease, cancer, CLRD, stroke, and unintentional injuries, the CDC estimates that 15% of the cancer deaths, 30% of the heart disease deaths, 36% of the CLRD deaths, and 28% of the stroke deaths were preventable. A whopping 43% of the unintentional deaths were preventable. [3]

Potentially preventable cancer deaths fell 25% from 2010-2014, driven by a 12% decrease in the age-adjusted death rate from lung cancer. The authors of the study credit the decline in cancer deaths to prevention, early detection, and treatment.

There was an 11% decrease in potentially preventable deaths from stroke and a 4% decrease in potentially preventable deaths from heart disease. The researchers wrote that the reduction in both causes of death is attributable to improved quality of care and a drop in risk factors, including better blood pressure control among people who have hypertension.

In comparison, potentially preventable deaths caused by accidents increased 23%. Those caused by CLRD rose1%, which the CDC said was not considered statistically significant. [3]

Overdose deaths involving prescription opioids have quadrupled since 1999, the CDC said. Nearly two million Americans abused or were addicted to prescription opioids in 2014, and more than 14,000 people died from overdoses involving those drugs.


[1] Medscape

[2] CDC

[3] Fox News

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)