One third of heart disease, stroke deaths potentially preventable

One out of every three premature heart disease deaths and stroke deaths could be prevented, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A May 2 report showed that modifying risk factors and other strategies might reduce cardiovascular and cerebrovascular deaths by almost 109,000 annually.

In the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, epidemiologist Paula W. Yoon, ScD, and other CDC scientists used the National Vital Statistics System mortality data from 2008 to 2010 to identify the leading causes of death. Heart diseases topped the list, followed by cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, cerebrovascular diseases and unintentional injuries.

The top five causes accounted for 63 percent of deaths from all causes annually in 2010.

To calculate the number of potentially preventable deaths for U.S. residents under 80 years old, they compared the number of expected deaths using the average of three states with the lowest death rates to the number of observed deaths.

They determined that 91,757 heart disease deaths, 84,443 cancer deaths, 28,831 chronic lower respiratory disease deaths, 16,973 cerebrovascular disease deaths and 36,836 unintentional injury deaths could be prevented annually. Thirty-four percent of heart disease deaths and 33 percent of stroke deaths were potentially preventable.

The Southeast region had the highest percentage of preventable deaths for all five causes.

Reducing risk factors, screening, early intervention and successful treatments could reduce the number of preventable deaths, they wrote. Modifiable risk factors for heart disease included tobacco use, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, poor diet, excess weight and lack of physical activity. Stroke had the same risk factors except poor diet, with the addition of heart disease and alcohol use.

“The majority of risk factors do not occur randomly in populations; they are closely aligned with the social, demographic, environmental, economic and geographic attributes of the neighborhood in which people live and work,” Yoon et al wrote. They recommended that states with the lowest death rates be used as benchmarks for setting goals and defining strategies to reduce preventable deaths.