CDC Helps States Take Aim at Top Five Causes of Preventable Death

The top five causes of death in the United States in 2010 were potentially preventable, according to a study published the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report titled “Potentially Preventable Deaths from the Five Leading Causes of Death—United States, 2008-2010”.

The Study

According to the study, the top five causes of death were: (1) diseases of the heart, (2) cancer, (3) chronic lower respiratory diseases, (4) cerebrovascular diseases (stroke), and (5) unintentional injuries. These five causes of death made up 63 percent of all deaths in 2010, with the next five most frequent causes of death representing only about 12 percent of all deaths.

In analyzing the National Vital Statistics System mortality data from 2008-2010, the CDC compared the number of expected deaths in individuals less than 80 years old—based on average death rates for the states with the lowest rates for each cause of death—with the number of observed deaths. It found that approximately 92,000 deaths from heart diseases, 84,000 deaths from cancer, 29,000 deaths from chronic lower respiratory diseases, 17,000 deaths from cerebrovascular diseases, and 37,000 deaths from unintentional injuries could potentially be prevented every year.

Prevention of Earlier-Than-Expected Death

Efforts such as “risk factor reduction, screening, early intervention, and treatment of the disease or injury” are required to reduce the number of preventable deaths. The CDC wrote that of the major modifiable risk factors, tobacco use plays a role in the majority of the preventable causes of death. The major risk factors are described by the CDC as follows:

  • Diseases of the heart. Major risk factors include tobacco use, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, poor diet, being overweight, and lack of physical activity.
  • Cancer. Major risk factors include tobacco use, poor diet, lack of physical activity, being overweight, and sun exposure.
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases. Major risk factors include tobacco smoke, second hand smoke exposure, other indoor air pollutants, outdoor air pollutants, and allergens.
  • Cerebrovascular diseases (stroke). Major risk factors include high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, being overweight, tobacco use, alcohol use, and lack of physical activity.
  • Unintentional injuries: Major risk factors include lack of vehicle restraint use, lack of motorcycle helmet use, unsafe consumer products, drug and alcohol use (including prescription drug misuse), exposer to occupational hazards, and unsafe home and community environments.

Taking into account the variance of the rates of death among the 50 states, the CDC said that the states with lower death rates can help to set achievable goals for the states with higher rates.  The study’s findings “provide disease-specific targets that states can use to measure their progress in preventing the leading causes of deaths in their populations.”