Many deaths from leading causes preventable

Twenty to 40 percent of deaths from the five leading causes of death in the U.S. are preventable, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Researchers analyzed state-to-state death records of people younger than age 80 between 2008 and 2010, then calculated how many deaths could have been avoided if all states had the same death rates as those with the lowest rates for each of the top five causes--stroke, accidental injuries, heart disease, cancer and chronic respiratory disease. Researchers found it is possible to prevent:

  • Twenty-one percent of premature heart disease deaths (about 84,500 people)

  • Thirty-three percent of premature stroke deaths (about 17,000 people)

  • Thirty-four percent of premature heart disease deaths (about 92,000 people)

  • Thirty-nine percent of premature chronic lower respiratory disease deaths (about 29,000 people)

  • Thirty-nine percent of premature deaths from unintentional injuries (about 37,000 people)

However, adding deaths by cause together will not produce accurate nationwide numbers, the authors said, as people who recover from serious diseases such as cancer could still die from another top cause such as a stroke, and comorbidity is strong for chronic diseases. Premature deaths from the five leading causes are often lifestyle and environment-influenced, according to the report, tied to factors like alcohol and tobacco use, obesity, sun exposure, poor diet and chemical exposure.

"Although each state has a unique set of factors that determine health outcomes, states might find neighboring states or states within their region as good sources of information on effective policies, programs, and services," the report states. "The goals can also be used to educate state policymakers and leaders about what is achievable if they were able to match the best state outcomes."

In addition to the above causes, hospital medical errors may cause as many as 400,000 deaths annually, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's the study
- check out the CDC's infographic