Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
While some Americans are struck down by random accidents or hereditary conditions, many Americans are killed each year due to preventable diseases, such as lung cancer.
According to the Mobidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people living in the southeastern US states comprised 28 to 33 percent of all possible preventable deaths – the largest percentage for any region. The report also found that the top five causes of death – heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, and unintentional injuries – are responsible for 63 percent of all US deaths in 2010.
“This data is yet another demonstration that when it comes to health in this country, your longevity and health are more determined by your ZIP code than they are by your genetic code,” Dr. Tom Frieden, CDC director, said during a recent news conference.
The new report is based on the quantity of deaths from each cause that might have been avoided if all states had the same loss of life as the states with the smallest death rates. If this were the case – 91,757 premature deaths from heart disease, 84,443 premature deaths from cancer, 28,831 premature deaths from chronic lower respiratory disease, 16,973 premature deaths from stroke and 36,836 premature deaths from preventable injuries could have all been prevented.
“As a doctor, it is heartbreaking to lose just one patient to a preventable disease or injury – and it is that much more poignant as the director of the nation’s public health agency to know that far more than a hundred thousand deaths each year are preventable,” Frieden said. “With programs such as the CDC’s Million Hearts initiative, we are working hard to prevent many of these premature deaths.”
The authors said they did not add all of these premature deaths together because stopping some premature deaths may propel people to other causes of death. For instance, an individual who prevents premature death from heart disease still might die early from a different preventable condition, such as an unintentional injury.
The CDC researchers called out several major lifestyle factors behind premature deaths. They said risk of heart disease can be greatly reduced by cutting tobacco use, maintaining a healthy diet, staying physically active, as well as monitoring health conditions such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
The CDC also said premature cancer risk can be cut by taking many of the steps listed above as well as moderating exposure to the sun, alcohol consumption and preventing certain infections – such as the human papillomavirus, which has been linked to cervical and other cancers.
To prevent avoidable accidents that may cause premature death, the health agency suggested wearing seatbelts while in a moving vehicle, using a helmet while on a motorcycle and avoiding unsafe environments both at home and in the workplace.
“We think that this report can help states set goals for preventing premature death from the conditions that account for the majority of deaths in the United States,” said report author Dr. Harold W. Jaffe, the CDC’s associate director for science. “Achieving these goals could prolong the lives of tens of thousands of Americans.”