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States With Highest Rates of Preventable Deaths

Modifiable risk factors could help combat scourges like heart disease, cancer, CDC says
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WebMD News from HealthDay

By Dennis Thompson

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, May 1, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- People in the southeastern United States have a much greater risk of dying early from any of the nation's five leading causes of death, federal health officials reported Thursday.

Those living in eight southern states -- Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee -- endure 28 percent to 33 percent of all potentially preventable deaths from heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, stroke and unintentional injury, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates.

"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," CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden said during a news conference.

The top five causes of death accounted for nearly two-thirds of all U.S. deaths in 2010, and nearly 900,000 Americans die prematurely every year from these causes, the CDC said.

Death rates for each cause of death vary greatly from state to state. So CDC researchers compared all states against the states with the lowest rates of death to estimate how many deaths could be prevented if those low rates were a national trend.

According to the CDC, it should be possible on a national basis to prevent:

  • 34 percent of premature deaths from heart disease, prolonging about 92,000 lives.
  • 21 percent of premature cancer deaths, prolonging about 84,500 lives.
  • 39 percent of premature deaths from chronic lower respiratory diseases, prolonging about 29,000 lives.
  • 33 percent of premature stroke deaths, prolonging about 17,000 lives.
  • 39 percent of premature deaths from unintentional injuries, prolonging about 37,000 lives.

These numbers are particularly important for the southeastern states, which led the nation with the highest numbers and rates of preventable deaths in all five top causes of death.

The southeastern states have a combination of unhealthy trends that increases the overall risk of premature death, including higher smoking rates, greater obesity rates, lower rates of physical activity and less blood pressure control, Frieden said.

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