Changes in Top 5 Killers: January 25, 2012

Far more frequent than disasters or murders, the two top killers of people in this country combined for 47% of deaths last year. Leading the way again is cardiovascular disease.

“When you look at the statistics, the numbers are anywhere between 500,000 and 800,000 people that die in this country annually from cardiovascular disease, so it’s significant,” says Dr. Sal Lacagnina, vice president of health and wellness for Lee Memorial Health System.

Next up: cancer. Among the leaders are lung, breast, prostate and colon. The good news is early screening can lower the death rate.

“Make sure that the women get their mammograms, men really need their prostate cancer screening, everyone over 50 needs a colonoscopy to check for colon cancer,” says Dr. Lacagnina.

Here’s the biggest change: chronic respiratory disease overtook stroke for the number three spot. Respiratory and lung infections are attributed to an aging population. Stroke, which is now number four, is benefiting from better treatment and awareness campaigns.

“Adherence to guidelines clearly show decrease death from stroke, decrease stroke recurrence. Eighty-percent reduction of recurrent stroke, those are very huge number in terms of preventing recurrent stroke,” says Dr. Ross Levine, director of vascular neurology for Lee Memorial Health System.

The fifth leading cause of death is still accidents.

“Accidents are in the top five and probably because with the younger people they’re a little bit more risky in their behavior,” says Dr. Lacagnina.

Accidents also include deaths due to falls, which continues to be problematic in the elderly.

Considering the subject matter, there is good news. Many of the top causes of death are preventable with proper diet and exercise. Research shows several of today’s killers stem from yesterday’s behavior.

“So if you’re willing to change your lifestyle you don’t have to get heart disease you don’t have to get strokes you don’t have to get diabetes but you just have to be willing to really live a healthy lifestyle,” says Dr. Lacagnina.

Overall the death rate in the U.S. dropped a half percent, meaning people are living longer.