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CDC: Thousands in D.C., Maryland, Virginia die prematurely of top 5 preventable causes

Thursday - 5/1/2014, 2:28pm  ET

Thousands of people in the District, Virginia and Maryland died prematurely from the five most preventable causes of death, including heart disease, cancer and unintentional injuries, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday.

The CDC found the five leading causes of death nationwide — which also included chronic lower respiratory diseases and stroke — accounted for 63 percent of all U.S. deaths in 2010. Up to 40 percent of those deaths were potentially preventable, according to the report in this week’s issue of CDC’s weekly journal, "Morbidity and Mortality Weekly," which analyzed premature deaths for each state between 2008 to 2010.

“Well over 100,000 Americans a year die of preventable causes. These deaths are not random. They are clustered by state,” said CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden in a conference call with reporters.

In other words, healthy and unhealthy clusters are being driven by health policies, Frieden added. For example, states pushing anti-smoking efforts, initiatives to improve diet and exercise and motorcycle helmet laws have fewer premature deaths from those five leading causes.

“We know even if you don’t lose any weight, physical activity is the closest thing we have to a wonder drug,” he said.

Here are some numbers for the Washington region:

In D.C.:

  • Of the 729 people who died of heart disease between 2008 and 2010, 419 of those deaths were potentially preventable.
  • Of 742 cancer deaths, 199 of them were considered potentially preventable.
  • Of 73 chronic lower respiratory diseases, none of them were considered potentially preventable.
  • Of 107 stroke deaths, 46 of them were considered potentially preventable.
  • Of 169 unintentional injury deaths, 52 of them were potentially preventable.

In Maryland:

  • Of the 5,321 people who died of heart disease between 2008 and 2010, at least 2,018 of those deaths were potentially preventable.
  • Of the 7,218 cancer deaths, 1,430 of them were considered potentially preventable.
  • Of 1,035 chronic lower respiratory diseases, 217 of them were considered potentially preventable.
  • Of 935 stroke deaths, 299 of them were considered potentially preventable.
  • Of the 1,065 unintentional injuries, none of them were considered potentially preventable.

In Virginia:

  • Of the 6,588 people who died of heart disease between 2008 and 2010, at least 1,979 f those deaths were potentially preventable.
  • Of the 10,162 cancer deaths, 2,089 of them were considered potentially preventable.
  • Of 1,647 chronic lower respiratory diseases, 499 of them were considered potentially preventable.
  • Of 1,369 stroke deaths, 478 of them were considered potentially preventable.
  • Of the 1,889 unintentional injury deaths, 368 of them were considered potentially preventable.

The authors calculated how many deaths are considered preventable by calculating the number of deaths from each cause that would have been prevented if all states had the same death rate as the ones with the lowest rates. For instance, the study suggests if all states matched the lowest death rate for heart disease, it would be possible to prevent 34 percent of premature deaths from that cause, or about 92,000 lives.

While the CDC is seeing some positive trends geographically, it's still not enough. Utah and Colorado had lower rates of tobacco use and better rates of blood pressure control. But southeastern states had the highest number of preventable deaths for each of the five causes.

“It’s troubling for me as the health officer of the country, how big the variation is across the country," Frieden said.

Dr. Harold W. Jaffe, the study’s senior author and CDC associate director for science, said the report can help states set goals for preventing premature deaths. “Achieving these goals could prolong the lives of tens of thousands of Americans.”

© 2014 American City Business Journals, Inc.