260,000 deaths a year from 5 causes called preventable

The five leading causes of death are heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, and unintentional injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A study in the CDC’s publication Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report ( says that these five causes were responsible for 63% of deaths in 2010 and that the next five were responsible for about 12%.

Many of the deaths from the five leading causes are preventable. “If all states achieved the lowest observed mortality levels for the five leading causes, when considered separately, as many as 91,757 premature heart disease deaths, 84,443 cancer deaths, 28,831 chronic lower respiratory disease deaths, 16,973 stroke deaths, and 36,836 unintentional injury deaths might be prevented each year,” the study states. “These calculations translate to approximately 1 in 3 premature heart disease deaths, 1 in 5 premature cancer deaths, 2 out of 5 chronic lower respiratory deaths, 1 out of every 3 stroke deaths, and 2 out of every 5 unintentional injury deaths that could be prevented.”

But just how to do this? The study recommends screening, early intervention, successful treatment, and reducing risk factors. Risk factors for heart disease are, for instance, smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, poor diet, being overweight, and lack of physical activity.

The mortality data are from the National Vital Statistics System for 2008–2010. The calculations are for U.S. residents up to age 80.

Annual number of deaths observed and potentially preventable* for the 5 leading causes of death for persons up to age 80 in the United States, 2008–2010

*Expected deaths are the lowest three-state average, age-specific death rate, multiplied by the age-specific state population rounded to the nearest whole number. Potentially preventable deaths are observed deaths minus expected deaths rounded to the nearest whole number.

Source: “Potentially Preventable Deaths from the Five Leading Causes of Death – United States, 2008–2010,” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, May 2, 2014.

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