November 29, 2018
3 min read

CDC: Heart disease, cancer leading causes of death in 2017

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C. Michael Valentine
C. Michael Valentine

The 10 leading causes of death in the United States in 2017 were the same as 2016, with heart disease and cancer topping the list, according to a National Center for Health Statistics Data Brief published by the CDC.

“Despite the grim news that heart disease remains the No. 1 killer in America and that progress in reducing those deaths has declined in recent years, we will not accept this as our normal,” C. Michael Valentine, MD, FACC, cardiologist at Stroobants Cardiovascular Center at Centra Health in Lynchburg, Virginia, and president of the American College of Cardiology, told Cardiology Today. “Nearly half of all Americans have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or smoke — some of the leading risk factors for heart disease — but these are often either preventable or modifiable risk factors that we can all work to reduce. While we are constantly finding innovative ways to treat existing heart disease, we must continue to focus our efforts on preventing heart disease. It will require efforts from more than just the medical community, but from communities and governments as well. Saving our hearts is a problem we must solve together.”

The leading causes of death in the country, which accounted for 74% of all deaths in 2017, are as follows, according to Sherry L. Murphy, BS, from the division of vital statistics of the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, and colleagues:

  1. Heart disease
  2. Cancer
  3. Unintentional injuries
  4. Chronic lower respiratory diseases
  5. Stroke
  6. Alzheimer’s disease
  7. Diabetes
  8. Influenza and pneumonia
  9. Kidney disease
  10. Suicide

Compared with 2016, the mortality rate for heart disease and kidney disease did not significantly change in 2017 and the rate of cancer deaths decreased 2.1%. Death rates increased by 4.2% for unintentional injuries, 0.8% for stroke, 0.7% for chronic respiratory diseases, 2.4% for diabetes, 2.3% for Alzheimer’s disease, 3.7% for suicide and 5.9% for influenza and pneumonia.

“With a slight decrease in deaths from heart disease in 2017 and a slight increase in deaths from stroke, this lack of any major movement in these areas has been a trend we’ve seen the last couple of years,” Ivor J. Benjamin, MD, director of the Cardiovascular Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin and president of the American Heart Association, said in a press release. “It is discouraging after experiencing decades when heart disease and stroke death rates both dropped more dramatically. We know there is still much work — new work — to do to turn this trend around.”

The 10 leading causes of death in the United States in 2017 were the same as 2016, with heart disease and cancer topping the list, according to a National Center for Health Statistics Data Brief published by the CDC.
Source: Adobe Stock

Life expectancy for the total U.S. population decreased from 78.7 years in 2016 to 78.6 years in 2017. Although life expectancy remains the same for women, it decreased for men from 76.2 years in 2016 to 76.1 years in 2017.

The death rate for the total population, after adjusting for age, increased by 0.4% from 2016 to 2017. This also increased for non-Hispanic white men (0.6%) and non-Hispanic white women (0.9%). Mortality rates decreased by 0.8% for non-Hispanic black women, and rates did not significantly change for non-Hispanic black men, Hispanic men and Hispanic women.

Increases in mortality rates were seen for patients aged 25 to 34 years (2.9%), 35 to 44 years (1.6%) and 85 years and older (1.4%), whereas patients aged 45 to 54 years decreased by 1%. Rates did not significantly change for patients in other age groups.

Infant mortality from the 10 leading causes in 2017, which remained the same from 2016, accounted for 67.8% of infant deaths in the country. Maternal complications were the third leading cause of death, followed by sudden infant death. The eighth leading cause was circulatory system diseases, with newborn respiratory distress being the ninth cause, according to the report. – by Darlene Dobkowski

Disclosures: Murphy is an employee of the CDC. Benjamin reports no relevant financial disclosures.