The United States has seen a remarkable increase in death rates from heart disease, diabetes, and other common killers in 2020, and experts believe a major reason could be that many people with dangerous symptoms made the mistake. deadly to stay away from the hospital for fear of catching the coronavirus.
The death rates – released online this week by federal health officials – add to the growing body of evidence that the number of lives lost directly or indirectly to coronavirus in the United States is far greater than the number of deaths from Covid -19 officially reported from nearly 600,000 in 2020-21.
For months now, researchers have known that 2020 was the deadliest year in U.S. history, mostly because of Covid-19. But data released this week showed the biggest increases in death rates from heart disease and diabetes in at least 20 years.
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“I would probably use the word ‘alarming’,” UCLA diabetes expert Dr. Tannaz Moin said of the trends.
Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that nearly 3.4 million Americans died in 2020, a record high. Of these deaths, more than 345,000 have been directly attributed to Covid-19. The CDC also provided the death toll for some of the leading causes of death, including the country’s two leading killers, heart disease and cancer.
But the data released this week contains the death rates – that is, deaths relative to the population – which is seen as a better way to see the impact year over year because the population fluctuates.
Of the causes of death for which the CDC had provisional full-year data, nine recorded increases. These included Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, chronic liver disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.
Some of the increases have been relatively small, but others have been dramatic. The death rate from heart disease – which is declining over the long term – fell to 167 deaths per 100,000 population from 161.5 the previous year. It was only the second time in 20 years that the rate had increased. This jump of more than 3% exceeded the increase of less than 1% observed in 2015.
In raw numbers, there were about 32,000 more heart disease deaths than the previous year.
Diabetes deaths rose to 24.6 per 100,000 last year from 21.6 in 2019. This translated into 13,000 more diabetes deaths than in 2019. The increase of 14 % was the biggest increase in the death rate from diabetes in decades.
Alzheimer’s death rate increased by 8%, Parkinson’s by 11%, hypertension by 12% and stroke by 4%.
Many did not seek treatment
The CDC offered only statistics, not explanations. The agency also did not say how many deaths were from people who had been infected with – and weakened by – the coronavirus but whose deaths were mainly attributed to heart disease, diabetes or other conditions.
Some experts believe that a more important reason is that many patients did not seek treatment in an emergency because they feared they might be infected with the virus.
“When hospitalization rates for Covid increased, we would see a dramatic drop in the number of patients presenting to the emergency room for heart attack, stroke or heart failure,” Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, a researcher from the Northwestern University who is president-elect of the American Heart Association.
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Other possible explanations also point indirectly to the coronavirus.
Many patients stopped taking care of themselves during the crisis, gaining weight or reducing their blood pressure medication, he said. Experts said the stress of the crisis, the disappearance of exercise options linked to the lockdown, the loss of jobs and accompanying health insurance were all factors as well.
Increases in Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri and West Virginia pushed the four into the group of states with the highest heart disease death rates, CDC data showed. For diabetes, similar changes have occurred in Indiana, New Mexico, West Virginia, and some other Southern and Plains states.
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The death rate for the country’s No.2 killer, cancer, continued to decline during the year of Covid-19. It fell about 2% in 2020, similar to the decline seen from 2018 to 2019, although cancer testing and care declined or was often postponed last year.
Lloyd-Jones Theory for Decline: Many virus victims were battling cancer, “but Covid stepped in and became the leading cause of death.”
Previous research by demographer Kenneth Johnson at the University of New Hampshire found that an unprecedented 25 states had more deaths than births last year.
The states were Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee. , Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Traditionally, the vast majority of states have more births than deaths.
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