Death rate falls but more people dying


This Associated Press headline got my attention a couple of weeks ago: “U.S. Deaths Reach Record High as Population Grows and Ages.” At age 66, I know I'm on the short-end of the longevity stick. It's unlikely I'll live another 66 years, so big bold headlines containing the word “Death” have a tendency to draw my eye.

According to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, more than 2.5 million Americans died last year surpassing the 2010 record by 45,000 deaths. Should we be concerned?

Not so much, says Qian Cai, a University of Virginia demographer who studies population trends. “If you have an older population, of course you have more deaths. That doesn't mean the population is less healthy or less vital.” Phew!

The CDC report found that the death rate per 100,000 people had actually dropped to an all-time low. That statistic, however, was offset by the fact that there are now so many Americans, 314 million at last count.

Other study highlights are that the life expectancy for a child born in 2011 was 78 years and 8 months, the infant mortality rate dropped to a new low of 6.05 deaths per 1,000 and women aren't outliving men like they used to. The longevity gap between the sexes, which was at its high of 8 years in 1979, is now at less than 5 years.

The increase in deaths is occurring at a time U.S. births have been falling for several years. However, there are more than enough newborns to replace Americans that have passed on with 2011 births coming in at around 4 million.

In the interest of avoiding being a CDC mortality statistic, I'd thought I'd share with you the three leading causes of death for American men and women.

The Women's Heart Foundation reports that 8 million females are living with heart disease accounting for 27.2 percent of all deaths making coronary heart disease the number one killer of women. Following closely on the heels of heart attacks, cancer is responsible for 22 percent of female fatalities with lung, breast and colorectal cancer leading the way.

Stroke, often considered a man's disease, results in 7.5 percent of women's death and actually kills more women annually than men. In 2005, 87,000 women died of a stroke compared to 56,600 men.

For men also, heart disease is the number one longevity stumbling block with high cholesterol and high blood pressure accounting for 25.7 percent of male deaths. Like women, cancer is a close second causing 24.3 percent of male fatalities.

And then breaking the disease rut, accidents or unintentional injuries are the number 3 killer of men at 6.6 percent. While an accidental death is not a disease, it can be a killer with many of the unintentional injuries that kill men being linked to alcohol.

There is a consistency in the suggestions of how to avoid the top killers. Eat a healthy diet, maintain a reasonable weight, exercise and minimize your intake of alcohol. Who would have thought?

Cord Prettyman is a certified Master Personal Trainer and the owner of Absolute Workout Fitness and Post-Re-hab Studio in Woodland Park. He can be reached at 687-7437 or by email at


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