State Health Department Lists Actual Causes of Death in 1990'S
OLYMPIA, Wash.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Jan. 3, 2000--Tobacco use contributed to more premature Washington deaths in the 1990's than any other behavior, according to data issued today by the state Department of Health.
The report shows both the leading causes of death for people under age 65 as entered on official death certificates, as well as the factors that most frequently contribute to those deaths.
``When a death certificate is marked 'cancer,' or 'heart disease,' it's often behaviors like tobacco and alcohol use, or poor nutrition and lack of physical exercise, that are the true causes,'' said Acting State Epidemiologist Juliet VanEenwyk. ``The good news is many of the actual causes of death that affect Washington residents are completely preventable. We hope to reduce these factors in the next decade by educating people on how to live healthy.''
According to VanEenwyk, the top four official causes of death (cancer, heart disease, unintentional injury, and firearms) have remained the same throughout the decade. They accounted for nearly 60,000 deaths between 1990 and 1998. Among the remaining six leading causes (liver disease, stroke, diabetes, obstructive chronic pulmonary disease, homicide, and HIV,) the most dramatic change has been the decrease in AIDS deaths toward the end of the 1990s. The number of murders in Washington has also been declining since the mid-1990s.
``Lists like this are valuable because they show us what factors really make our state's residents die, which helps us find ways to reduce these risks and improve the health of the public,'' VanEenwyk said.
``This report clearly shows that tobacco use is the leading cause of early death of Washington residents,'' Department of Health Secretary Mary Selecky said. ``That's why reducing this epidemic is our top priority.''
Actual causes of death in Washington, 1990-1998.
1) Tobacco use
Whether its through heart disease, cancer, stroke, or a lung condition called cardio obstructive pulmonary disease, tobacco contributes to more deaths in Washington than any other single factor.
According to Health Officer Dr. Maxine Hayes, the best plan is to simply not smoke. ``Don't start,'' she said. ``It you do smoke, make a plan to quit and follow it through. You can also benefit from reducing or eliminating your exposure to second hand smoke.
The Department of Health unveiled a comprehensive plan last month to reduce the number of Washington residents who die prematurely due to tobacco use.
2) Physical activity/diet
Poor diet, lack of exercise, and obesity are the second biggest contributors to Washington deaths. The department urges Washingtonians to maintain a healthy weight. Ideally, we should get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day for at least five times a week (gardening, walking, dancing). Healthful eating habits include eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day and reducing fat intake to less than 30 percent of the calories you get each day.
Hayes says that by engaging in moderate exercise for 30 minutes a day, a person can reduce the risk of developing or dying from several diseases, including: heart disease, colon cancer, stroke, and diabetes. ``Moderate physical activity helps lower high blood pressure, fight high cholesterol, control weight, and reduce feelings of depression and anxiety,'' she said.
3) Alcohol abuse
Alcohol abuse contributes to deaths in several ways. Vehicle accidents related to drunk driving are still too frequent. Heavy drinking can also contribute to heart and liver disease, and plays a significant role in many accidental and violent deaths. Washingtonians are advised to limit alcohol consumption to one ounce per day. (This is equal to 2 ounces of 100 proof whiskey, 8 ounces of wine or 24 ounces of beer).
Firearms are used in the majority of suicides and homicides in Washington. From 1990 to 1998 firearms were used in nearly 3,000 suicides and 1,500 homicides. VanEenwyk says the best way to prevent suicide is by learning to recognize the warning signs and knowing how and where to seek help. If someone you know is suicidal, it is very important to limit access to handguns.
5) Unsafe sexual behavior
Unsafe sex can lead to a variety of serious infections- HIV/AIDS, chlamydia, and hepatitis, just to name a few. AIDS and the long-term effects from some forms of viral hepatitis can be fatal. HIV infection, the cause of AIDS, used to be fatal for about 90 percent of its victims, but recent advances in treatment have dramatically reduced death rates from this infection. Deaths due to sexually transmitted HIV have dropped from about 600 per year in the early part of this decade to approximately 100 in 1999. However, the rate at which people are catching HIV seems to be about the same as earlier in the decade. ``That's why it is as important as ever for us to promote safer sexual practices and make sure that everyone who is infected with HIV or any other STD gets access to medical care and receives support in not spreading it to others,'' Hayes said.
6) Lack of preventive medical care
A lack of screening for early detection and treatment also has a major role in death through heart disease, breast and colon cancer, and stroke. Assuring the state's residents have access to safe, quality health care is one of Department of Health's main goals,`` Hayes said. In the next decade, Department of Health will continue its educational efforts so that Washingtonians understand the importance of routine screening and use available services.
7) Motor vehicles
During the period 1990-1998, motor vehicle traffic injuries were the leading cause of deaths classified as ``unintentional injury deaths,'' among people 0-64 years of age. This accounts for almost 40 percent of the more than 11,000 unintentional injury deaths. ``The risk of a motor vehicle fatality can be greatly reduced by using seat belts, and not drinking and driving,'' VanEenWyk said. For consumer information on any of these topics, call the state's consumer line at 1-800-525-0127.
Note to editors: A Matrix showing official causes of death and actual contributing factors to death is attached.