NEW YORK – The United States has seen a remarkable increase in deaths from heart disease, diabetes and some other common killers in 2020, and experts believe the big reason could be that many people with dangerous symptoms have made the deadly mistake of staying away from the hospital. fearing that the Coronavirus would catch them.
The death toll – published online this week by federal health authorities – adds to the growing body of evidence that the number of lives lost directly or indirectly by the US coronavirus is much higher than the officially reported COVID-19 death toll of nearly 600,000 in 2020-21.
For months, researchers have known that 2020 is the deadliest year in US history, largely because of COVID-1
“I would probably use the word ‘anxious,'” said Dr. Tanaz Moyne, a UCLA diabetes expert.
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Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that nearly 3.4 million Americans died in 2020, an all-time record. Of these deaths, more than 345,000 were directly attributed to COVID-19. The CDC also provided the number of deaths for some of the leading causes of death, including the country’s first two killers, heart disease and cancer.
But data released this week contains mortality – ie. deaths relative to the population – which is considered a better way to see the impact from year to year as the population varies.
Of the causes of death for which the CDC has preliminary data for the whole year, nine registered increases. These include Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, chronic liver disease, stroke and high blood pressure.
Some of the increases were relatively small, but some were dramatic. Mortality from heart disease – which is declining in the long run – has risen to 167 deaths per 100,000 population from 161.5 a year earlier. This was only the second time in 20 years that the percentage had been reported. This jump of more than 3% exceeded the less than 1% increase in 2015.
In raw terms, there are about 32,000 more deaths from heart disease than a year earlier.
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Diabetes mortality increased to 24.6 per 100,000 last year, from 21.6 in 2019. This leads to 13,000 more diabetes deaths than in 2019. The 14% increase is the largest increase of diabetes mortality for decades.
Mortality from Alzheimer’s disease increased by 8%, with Parkinson’s by 11%, high blood pressure by 12% and stroke by 4%.
The CDC offered only statistics, not explanations. The agency also did not say how many of the deaths were people who had been infected and weakened by the coronavirus, but whose deaths were mainly due to heart disease, diabetes or other conditions.
Some experts believe that the bigger reason is that many patients have not sought emergency treatment because they are afraid of becoming infected with the virus.
“When hospitalization rates for COVID rise, we will see a drastic drop in patients admitted to the emergency department with heart attacks, strokes or heart failure,” said Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, a researcher at Northwestern University who was elected president. of the American Heart Association.
Other possible explanations also point indirectly to the coronavirus.
Many patients have stopped taking care of themselves during a crisis, gaining weight or reducing their high blood pressure medication, he said. Experts say the stress of the crisis, the lock-in, the disappearance of exercise opportunities and the loss of jobs and the accompanying health insurance are also factors.
Increases in Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri and West Virginia pushed the four in the group of countries with the highest mortality rates from heart disease, according to CDC data. With regard to diabetes, similar changes have occurred in Indiana, New Mexico, West Virginia and some other southern and flat states.
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Mortality from the nation’s number 2 killer, cancer, continued to decline during the year of COVID-19. It fell by about 2% in 2020, similar to the decline seen from 2018 to 2019, although cancer screening and cancer care declined or were often delayed last year.
Lloyd-Jones’s theory of decline: Many victims of the virus have fought cancer, “but COVID intervened and became the leading cause of death.”
An earlier study by demographer Kenneth Johnson of the University of New Hampshire found that an unprecedented 25 states saw more deaths than births in general 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, and Carolina. Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Traditionally, most countries have more births than deaths.