The U.S. experienced remarkable increases in deaths from heart disease, diabetes and some other common killers by 2020, and experts believe a major reason may be that many people with dangerous symptoms committed the fatal mistake of staying away from the hospital for fear of catching coronaviruses.
The death rate – published online this week by federal health authorities – adds 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 officially reported number of Covid-19 of nearly 600,000. in 2020-21.
For months, scientists have known that 2020 was the deadliest year in American history, primarily due to Covid-1
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“I would probably use the word ‘alarming,'” said Dr. Tannaz Moin, a diabetes expert at UCLA, about trends.
Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that nearly 3.4 million Americans died by 2020, a record of all times. 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 biggest causes of mortality, including the country’s two biggest killers, heart disease and cancer.
But the data released this week includes the death rate – ie. deaths relative to the population – which is considered a better way to see the impact from year to year as the population fluctuates.
Of the causes of death for which the CDC had preliminary data for the full year, nine increases were recorded. These included Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, chronic liver disease, stroke and high blood pressure.
Some of the increases were relatively small, but some were dramatic. The heart disease death rate – which has fallen over the long term – rose to 167 deaths per year. 100,000 inhabitants from 161.5 the year before. It was only the second time in 20 years that the rate had ticked up. This jump of more than 3 percent surpassed the less than 1 percent increase seen in 2015.
In raw numbers, there were about 32,000 more heart disease deaths than the year before.
Diabetes deaths rose to 24.6 per 100,000 last year from 21.6 in 2019. That equated to 13,000 more diabetes deaths than in 2019. The 14 percent increase was the largest increase in the diabetes death rate in decades.
The mortality rate from Alzheimer’s increased 8 percent, Parkinson’s 11 percent, high blood pressure 12 percent and stroke 4 percent.
Many did not seek treatment
The CDC offered only the statistics, not explanations. The agency also did not say how many of the deaths were people who had been infected with – and weakened by – coronavirus, but whose deaths were primarily due to heart disease, diabetes or other conditions.
Some experts believe that one major reason is that many patients did not seek treatment in an emergency because they feared becoming infected with the virus.
“When the rate of hospitalization for Covid would increase, we would see dramatic declines in patients meeting in the emergency room with heart attacks, strokes or heart failure,” Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, a researcher from the Northwestern University who has been elected president of the American Heart Association.
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Other possible explanations also indirectly point to coronavirus.
Many patients stopped taking care of themselves during the crisis and gained weight or cut back on taking high blood pressure medication, he said. Experts said the crisis stress, lockdown-related disappearance of training opportunities and job losses and the accompanying health insurance were also factors.
Increases in Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri and West Virginia pushed the four into the group of states with the highest death rates from heart disease, CDC data show. For diabetes, similar changes occurred in Indiana, New Mexico, West Virginia, and some other southern and plain states.
Impact of Covid-19 on cancer patients
The death rate from the country’s killer # 2, cancer, continued its decline during the year Covid-19. It fell about 2 percent in 2020, similar to the decline seen from 2018 to 2019, although cancer surveys and cancer care fell or were often postponed last year.
Lloyd-Jones ‘theory of decline: Many of the virus’ victims battled cancer, “but Covid intervened and became the primary cause of death.”
Previous research by demographer Kenneth Johnson at the University of New Hampshire found that 25 unprecedented 25 states generally saw 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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