New Jersey ranks among the best when compared with other states in reducing the risk of dying from some of the leading causes of death. But it’s still possible for Garden State residents to improve prevention measures and perhaps live even longer.
A recent federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention report estimated that 1,863 of the 7,106 heart-disease deaths in New Jersey were potentially preventable. Of 10,948 cancer deaths, 1,801 were potentially preventable, while 124 of 1,436 lung-disease deaths, 304 of 1,319 stroke deaths, and 223 of 1,888 accidental deaths were potentially preventable.
The estimates were based on what the state would achieve if it had the same death rate for each of five causes as the average of the three states with the lowest, or best, rates. The report looked only at causes of death for people who were younger than 80 from 2008 to 2010.
For New Jersey, “reducing the number of earlier than expected deaths from the leading causes of death requires risk factor reduction, screening, early intervention, and successful treatment of the disease or injury,” according to the report. Continuing to drive down smoking rates may be the easiest way to do this, with tobacco use listed as the top modifiable risk factor for heart disease, cancer and lung disease.
New Jersey residents, like people in many other states, are more likely to die from heart disease than any other cause of death. Fully 27 percent of New Jersey deaths were caused by heart disease in 2010, the year with the most recent available statistics.
Heart disease is followed by cancer, which causes 24.2 percent of deaths in New Jersey. The rest of the top 10 causes are: strokes, lung disease, accidents, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, blood infection, kidney disease and influenza/pneumonia.
The state does relatively well compared to other states for most of the top causes of death. Of the top 10 causes of death, New Jersey’s rates are in the top half in only two categories: heart disease, where it ranks 19th, and kidney disease, where it is 21st.
The state is tied for last in suicides and only two states have lower rates of accidental death.
Perhaps that’s why the state is well below the national average in the number of years of potential life lost before the age of 65. Not only were the 3,371 years lost per 100,000 people below the national average of 4,114 in 2010, but the gap between the state and the nation has been growing steadily since 2001.
Something to bear in mind when considering the CDC report was raised by Dr. Aaron E. Carroll, an Indiana School of Medicine researcher, on the blog The Incidental Economist:
“We’re not really ‘preventing’ death,” Carroll wrote. “We’re all going to die of something. We may put off death for a few years, but eventually, the mortality rates will get back to normal. It’s not like focusing on these things will forever reduce the number of people who die each year.
“I think we could do a better job of reminding people of that. Too often, people think that preventing death should be the goal of the healthcare system. There are many other metrics that matter.”
The location of where New Jersey residents die has also been changing. Since 2000, the percentage of state residents who die while they are patients in hospitals has fallen from 48.3 percent in 2000 to 37.7 percent in 2009, the most recent available number.
While the number of people who die at home, in nursing homes or in hospital emergency rooms has climbed, the biggest increase has been in the number of people dying in hospices, which doubled between 2004 and 2009, from 3 percent to 6 percent.