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slides: Massachusetts’ Top 10 Killers

Friday, October 12, 2012


What diseases and related causes kill the most Massachusetts residents every year? And what can you do to make sure you stay away from these grim tallies? Here are the Top 10 killers in Massachusetts, based on the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control.

Note: for national rankings, a lower number means a higher rate. For example, a #1 ranking in heart disease would mean a state's rate is the highest (or worst) in the nation. Correspondingly, a higher number means a lower, or better, rate (a #50 ranking in diabetes would mean a state's rate is the best in the nation). (Additional research by Monica White)



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#10 Suicide

530 deaths in 2009 in Massachusetts

7.7 deaths per 100,000 population

National Rank: 50

Those with a family history of suicide or a family history of child maltreatment are the most at-risk to commit suicide themselves.

It can be fought with clinical care for mental, physical and substance abuse disorders.

You can reach the website for Massachusetts' suicide and crisis hotlines here.

  Photo: Real Image Artist/flickr

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#9 Kidney disease

1,269 deaths in 2009 in Massachusetts

16.2 deaths per 100,000 population

National Rank: 21

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a condition in which the kidneys are damaged and cannot filter blood as well as possible. This damage can cause wastes to build up in the body and lead to other health problems, including cardiovascular disease (CVD), anemia, and bone disease. Overall CKD is more common among women than men, and nationally, 10% of all people age 20 and older have CKD.

The National Kidney Foundation has a New England office, and on October 28, 2012 will be sponsoring a Kidney Walk in Cambridge, MA.

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#8 Influenza + Pneumonia

1,348 deaths in 2009 in Massachusetts

17.0 deaths per 100,000 population

National Rank: 21

Influenza (the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death, especially in young children and the elderly.

For more information on the flu, click here.

Photo: Samantha Celera/flickr

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#7 Diabetes

1,007 deaths in 2009 in Massachusetts

13.2 deaths per 100,000 population

National Rank: #50

While diabetes is the #7 cause of death in Massachusetts, it is on the decline and ranks very low overall nationally--both good news.

Diabetes, a group of diseases marked by high levels of blood glucose resulting from defects in insulin production, insulin action, or both, is also the #7 leading cause of death in the United States, and it's estimated that 7 million Americans currently have the disease but are undiagnosed

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#6 Alzheimer's disease

1,700 deaths in 2009 in Massachusetts

20.7 deaths per 100,000 population

National Rank: #38

Also the nation's #6 leading cause of death, Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia among older adults. According to the CDC, about 5 million Americans currently suffer with Alzheimer's. In Massachusetts, the death rate from this disease remains flat.

There are several Alzheimer's support groups for those with the disease and their caregivers, including one in Westborough. For contact information, click here.

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#5 Accidents

2,076 deaths in 2009 in Massachusetts

29.0 deaths per 100,000 population

National Rank: #47

Car crashes as well as unintentional injuries, poisonings and falls all combine to tally up as accidents in Massachusetts, according to the CDC. Nationally, death by accident has steadily been on the rise throughout the decade as it is here in the Commonwealth.

And the toll is heavy on America's youngest: Unintentional injuries were the #1 cause of death for people ages 1- 42 years, as well as the #5 leading cause of death for all ages. Photo: Pargon/flickr

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#4 Stroke

2,579 deaths in 2009 in Massachusetts

32.6 deaths per 100,000 population

National rank: #45

While Massachusetts' death rate from stroke has both dropped since its last measure in 2007 and ranks very low overall among states nationally, stroke is in fact the #4 cause of death in the United States today. Sometimes called a brain attack, a stroke occurs when a clot blocks the blood supply to the brain or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. Currently, someone dies from a stroke every 4 minutes in the US, according to the CDC.

 For more on stroke, prevention, and local events, go to www.strokeassociation.org.

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#3 Lung Disease

2,559 deaths in 2009 in Massachusetts

33.8 deaths per 100,000 population

National rank: #46

Second only to suicide in terms of rise in death rates in the last 2 years of measurement, lung disease is among Massachusetts' Top 3 causes of death, claiming more than 2,500 lives in 2009.

Officially grouped as Chronic Lower Respiratory Diseases that include asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and other lower respiratory illnesses, CLPD has surpassed stroke as the #3 leading cause of death in the US. 

Of the diseases included in the data, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), which combines many of the features of both chronic bronchitis and emphysema, accounts for more than 120,000 U.S. deaths each year, and causes serious, long-term disability. Often COPD symptoms are dismissed as natural signs of aging, or being out of shape. Photo: Shnnn/flickr

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#2 Cancer

13,112 deaths in 2009 in Massachusetts

174.9 deaths per 100,000 population

Down 2.9% from 2007

National rank: #24(tie)

With a slightly declining death rate, cancer remains the #2 killer of Massachusetts residents, claiming more than 13,000 lives in 2009. Nationally, cancer is also the #2 cause of death, killing more than half a million Americans every year. And globally, more people die from cancer than from AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined, according to the CDC.

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#1 Heart Disease

12,322 deaths in 2009 in Massachusetts

156.3 deaths per 100,000 population

National rank: #36

Heart disease remains the #1 killer both here in Massachusetts and nationwide, although the death rate from heart disease has declined substantially in the Commonwealth.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the US. More than half of the deaths due to heart disease in 2008 were in men.


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