CDC: Lifestyle, healthcare access key to avoiding early deaths

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says almost 900,000 Americans die each year from heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic lower respiratory disease and unintentional injuries — and that up to 40 percent of these deaths could be avoided if individuals made lifestyle changes and attained increased access to healthcare.

A report from the CDC Thursday finds the highest death rates from preventable causes were from states in the Southeast, due to complications related to high rates of smoking, obesity, diabetes, substance abuse and lack of safety considerations.

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“This data is yet another demonstration that when it comes to health in this country your longevity and health are more determined by your zip code than they are by your genetic code,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden. “It’s really troubling for me to see how big the variability is from one place to another.”

But don’t pack up your bags and move just yet, says Frieden. Instead, he wants states with higher health disparities to learn from those doing better.

While individual lifestyle changes can improve life expectancy, Frieden emphasized government programs such as the CDC’s Million Hearts campaign to improve access to healthier living, and said heart screening can greatly reduce mortality rates. He also said the Affordable Care Act will help people get screened and treated for diseases earlier.

“As more people get access to healthcare they have the potential of getting preventive screenings for cancers and treatment for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking cessation,” noted Frieden.

According to the study, if all states emulated the top three states in each category they could collectively save about 92,000 people from premature heart deaths, 84,500 cancer deaths, 29,000 chronic lower respiratory disease deaths, 17,000 stroke deaths and 37,000 deaths from unintentional injuries.