US death rates from heart disease, diabetes see largest increases in more than 20 years

US death rates from heart disease, diabetes see largest increases in more than 20 years
© Aaron Schwartz

U.S. death rates in 2020 for heart disease and diabetes tracked their highest increases in more than 20 years amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Associated Press reported that the rate of heart disease deaths, which has been on the decline long-term, jumped by more than 3 percent, increasing from 161.5 deaths per 100,000 population in 2019 to 167 deaths per 100,000, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In raw numbers, according to the AP, that spike is equivalent to 32,000 more heart disease deaths in 2020 than in 2019.


The death rate for diabetes tracked a 14 percent increase, climbing from 21.6 deaths per 100,000 in 2019 to 24.6 per the same population last year, according to the AP.

That increase is equal to 13,000 more diabetes deaths last year than in the previous year.

The death rates for Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, chronic liver disease, stroke and high blood pressure also saw large increases, according to the AP.

Death rates jumped by 8 percent for Alzheimer’s, 11 percent for Parkinson’s, 12 percent for high blood pressure and 4 percent for strokes.

Experts are now saying that the spike in death rates for non-coronavirus diseases may be attributed to people not wanting to visit hospitals, despite experiencing dangerous symptoms, amid the pandemic out of fear of contracting the virus, the wire service reported.

Another potential theory for the spike in death rates for these diseases is because some patients may have stopped taking care of themselves during COVID-19 lockdowns, including exercising less, gaining weight or cutting back on high blood pressure medications, according to the AP.


The new statistics also bolster the belief among many that the true number of lives lost amid the pandemic, whether directly or indirectly attributed to COVID-19, is far higher than on record, the AP added.

According to the CDC, more than 595,000 people have died in the U.S. from COVID-19.

The death rate for cancer, however, decreased last year. It dropped by approximately 2 percent in 2020, similar to the declines tracked from 2018 to 2019, despite the fact that cancer screenings and cancer care lacked last year because of the pandemic.