The new report "highlights the great strides that the cardiovascular community has [made]," in educating people about risk factors for heart disease, said Dr. Laxmi Mehta, director of the Women's Cardiovascular Health Program at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, who was not involved in the report. [Map: Causes of Death in the U.S.]
This education led to a reduction in risk factors for heart disease, such as smoking, Mehta said. It's also helped people better understand the symptoms of heart disease, leading to earlier diagnosis of the condition. And doctors have improved the way they treat heart attacks, leading to a reduction in death rates from heart attack complications, she said.
In contrast, some cancers remain hard to catch in the early stages, Mehta said. And even though heart disease and cancer share many of the same risk factors, a person's genes may play a larger role in the development of some cancers, making the disease harder to tackle using preventive steps compared with heart disease, Mehta said.
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But the new findings don't mean people can become complacent about heart disease. Although cancer deaths were on course to surpass heart disease deaths by the early 2010s, this didn't happen. That's because, from 2011 to 2014, heart disease deaths increased slightly more than cancer deaths, keeping heart disease at the top of the rankings overall.
Mehta noted that obesity rates and inactivity among children are on the rise, which could contribute to an increase in heart disease deaths in decades to come.
"The last thing we want is people to think, 'I don't have to worry about heart disease anymore,'" Mehta said. "Even if cancer surpasses heart disease now ... in the future there's potential for it coming back," she said.
The new report is published today (Aug. 24) by the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics.
Original article on Live Science.
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