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For Immediate Release: December 9, 2010
Contact: CDC National Center for Health Statistics
(301) 458-4800

Stroke Drops to Fourth Leading Cause of Death in 2008

Life expectancy declines slightly according to latest CDC deaths report

Stroke is now the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, down from the third place ranking it has held for decades, according to preliminary 2008 death statistics released today by CDC's National Center for Health Statistics. While deaths from stroke and several other chronic diseases are down, deaths due to chronic lower respiratory disease increased in 2008.

There were 133,750 deaths from stroke in 2008. Age-adjusted death rates from stroke declined 3.8 percent between 2007 and 2008. Meantime, there were 141,075 deaths from chronic lower respiratory disease and the death rate increased by 7.8 percent.

Some of the increase in deaths may be due to a modification made by the World Health Organization in the way deaths from chronic lower respiratory diseases are classified and coded. The National Center for Health Statistics will conduct a thorough analysis on this change and its effect on the chronic lower respiratory disease category before the final 2008 deaths data are released.

"Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2008," also finds that life expectancy at birth dropped slightly to 77.8 years from 77.9 years in 2007. Life expectancy was down by one-tenth of a year (a little over a month) for both men and women. However, black males had a record high life expectancy in 2008 of 70.2 years – up from 70 years in 2007. The life expectancy gap between the white and black populations was 4.6 years in 2008, a decrease of two-tenths of a year from 2007.

The data are based on 99 percent of death certificates reported to NCHS through the National Vital Statistics System from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories.

Other findings:

  • Heart disease and cancer, the two leading causes of death, still accounted for nearly half (48 percent) of all deaths in 2008.
  • In addition to stroke, mortality rates declined significantly for five of the other 15 leading causes of death: accidents/unintentional injuries (3.5 percent), homicide (3.3 percent), diabetes (3.1 percent), heart disease (2.2 percent), and cancer (1.6 percent).
  • In addition to chronic lower respiratory disease, death rates increased significantly in 2008 for Alzheimer's disease (7.5 percent), influenza and pneumonia (4.9 percent), high blood pressure (4.1 percent), suicide (2.7 percent), and kidney disease (2.1 percent).
  • The preliminary infant mortality rate for 2008 was 6.59 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, a 2.4 percent decline from the 2007 rate of 6.77 and an all-time record low. Birth defects were the leading cause of infant death in 2008, followed by disorders related to preterm birth and low birth weight. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) was the third leading cause of infant death in the United States.
  • Overall, there were 2,473,018 deaths in the United States in 2008, according to the preliminary deaths report – 49,306 more deaths than the 2007 total.
  • The age-adjusted death rate for the U.S. population fell to 758.7 deaths per 100,000 in 2008 compared to the 2007 rate of 760.2.

The full report is available at www.cdc.gov/nchs.

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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

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