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Heart Disease Gaining on Cancer as Leading Cause of Death in Young Women

FRIDAY, April 2, 2021 -- Heart disease is gaining on cancer as the leading cause of death among American women under 65.

"Young women in the United States are becoming less healthy, which is now reversing prior improvements seen in heart disease deaths for the gender," said Dr. Erin Michos, associate professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. She's the co-author of a new study that investigated causes of premature death for U.S. women.

For the study, her team analyzed U.S. death certificates between 1999 and 2018 found that cancer was the most common cause of early death in women.

But the annual percentage change (APC) in death rates for cancer declined year after year, as it increased for heart disease between 2010 and 2018 in two groups — 25- to 34-year-old women (2.2%) and 55- to 64-year-old (0.5%).

The cancer death rate fell from 62 to 45 deaths for every 100,000 women, while the heart disease death rate dropped from 29 to 23 deaths per 100,000.

After 2008, heart disease APCs rose significantly among women in the Midwest, medium and small metro areas, as well as rural areas. It also rose among white women between 2009 and 2013 and among Native American women from 2009 to 2018.

Researchers also reported that the gap between cancer and heart disease deaths in women under than 65 fell from 33 per 100,000 in 1999 to 23 deaths per 100,000 in 2018.

"In a previous study in December 2018, we showed that more attention should be paid to the health of young women, particularly those with the risk factors that contribute to heart disease," Michos said. "Our latest research confirms that need still exists."

Researchers noted that there's a common misconception that women aren't at risk for heart disease before menopause. But data show that one-third of all heart issues in women occur before age 65.

The findings were recently published in the European Heart Journal – Quality of Care and Clinical Outcomes.

© 2021 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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