Inflammation: The Real Driver for Mortality

Jan 13 2014 - 12:01pm
Inflammation and Healthy Aging

Who doesn't want to live longer? If that is a goal, then you should be looking at the underlying cause of mortality. Frankly, it is not heart disease or cancer but increased inflammation primarily induced by the diet.

The primary cause of death in America is constantly changing. In 19th century, it was infectious diseases like tuberculosis. In the 20th century it was heart disease and stroke. In the early 21st century cancer is leading the way. And the fastest growing cause of death is Alzheimer’s. What do all of these chronic diseases of the 20th and 21st centuries have in common? They are all driven by inflammation. However, you are led to believe that each chronic disease is separate as each has builtup its own internal constituencies to promote more research dollars coming to their organizations. The way to promote this is by the use of morality statistics.

There are three ways of analyzing disease-specific mortality. The first is the annual number of deaths. The second is the crude death rate, which is a straightforward calculation consisting of the total number of deaths from a disease divided by 100,000 people regardless of age. The third is the age-adjusted or standardized death rate, which is an adjusted risk dependent on age. Here is a quote from the National Center for Health Care Statistics about this type of statistic.

"The age-adjusted death rate does not reflect the mortality risk of a ‘real’ population. The average risk of mortality of a real population is represented by the crude death rate. The numerical value of an age-adjusted death rate depends on the standard used and, therefore, is not a meaningful statistic."

In other words, numbers can lie to make you look good to your target audience. This is especially true for cancer. This helps explain the disconnect that explains why age-adjusted death rates from cancer have been going down for the past 40 years, but the number of deaths annually is going up so that cancer is now the number-two killer in the U.S (and may become the number-one killer overtaking heart disease in 2014). The age-adjusted death rate suggests the War on Cancer has been a great success, whereas the annual number of deaths and crude death rate indicate that not much progress really has been made.

As the total annual deaths from cancer have increased by 74% in the past 40 years, the annual deaths from heart disease have decreased by 19%. The cholesterol crowd likes to claim that statins saved the day, somehow forgetting that the statins were introduced 25 years after the annual number of deaths from heart disease was already going down. But what if the underlying cause of heart disease was not cholesterol, but something else that could drive down heart disease rates to an even greater extent?



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