For the first time in the modern era, heart disease will soon drop from the No. 1 spot on the list of what kills the most people. In Canada, whose disease rate is essentially identical to that of the U.S., a changing of the guard is set to take place. Some experts believe it already has.
Cancer will surpass heart disease as the country’s leading cause of death. Amid all this talk of death is actually some good news. Both diseases are falling in the population, likely due to better medical equipment and a better understanding of how to keep healthy. But of course it’s much easier to make lifestyle changes that protect your heart than it is to protect your body from cancer.
Therein lies the reason we have a new No. 1, which is expected to be the case in the U.S. soon. The rate of heart disease fell by 16% between the years 2000 and 2004. Meanwhile, the rate of all cancers fell by four percent. That heart disease fell four times faster is the reason cancer will move above it to become the most fatal disease in society.
The last statistics we know of came in 2004, when 72,338 Canadians died of heart disease and 66,947 died of cancer. It is likely cancer has moved into the No. 1 position. Since cancer is a disease associated with aging, it will remain a significant killer in our graying population. But on a positive note, everyone’s personal risk of cancer is the same it’s been for 10 years or more.
In fact, the study is actually good news, according to some experts. Society has responded to the endless talk about heart disease, and people know more about nutrition and exercise than ever before. Newer and better treatments are available for heart disease, strokes, and heart attacks, ensuring that more people survive them than ever before.
And since the cancer rate is falling, it means something positive is happening there also. The biggest reason is likely far fewer people smoking cigarettes. Whatever the case, we are taking both these diseases as seriously as we ever have before, and it’s showing.