Changing numbers

December 27, 1998|By Lesly Borge | Lesly Borge,Contributing Writer

With the new year approaching, it's a good time for Americans to grade themselves on health. The chart below compares the top 10 causes of death among Americans in 1997, the most recent information available, to that of several years ago. First, the good news:

Thanks to experts figuring out an effective "cocktail" of medicines, HIV has fallen off the list of top 10 causes of death, after being there for six years. In 1996 it was No. 8; in 1997, it dropped to No. 14.

"It's been pretty well-reported that because of these protease inhibitors used in combination with other medicines, we've found that we are able to slow the progression of AIDS in the body," says Lisa Scotti, a registered nurse at Moore Clinic at Johns Hopkins Hospital. However, she cautions, "the death rate may be decreasing, but the rate of infection is still increasing."

Now the bad news: One of the diseases creeping up the scale is Alzheimer's. It was up to No. 13 in 1996 and No. 12 in 1997, reflecting an aging population.

One thing that has remained consistent throughout the years has been the No. 1 cause of death: heart disease. Still, its numbers have been decreasing. On the other hand, other leading causes are on the rise.

Pub Date: 12/27/98

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