Asthma Death Rates Continue Surprising Drop

OCTOBER 30, 2017
Kevin Kunzmann
Though asthma is already prevalent in an estimated 23 million people in the US, there’s particular room for concern in its affect on the elderly population.

In a lecture at the 2017 Annual CHEST Meeting in Toronto, ON, CA, Cleveland Clinic researchers presented a population-based study regarding asthma mortality trends in the US.

Gretchen Winter, MD, a member of the research team and the CHEST speaker, told MD Magazine that despite asthma becoming a well-known and increasing risk in the elderly population, it remains “severely under-diagnosed and undertreated.”
 
“So as the US and world population is aging, there's been a concern that we may be entering an asthma crisis in the elderly population,” Winter said.



The Cleveland Clinic study was based on collected data for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Wide-Ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research (WONDER) — featuring a compilation of US resident death certificates dated between 1999 and 2015.

The studied population qualified by their death certificate codes indicating asthma as the cause, and the deceased parties were divided into 4 age groups: 1-14 years old, 15-44 years old, 45-64 years old, and 65-plus years old.

Annual asthma-based mortality rates were calculated per 100,000 persons based on the 2000 US Census. The results found 61,815 total asthma-related deaths during the study period — an incidence of 1.5 per 100,000 persons.

Though asthma prevalence has had a steady climb in the US since at least 1980 — causing 3,630 deaths, over 2 million combined emergency department visits and hospitalizations, and costing an aggregate $20 billion-plus to treat in 2013 — annual mortality rates are not rising.

And though Winter noted that elderly patients are nearly 3 times as likely to suffer from a severe form of the condition, they’re the only age population to report a mortality rate drop since 1999.

Asthma-related deaths in the older population decreased by 40% in those 16 years, rating at 6.7 deaths per 100,000 people in 1999 and finishing at just 3.2 deaths per 100,000 people in 2015. A similar rate was noted in every gender and race denomination recorded in the age group.

“This is really encouraging information,” Winter told MD Magazine. “We are hoping that this reflects improved diagnosis and management of asthma in the elderly.”

The researchers noted that moderation of asthma in older patients, through early diagnosis and attention to therapy, can continue the trend.

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