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Death rates down in L.A. County, but Alzheimer's disease is on the rise

DeathDiseases and IllnessesAlzheimer's DiseaseLung CancerPneumoniaBreast CancerFlu

Los Angeles County's mortality rate dropped 19% between 2001 and 2010, according to a new report from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

Data compiled for the report, which was released Monday, showed that death rates due to coronary heart disease fell 37% over that decade. Death rates due to stroke fell 35%.

One ailment that bucked the trend was Alzheimer's disease, which saw death rates double, a sign of the aging population as well as increased awareness of the condition, the report noted.

"We're making great progress against several leading causes of death in the county," said public health director Dr. Jonathan Fielding, in a statement.

But "as the baby boomer generation ages," he added, "the burden of Alzheimer's disease is expected to increase significantly."

The overall death rate declines between 2001 and 2010 outpaced a 13% decline nationwide over the same period. Los Angeles met or surpassed national goals for a number of causes of death, including heart disease and stroke, breast cancer in women, lung cancer and motor vehicle accidents. Deaths from HIV declined 50%, and from pneumonia and flu, 31%.

In 2010, 56,538 people died in Los Angeles County. Cancer caused 13,860 of those deaths, with lung cancer killing more people -- 2,941 -- than any other form of the disease. Coronary heart disease caused 12,635 deaths. Accidents were the biggest killer of people ages 1 to 44, with 739 deaths in 2010; among those 15 to 24, homicide was the leading cause of death. Firearms caused 796 deaths.

Men died younger than women, with a median age of 73, versus 82, years, respectively. Alzheimer's was the ninth-leading cause of death for men, but the third-leading cause for women. Black men had the highest death rate of any group at 1,087 per 100,000 people; Asian and Pacific Islander women had the lowest, at 354 deaths per 100,000. Death rates in South Los Angeles and the Antelope Valley were higher than in the rest of the county.

Visit California's Department of Public Health site for state mortality numbers. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control provide links to U.S. mortality data.

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Twitter: @LATerynbrown

eryn.brown@latimes.com

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