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High Blood Pressure Is Death's New Best Friend

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Alzheimer’s disease, and the kinds of heart disease related to high blood pressure, are causing more deaths in rich countries these days — and the increase in the death rate from hypertensive heart disease is speeding up.

Analysts at Swiss Re’s research arm have published a chart showing what’s killing people in a new report on why mortality improvement is slowing.

(Related: Thirty Million Americans Just Got High Blood Pressure)

The analysts included a chart based on a paper that covered what happened to death rate improvement in the United States and 10 other rich countries with good health care systems, such as the United Kingdom and Germany.

The researchers compared the average death rate improvement for the period from 2010 through 2015 with the average rate of improvement for the period from 2005 through 2010.

The death rate from Alzheimer’s disease increased steadily — about 3% per year in both time periods.

The death rate from hypertensive heart disease actually got worse. It increased from about 2% per year from 2005 through 2010, to more than 4% per year from 2010 through 2015.

Average death rates for most other conditions analyzed are continuing to improve, but, in some cases, the rate of improvement is slowing.

For diabetes, for example, the average death rate improvement narrowed to less than 1% per year, from more than 3% per year earlier.

In the United States, the overall death rate improvement rate has fallen close to 0, from an average of about 2% just a few years ago, according to another Swiss Re chart.

The Solution

Swiss Re analysts argue that the best way to get death rate improvement back on track is to aim wellness, screening and chronic condition management programs at people at high risk for developing potentially deadly chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure.

Why does this matter to agents?

Estimates of how long people will live affect what people pay for life insurance policies and annuities.

In some cases, the Swiss Re analysts say, pension plans or annuities now cost more than they should, because the designers thought people would live longer than they are probably going to live.


A link to the Swiss Re mortality improvement paper is available here.

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