Heart disease-related deaths and vital statistics
February is National Heart month and a reason to take a closer
look at heart-related deaths. Nationwide, heart disease is still the leading
cause of death, just ahead of cancer. In Minnesota, cardiovascular disease,
including coronary heart disease and stroke, is the second leading
cause of death behind cancer. Heart disease is heartless. It strikes
without warning. Many of us live with, or know someone affected by heart
disease, stroke or a cardiovascular condition. Cardiovascular disease —
including heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure — is responsible for
one out of every three deaths. The American Heart Association set a goal to
improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans, and reduce deaths from
cardiovascular diseases and stroke, by 20 percent by the year 2020. One way the
American Heart Association will know that their goal has been achieved is
through national mortality data derived from cause of death information
provided by physicians.
The Minnesota Department of Health supports the mission to
improve cardiovascular health and reduce the burden of heart disease and stroke
for all people living in Minnesota. Good news--Minnesota shows a decrease
in the percentage of heart-related deaths over the last two years.
Heart disease and heart attacks
Heart disease includes a number of conditions which affect blood flow to, and functioning of, the heart. The most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD), also known as coronary heart disease (CHD) which may lead to atherosclerosis.
A heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction, occurs
when the vessels supplying blood to the heart become blocked. Heart muscle
tissue is deprived of oxygen, resulting in tissue death. Heart attacks
most often occur as a result of CAD. Spasms occurring in coronary arteries
also cause heart attacks. Heart attacks can be associated with or lead to
severe health problems such as heart failure and life-threatening arrhythmias.
Reporting heart-related deaths
of death information from death certificates is the primary source of state and
national mortality statistics. Data about deaths is used to determine which
medical conditions receive research and development funding, set public health
goals, and measure health status at local, state, national, and international
levels, so accuracy and specificity are important. For these reasons and as a
service to families, it is important that heart-related cause of death
statements explain the disease sequence that resulted in the condition that
caused the death.
Cause of death terms
cause of death - final disease, injury
or complication directly causing death
due to (or as a consequence of)
– disease, injury or complication, if any, that gave rise to the immediate
cause of death
cause of death – the disease or injury that
started the chain of events leading to the immediate cause of death
of death or terminal event
– cardiac arrest or cardiorespiratory arrest alone doesn’t describe the
disease process that led to death – no specific information is provided about
the cause of the terminal event
After the cause of death is filed
Office of Vital Records sends files of death records to the National Center for
Health Statistics (NCHS). NCHS uses an automated method to assign International
Classification of Diseases Codes to the conditions reported by physicians on
death records. The coded records are returned to the Minnesota Department of
Health (MDH) the same day. Coded data is then made available to local public
health, researchers, and other state government agencies for many uses,
including disease surveillance and monitoring trends (e.g., infectious diseases
and drug overdose deaths).
records cannot be auto-coded because of formatting or punctuation issues.
Commas and semi-colons are acceptable forms of punctuation; however, the use of
unacceptable formatting or punctuation causes records to be rejected from the
automated system and set aside to be coded manually. This delays the return of
records to MDH and sharing of the coded data.
Death registration tips for physicians and designated staff - For use on the MR&C Cause of Death I page:
- Immediate cause of death on first line (line a)
Condition(s) that led to immediate cause, on line(s) beneath
- Underlying cause of death on the lowest line used
- Use cause of death lines 'one after the other'
- Don’t use a ‘period’ ever (commas and semi-colons are okay)
- Don’t press ‘Enter’ at the end of a line