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The Leading Causes of Death in Hawaii

What's Killing Us? You’ve got to go somehow. Here are the things you should really worry about.


(page 4 of 4)

No. 7 Alzheimer's Disease

n 2008, 266 people died from Alzheimer’s, a progressive, ultimately fatal, disorder in which certain types of nerve cells in select areas of the brain degenerate and die for unknown reasons. As with stroke, women have a higher mortality rate. But “the truth of the matter is that Hawaii does not know how many cases of Alzheimer’s and related dementias we presently have,” said Tom Harding, a local neuropsychologist and the author of the book, You Can Prevent Alzheimer’s! “Nor do we have an accurate process in place to determine the number of future cases and what we can do to reduce those numbers.” Harding says that people have a 50-percent chance of getting dementia in their 80s—age is the greatest risk factor. He’s working to bring stakeholders together to start a Dementia Task Force for the state to survive what he calls “the baby boomer silver tsunami.” (Hawaii has the second highest aging population in the nation.) He’s already met with HMSA executives to gather Alzheimer’s disease data from their member database and with Gov. Neil Abercrombie to pitch ideas on disease prevention. Harding also partnered with Dr. Kore Liow of the Hawaii Pacific Neuroscience Center to treat those with dementia-related diseases. Early intervention and screening are key, he says.

Lend Support

The Alzheimer's Association Aloha Chapter has offices on each of the major islands, in which the staff provides support and education. The chapter also holds fundraiser walks, too.


The estimated number of people living with Alzheimer’s disease in Hawaii.

Tracking Alzheimer’s

There is no single clinical test that can be used to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease. A complete evaluation includes health history, a physical exam, neurological and mental health assessments, blood and urine analysis, an electrocardiogram, and an imaging exam, such as CT or MRI.

Today, 5.4 million people in the U.S. are living with Alzheimer’s disease; two thirds of those with the disease are women.

No. 8 Colon Cancer

No. 8 is colorectal cancer. In 2008, 196 Hawaii residents died from it. Colon cancer is the second-most-common type of cancer among women and the third-most common among men. But, approximately 90 percent of all colon cancer deaths are preventable, according to researchers. The problem is lack of cancer screenings; if detected early, colon cancer is very treatable. That’s why local health stakeholders, such as the DOH, Queen’s Medical Center, UH and Imi Hale, the Native Hawaiian Cancer Network program, are developing a colorectal cancer screening campaign to raise awareness about early detection. “Minority populations have the lowest screening rates, so our goal is to increase that,” says Koa Robinson, the Imi Hale community health educator. Robinson says that increasing education about colon cancer and how to test for it is important. “I think there’s still an ‘icky’ factor,” he says, referring to the way the screenings are performed, either through colonoscopies or blood stool tests. While the tests are uncomfortable, being diagnosed with colon cancer is worse.


Age after which 9 out of 10 colorectal cancer cases are diagnosed.

Final Wishes

  • 2,343: The number of people buried in Hawaii in 1980.
  • 2,241: The number of people cremated in Hawaii in 1980.
  • 2,455: The number of people buried in Hawaii in 2008.
  • 6,506: The number of people cremated in Hawaii in 2008.
  • 63: The number of bodies donated to medical science in 2008.

NOT Deadly

While car accidents can be sudden and horrific, far fewer people die from them than from heart disease or lung cancer. According to the Hawaii State Data Book, car accidents were at the bottom of the list, accounting for just 104 deaths in 2008. Even the suicide rate in the state was higher—131. There were 28 homicides in the state that year, among the lowest in the nation.

Sources: American Heart Assoc., CDC, National Institutes of Health, National Stroke Assoc., American Stroke Assoc., Smoking and Tobacco use in Hawaii: Facts and Figures, American Cancer Society, American Lung Assoc. in Hawaii, Hawaii Diabetes Plan, The Hawaiian Journal of History, Alzheimer’s Assoc., First and Almost Firsts in Hawaii, Hawaii State Data Book, Hawaii State Dept. of Health


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