Heart disease remains top death cause in LA County; Alzheimer's on the rise

Skyscrapers of Downtown Los Angeles, administrative and financial district of the city. (DeAgostini/Getty Images)

Coronary heart disease remained the number-one cause of death among Los Angeles County residents in 2017, but deaths from Alzheimer's disease rose dramatically over the past decade to become the second-leading cause, according to a report released Wednesday.

The report by the county Department of Public Health found that 11,211 residents died from coronary heart disease in 2017, accounting for 17.7% of all deaths -- and equating to a mortality rate of 102.9 deaths for every 100,000 residents.

Alzheimer's disease accounted for 4,179 deaths that year. The Alzheimer's mortality rate of 38.7 deaths for every 100,000 residents represented a 71% increase from 2008, when the disease accounted for 22.6 deaths for every 100,000 residents.

"Mortality is one of the most important barometers of the health of our residents," county public health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. "These findings indicate clear areas of concern which require a collective response to the complex social conditions that contribute to the many health challenges we face as a county, especially for those residents experiencing the worst health outcomes."

According to the report, the top 10 causes of death in the county in 2017 were coronary heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, lung cancer, pneumonia/influenza, colorectal cancer, liver disease/cirrhosis and hypertension.

Health officials noted that while heart disease remained the top cause of death, the mortality rate of 102.9 deaths per 100,000 residents actually represents a 29% drop from 2008, when the rate was 145.6 deaths per 100,000 residents.

According to the report, heart disease was also the leading cause of premature death in the county, followed by drug overdoses, which county officials said have increased by 28% over the past decade.

The report also found that the mortality rate among black residents remained roughly 30% higher than the county average over the past decade. The rate among Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders was 41% higher than the average, and 27% higher among Native Americans.

In terms of location, the mortality rate among residents of the Antelope Valley was 28% higher than the county average, and it is the only county region that showed a mortality rate increase between 2008 and 2017. The mortality rate among South Los Angeles residents was 20% higher than the county average.