Introduction Changes in lifestyle contributed to an increased incidence and mortality from endocrine, nutritional and metabolic diseases in developing countries. The aim of this study was to evaluate the burden of these diseases as a cause of death in older women in a Brazilian city.
Methods All deaths of women aged 70 years or older, occurring in Rio de Janeiro, between 2003 and 2006, were identified in the Mortality Information System, a population-based nationwide registry. Death certificates with an ICD 10 Chapter IV code (E00-E90) were selected. When the code corresponded to the underlying cause, its subgroup was determined (endocrine, nutritional or metabolic diseases) and the associated causes were ascertained. When these codes corresponded to associated causes, the ICD chapter of the underlying cause was identified.
Results There were 55 331 deaths, of which 7686 (13.9%) had E00-E90 codes as underlying (50.4%) cause. Endocrine diseases predominated among underlying causes. Diabetes was the leading cause of death (76.4%) and circulatory and respiratory diseases the main associated causes. As for deaths for other underlying causes, 20.7% of the circulatory system, 9.5% of the respiratory system, 6.0% of the neoplasms and 3.3% of the infectious diseases had Diabetes as an associated cause.
Conclusion Endocrine diseases, particularly Diabetes, are major causes of mortality in older women in Rio de Janeiro, representing an important public health problem. Urbanisation and socio-cultural influences of the occidental way of life led to changes in dietary patterns and an increased sedentary lifestyle. In order to modify the present patterns, health promotion strategies must be emphasised.