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U.S. Life Expectancy Best Ever, Says CDC

Life Expectancy Hovers Just Below 78 Years
WebMD Health News

Feb. 28, 2005 -- Americans are living longer than ever before. If all goes well, you and yours may outlive previous generations, with record-breaking life expectancy.

Life expectancy is 77.6 years, says the CDC, using numbers from 2003. That's an all-time high, up slightly from 77.3 years in 2002.

As more people add candles to their birthday cakes, the causes of death in the U.S. are starting to shift.

Heart disease and cancer are still the two deadliest conditions, but their death rates are dropping. Meanwhile, deaths from diseases mainly seen in elders -- like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease -- are on the rise.

Many Groups Are Living Longer

White and black men and women have all reached unprecedented life expectancies. Here are their life expectancies and the change in death rates since 2002:

  • White men: 75.4 years (death rate down 2.1%)
  • Black men: 69.2 years (death rate down 2.5%)
  • White women: 80.5 years (death rate down 1.2%)
  • Black women: 76.1 years (death rate down 2.4%)

Life expectancy also improved for Hispanic men (by 4.2%), Hispanic women (by 1.8%), and Asian-Pacific Islander men (by 3.8%). Death rates didn't change for American Indian men and women or Asian-Pacific Islander women.

Women Still Outlive Men but by Fewer Years

Women tend to live longer than men, but the gap is narrowing.

Including all races, women now live 80.1 years, compared to men's' 74.8 years. Both are new highs.

Women now outlive men by 5.3 years. That's down from a peak of 7.8 years in 1979. Since then, men's life expectancy gains have outpaced those of women, says the CDC.

Fewer Heart Disease, Cancer Deaths

Heart disease and cancer remain America's leading causes of death. Together, they accounted for more than 1.2 million deaths -- slightly more than half (51%) of all 2003 deaths, says the CDC.

But fewer people are dying of those conditions and others. Here's a look at those declines since 2002:

  • Heart disease deaths: down 3.6%
  • Cancer deaths: down 2.2%
  • Stroke deaths: down 4.6%
  • Suicide: down 3.7%
  • Flu and pneumonia: down 3.1%
  • Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis: down 2.1%
  • Accidents (unintentional injuries): down 2.2%
  • Homicide: down 4.9%
  • HIV-related disease: down 4.1%
  • Alcohol-induced deaths: down 4.3%
  • Drug-induced deaths: down 3.3%
  • Firearm injuries: down 2.9%
  • Injury at work: down 13%

More Deaths From Alzheimer's Disease, High Blood Pressure

Death rates rose in these areas since 2002:

  • Alzheimer's disease deaths: up 5.9%
  • High blood pressure and high blood pressure relating to kidney disease: up 5.7%
  • Parkinson's disease deaths: up 3.3%
  • Kidney disease deaths: up 2.1%

Two of those conditions -- Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease -- are usually seen in senior citizens. But age isn't the only hazard. Ignorance is also a problem when it comes to high blood pressure.

Nearly one in three U.S. adults has high blood pressure, but about a third of them don't know it, says the American Heart Association. That can change with a quick blood pressure test.

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