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    Life Expectancy Reaches New Record

    Life Expectancy Pushes Past 78 Years; Death Rate Falls for 11 of 15 Top Causes of Death
    WebMD Health News
    Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

    June 11, 2008 -- U.S. life expectancy has hit a new record: 78.1 years for babies born in 2006, says the CDC.

    What's more, the death rate for 11 of the top 15 causes of death -- including heart disease, cancer, and stroke -- slowed in 2006.

    That's what the CDC's preliminary data show, based on some 2.4 million deaths in 2006. Here are the highlights from the CDC's report.

    Life Expectancy

    Life expectancy in 2006 is about four months longer than it was in 2005, according to the CDC.

    White women continue to have the longest life expectancy, followed by African-American women, white men, and African-American men. Those patterns have held since 1976, though all groups have seen their life expectancy improve during that time.

    Here are the 2006 life expectancy figures for each of those groups:

    • White women: 81 years
    • African-American women: 76.9 years
    • White men: 76 years
    • African-American men: 70 years

    Top Causes of Death

    Here are the top causes of death for 2006 in the U.S., and the change in their age-adjusted death rate since 2005:

    1. Heart disease: down 5.5%
    2. Cancer: down 1.6%
    3. Stroke: down 6.4%
    4. Chronic lower respiratory diseases (lung diseases): down 6.5%
    5. Accidents: down 1.5%
    6. Alzheimer's disease: down 0.9%
    7. Diabetes: down 5.3%
    8. Influenza and pneumonia: down 12.8% due to a relatively mild flu season
    9. Kidney disease: unchanged
    10. Septicemia (an infection that affects the blood and other parts of the body): down 2.7%
    11. Suicide: down 2.8%
    12. Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis: down 3.3%
    13. High blood pressure: down 5%
    14. Parkinson's disease: down 1.6%
    15. Homicide: down 1.6%

    The decreases in the death rate for Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease, and homicide may have been due to chance, and the kidney disease death rate held steady, so that leaves the CDC confident that 11 of the 15 leading causes of death had lower death rates in 2006 than in 2005.

    The list's order is largely unchanged, except that Alzheimer's disease and diabetes traded places.

    The preliminary infant death rate dropped 2.3% from 2005 to 2006, the CDC reports.

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