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October 12, 2001
Life Expectancy Now Nearly 77
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e expectancy for the U.S. population reached a record high of 76.9 years in 2000, according to a new report from the federal government's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The preliminary numbers show that mortality declined for several leading causes of death.

Most importantly, age-adjusted death rates continued to fall for heart disease and cancer, the two leading causes of death in the U.S. Together, they account for more than half of all deaths in the country each year. Mortality from heart disease has declined steadily since 1950, while cancer mortality has been on the decline since 1990.

Age-adjusted death rates also fell for homicide, suicide, accidents or "unintentional injuries," stroke, diabetes, chronic lower respiratory diseases, and chronic liver disease and cirrhosis.

In addition, the preliminary infant mortality rate in the U.S. fell to its lowest level ever in 2000 - 6.9 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, down from a rate of 7.1 in 1999.

"A healthy pregnancy is a major factor in reducing the risk of infant death," said CDC Director Jeffrey Koplan. "Timely prenatal care and avoiding harmful behavior like smoking are two examples of how pregnant mothers can protect the health of their infants."

The report also shows that mortality decreased by 3.7 percent for HIV infection in 2000, the fifth straight year of decline. After increasing every year between 1987 and 1994 at an average of 16 percent annually, HIV mortality leveled off in 1995, dropped 29 percent in 1996, 48 percent in 1997, and 21 percent in 1998, before slowing to a 3.6 percent decline in 1999.

Meanwhile, mortality increased for certain leading causes of death, including Alzheimer's disease, influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease, hypertension, septicemia, and pneumonitis due to solids and liquids, a condition that disproportionately affects the aging population and which emerged for the first time as one of the 15 leading causes of death.

"Information is often the most effective weapon we have against many of these problems, and having timely data gives us better information," said Dr. Edward Sondik, director of CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, which prepared the report.

Information on causes of death is recorded on death certificates by physicians, medical examiners and coroners, and reported to the state vital statistics offices. Demographic information is provided by funeral directors, based on information from informants, who are usually family members.

The report, entitled "Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2000," is based on an analysis of over 85 percent of the death certificates recorded in the United States for 2000.

It can be found online at the CDC Web site:

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