Americans living longer than ever

Atlanta: Americans are living longer than every before, according to the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Controla nd Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics. The average US life expenctancy is now a record 77.9 years.

The total number of deaths declined by almost 50,000, or 2.4%, from 2003 to 2004, the largest one-year drop in several decades, according to a preliminary report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.

The last time the number of deaths fell instead of rose was in 1997, when there were 445 fewer deaths than in 1996.

Arialdi Minino, one of the authors of the report said: “The risk for dying in general in the U.S. population is decreasing,” Minino said. “The decrease from 2003 to 2004 was particularly sharp, and we’re still scratching our heads a little bit” as to why.

The life expectancy of Americans born in 2004 rose to 77.9 years from 77.5 years in 2003, making it the highest on record.

The gender gap is narrowing as well. Life expectancy for women is 80.4 years on average, up from 80.1 years in 2003. Men born in 2004 can expect to live 75.2 years, up from 74.8 years. The 5.2-year difference between the sexes was the smallest since 1946, the report said.

Dr. Robert Butler, president of the International Longevity Center and professor of geriatrics at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York, said it’s too soon to get excited about the one-year snapshot.

“I hope it’s a trend because not only are people living longer but with fewer disabilities,” he said.

A greater emphasis on controlling high cholesterol and high blood pressure with drug therapy along with declining smoking rates may be contributing to rising life expectancy, Butler said. But he noted that Americans still live shorter lives than residents of Scandinavian countries, France, Japan, Greece and Spain, and that obesity and its related health problems remain a serious threat to life-expectancy gains.

Many older people take better care of their health than the younger generations, he said. “Maybe it’s proximity to the possibility of death that gets people to behave better.”

On the other end of the age spectrum, the overall infant mortality rate was 6.7 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2004, a small increase from 2003, though the change wasn’t statistically significant, Minino said.

The infant mortality rate for blacks dropped 2.6% to 13.65 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2004, down from 14.01 deaths per 1,000 births in 2003.

Life expectancy for blacks born in 2004 improved as well but still trails that for whites. African Americans can expect to live 73.3 years, up from 72.7 years in 2003. Whites are likely to make it to age 78.3, up from 78 the year before, according to the report.

Some of the most prodigious killers such as heart disease and stroke appeared less lethal in 2004.

The number of deaths from heart disease, the nation’s No. 1 killer, dropped 6.4% to about 654,000, and cancer fatalities were down 2.9% to about 550,000, the report said.

Flu and pneumonia caused 7.3% fewer deaths in 2004 compared with 2003, while the number of deaths from stroke saw a 6.5% decline. Even those caused by accidents, the fifth leading cause of death, edged down 1.9%.

Still, decreases weren’t across the board. Deaths from high blood pressure rose 2.7% and those from Alzheimer’s disease increased 1.4% from 2003 to 2004, according to the report.

Far from being a burden on public programs such as Medicare and Social Security, the ability to live longer has produced a powerful market of older workers and consumers that companies are just beginning to court, Butler said.

“There’s been a huge boost because of increased longevity with housing, assisted living, travel, health care, financial services,” he said. “The Japanese call them the silver industries. We call them the mature market. Corporations are starting to realize this is a real boost economically.”

Butler said he’s hopeful that awareness campaigns and lifestyle changes will help start to reverse the nation’s obesity problem. “If it continued as the present, we would lose two to five years of life expectancy and it would be first time parents would live longer than their kids.”

More people will live to be 100, say experts

London: Experts are predicting that more than a million people born in the UK and now aged 30 could live to be 100 years old and more.

Currently there are around 10,000 centenarians but this figure could grow to 1.2million by 2074. In effect this means that one in eight people could live to be 100 while thousands of others will live to be 110 or more, acccording to statistics from the UK Government’s Actuary Department.This spurt in longevity is attributed to better diet and medical care.

Improved diet and lifestyle, especially among the affluent, are also responsible. And the decline of heavy industry means that workers are far less likely to be exposed to the health risks and dangers or heavy machinery.

The increased use of cholesterollowering drugs in recent years has been shown to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Under new prescription guidance to GPs, up to one in ten adults could end up taking statins to prevent cardiovascular disease.

This could save 20,000 lives a year while some experts believe a quarter of Britons could end up taking the drugs for life.

Doctors now perform regular screening to detect diseases such as cervical cancer and the breakthrough of drugs such as herceptin to treat breast cancer are helping to keep the number of deaths down.

The eradication of many infectious diseases during the last century has had a huge impact.

Child immunisation, better sanitation and increased use of antibiotics have swept away most cases of smallpox, diphtheria and tuberculosis.

Britons are also more aware than ever of the benefits of taking regular exercise. This can help reduce the risk of obesity, heart disease, strokes and diabetes.

Countless studies have also shown that eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables can help control cholesterol and prevent some types of cancer.

The growth in longevity would also have a big impact on the size of the UK population as a whole, with the number of people living in the country growing to 75million by 2074 based on these figures.

The population could soar even higher, to 90million, if the highest projections for fertility rates and immigration are also factored in.

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics last year revealed big differences across the UK. People living in Scotland and the north of England came out worse, with the lowest life expectancy for both men and women found in Glasgow. In contrast those men living in the affluent area of Kensington and Chelsea in London enjoyed the longest lifespan, at 80.8 years – 11.5 years more than in Glasgow. Women in this area also had the longest life expectancy at 85.8 years, compared with 76.4 in Glasgow.