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Old 12-08-2005, 01:10 PM   #1
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Default U.S. Life Expectancy Hits All-Time High

U.S. Life Expectancy Hits All-Time High

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051208/...oldest_boomers

By MIKE STOBBE, Associated Press Writer

ATLANTA - U.S. life expectancy has hit another all-time high 77.6
years and deaths from heart disease, cancer and stroke continue to
drop, the government reported Thursday.

Still, the march of medical progress has taken a worrisome turn: Half
of Americans in the 55-to-64 age group including the oldest of the
baby boomers have high blood pressure, and two in five are obese.
That means they are in worse shape in some respects than Americans
born a decade earlier were when they were that age.

The health of this large group of the near-elderly is of major
concern to American taxpayers, because they are now becoming eligible
for Medicare and Social Security.

"What happens to this group is very important because it's going to
affect every other group," said Amy Bernstein of the National Center
for Health Statistics, which put out the new report.

The report presents the latest data collected by the National Center
for Health Statistics and dozens of other health agencies and
organizations.

Among the new data: Deaths from heart disease, cancer and stroke, the
nation's three leading killers, all dropped in 2003. They were down
between 2 percent and 5 percent.

Also, Americans' life expectancy increased again in 2003. By
comparison, it was 75.4 in 1990.

Life expectancy in the U.S. has been rising almost without
interruption since 1900, thanks to several factors, including
extraordinary advances in medicine and sanitation, and declines in
some types of unhealthy behavior, such as smoking.

Those trends may allow life expectancy to continue to inch up despite
the increases in obesity and high blood pressure, said Bernstein, the
study's director.

Still, health officials are trying to draw attention to unhealthy
behavior, and this year chose to break out data on people 55 to 64.

"The late 50s and early 60s are a crucial time to focus on disease
prevention," said Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. "It's never too late to
adopt a healthy lifestyle to enjoy a longer, healthier life."

The 55-to-64 age group is expected to rise from 29 million Americans
in 2004 to 40 million in 2014. That is because of the baby boom, the
explosion of births during the prosperous postwar period between 1946
and 1964.

The report looked back at data on people who were in the 55-to-64
bracket around the early 1990s, which basically means people born in
the 1930s. Researchers compared them to people in that age range
today, which essentially is people born in the 1940s.

They found that rates of hypertension and obesity were higher for the
current group of 55-to-64-year-olds.

When the 1930s group was tested around 1990, 42 percent had high
blood pressure. That compares with 50 percent for the 1940s group.
The older group's rate of obesity was 31 percent back then, compared
with 39 percent for the 1940s babies now. Because of the advent of
cholesterol-lowering drugs, the prevalence of high cholesterol
actually went down, from 35 percent for the 1930s group to 23 percent
among the 1940s babies.

Also noted in the report:

_Infant mortality in 2003 dropped slightly to 6.9 deaths per 1,000
live births. Infant mortality has been on a general decline since
1958.

_Spending on health care rose 7.7 percent in 2003, to $1.7 trillion.
Health expenditures as a percentage of gross domestic product rose to
15.3 percent in 2003, up from 14.9 percent in 2002.

_Prescription drugs were the fastest-growing expenditure. Spending on
prescriptions rose 11 percent in 2003.

Twenty-eight percent of all adults reported recent low back pain.
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