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Average life expectancy in the United States has reached almost 78 years, a record high, federal health officials said recently. Women can expect to live to 80.4 years on average and men to 75.3 years, according to the report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But even though Americans can expect to live longer than their parents, life expectancy in the United States is still lower than in many other industrialized countries, including Canada and Japan. Along with increased life expectancy, the report notes the death rate has dropped to an all-time low of 760.3 deaths per 100,000 people, continuing a long-term trend.

According to report co-author Arialdi M. Minino, “Ever since the 1960s, the death rate has been decreasing in the United States. Fewer deaths from heart disease, stroke and cancer are driving the trend.” The five leading causes of death, accounting for 64 percent, are heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic lower respiratory diseases and accidents.

“This is great news,” Dr. William O'Neill, executive dean for clinical affairs at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said. “Many people say the United States health care system is broken, but this is kind of great evidence to show there has actually been some dramatic improvements over the last 20 years.”

O'Neill anticipates the trend toward longer life will continue, especially as cancer treatment improves. “I am seeing people living with cancers that 15 years ago would have been considered hopeless,” he said.

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