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Alzheimer's up on 2004 list of US death causes

By Staff
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WASHINGTON, Apr 20 (Reuters) Americans are living longer, healthier lives and only the mortality rate from Alzheimer's disease is increasing among the top 10 causes of death, the US federal government reported yesterday.

Alzheimer's disease moved to seventh place from eighth place among the leading causes of death in 2004, passing influenza and pneumonia, the National Center for Health Statistics reported.

''The life expectancy of Americans in 2004 -- 77.9 years -- is the highest it has ever been,'' the NCHS said in a statement.

''The life expectancy for women in the United States is 80.4 years; the life expectancy for U.S. men is 75.2 years. The life expectancy gender gap is narrowing -- the 5.2 year difference in 2004 was the smallest difference since 1946.'' This is because there was a 7.3 percent drop in the death rate from influenza and pneumonia, while there was a 1.4 percent increase in the death rate from Alzheimer's.

The NCHS, part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reported that 2.39 million Americans died in 2004.

The U.S. death rate fell to a record low of 801 deaths per 100,000 people, down from nearly 833 deaths per 100,000 in 2003. Overall, 50,000 fewer people died between 2003 and 2004, the biggest one-year drop in decades.

The 10 leading causes of death in 2004 were: - Heart disease - 654,000 deaths - Cancer - 550,000 deaths - Stroke - 150,000 deaths - Chronic lower respiratory diseases - 123,000 - Accidents - 108,000 - Diabetes - 72,800 - Alzheimer's disease - 65,829 - Influenza and pneumonia - 61,472 - Kidney disease - 42,762 - Septicemia (blood infection) 33,464 REUTERS CH HS0903

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