THURSDAY, April 20 (HealthDay News) -- The United States death rate has fallen to a record low, life expectancy is increasing and the life expectancy gender gap is narrowing, according to a summary report, issued April 19 by the National Center for Health Statistics.
In 2004, the age-adjusted death rate fell to 801 per 100,000 U.S. standard population, a 3.8 percent decrease from the 2003 rate of 832.7. All groups showed significant decreases in the age-adjusted death rate, with the largest declines seen in Hispanic females (6.3 percent), Hispanic males (6.1 percent), and American Indian males and females (5.9 percent each).
Total life expectancy at birth also reached a record high of 77.9 years, which was a 0.4-year increase compared to 2003. For women and men, life expectancy increased to 80.4 years and 75.2 years, respectively. The 5.2-year difference is the lowest recorded gender gap since 1946.
Heart disease, cancer and stroke continue to be the three leading causes of death. But Alzheimer disease has moved up to become the seventh leading cause of death, passing influenza and pneumonia.
The summary report is based on approximately 90 percent of death records reported in all 50 states for 2004. It will be followed by a more comprehensive report to be released in May.