US life expectancy drops slightly, says CDC

LOS ANGELES The report from the /*Centers for Disease Control and Prevention*/ finds pneumonia deaths climbed nearly five percent in 2008.

For the first time in five decades, strokes are no longer the third leading cause of death. Chronic respiratory diseases took its place.

Some researchers speculate doctors and patients may be getting better at treating and preventing strokes. At the same time, internist Dr. Amy Lee, from Good Samaritan Hospital, says the rise in respiratory illness may be due to environmental factors like air pollution and smoking

Asthma, emphysema, and bronchitis all fall under the umbrella of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Doctors say it's about time these conditions are getting some notice.

"It's actually quite eye-opening because it really reflects what the changing times and evolution of how our society is today," said Dr. Lee.

Besides COPD, the report reveals a rise in people dying from Alzheimer's disease and suicides.

Overall, life expectancy fell slightly from 77.9 years in 2007 to 77.8 in 2008.

Americans work long hours, and they're under a lot of stress. Dr. Lee says these latest numbers should remind people to pay attention to their personal health.

"You know, seeing your doctor, following recommendations, getting the exercise in and definitely eating correctly and eating in a healthy way," said Dr. Lee

She also recommends getting yearly flu shots and pneumococcal shots for the elderly. The CDC report also found death rates have declined from diabetes and homicides.

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