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Rising Use of Medical Technologies Extending Americans' Lives
Date:2/17/2010

Annual report on nation's health finds flaws, though, in weight, exercise and insurance,,

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Surging use of improved medical technology, including new drugs, is driving up life expectancy for Americans and driving down rates of major killers such as heart disease and cancer, a new national health report finds.

At the same time, some things about the nation's health that experts hoped were changing actually did not, the report found, and the use and misuse of medical technology may also be a factor behind the ever-increasing cost of health care.

The findings are included in a report, entitled "Health, United States, 2009," issued Wednesday by the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Although Americans are living longer than ever before -- 77.9 years on average -- "a lot of things that should have been changing aren't really changing that much," said Amy B. Bernstein, chief of the Analytic Studies Branch in the Office of Analysis and Epidemiology at the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics.

"Cigarette smoking has pretty much leveled off," she said. "There is still 20 percent of the population that smokes; that's bad. People are not exercising more. Obesity is not decreasing."

Obesity has doubled over the past three decades, from 15 percent of adults in 1976 to 35 percent by 2006, according to the report. As of 2006, 15 to 18 percent of school-age children and adolescents were overweight.

These are things that should be changing and need to be worked on, Bernstein said.

The annual report on the nation's health also found that:

  • Heart disease, cancer and stroke, in that order, remain the three leading causes of death in the United States, although deaths attributed to all three have declined.
  • About 10 percent of Americans rate their health as only "fai
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