But that's not happening, so measures to improve these risk factors increasingly need to take place on a community level, they added.
"Communities [can] make it easier to have a healthier diet, make it harder to smoke by taxing cigarettes and make it more difficult to expose people to secondhand smoke," said Murray, who is director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Better primary care would likely also result in better outcomes for blood pressure and cholesterol, he said.
"There's no intrinsic reason why the U.S. can't be making as much progress as other countries and no reason we can't be the best," Murray said. "This is an incredible situation where life expectancy is getting worse in many places, especially for women."
The report, entitled Falling behind: life expectancy in US counties from 2000 to 2007 in an international context, includes life expectancy data from 1987 through 2007 for 3,138 U.S. counties and 10 cities.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on healthy aging.
SOURCES: Christopher J.L. Murray, M.D., Ph.D., director, Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, University of Washington, Seattle; S. Jay Olshansky, Ph.D., professor, public health, and senior research scientist, Center on Aging, University of Illinois at Chicago; June 15, 2011, Population Health Metrics, online
All rights reserved