As reported by the Greenwich Times, March 1, 2004.

Long Life Nutmeggers! Median Age at Death Rises to 80

By Asante Green

Mirroring a national trend, the life expectancy of Connecticut residents has increased significantly in recent years, according to the state Department of Public Health.

The rise in the median age at death for Connecticut residents is up from 76 years in 1990 to 80 years in 2001.

Americans achieved their longest life expectancy in the history of the country in 2000, when they lived 77 years, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Life expectancy for men was 74 and, for women, almost 80.

Life expectancy in the United States continues to rise because of steadily decreasing death rates from heart disease, stroke and cancer, according to the CDC.

George Kuchel, director of the University of Connecticut's Center on Aging, attributes longevity in Connecticut to a decline in smoking rates, improved hypertension treatment, and improved vaccines for influenza and other communicable diseases.

"Overall, I think Connecticut has better nutrition and better health care," Kuchel said. "There is a real increase in longevity as well as some demographic changes, with younger people moving out of the state. In some parts of Connecticut, there are retirees moving in."

In 2001, the leading causes of death for Connecticut residents were heart disease, with 8,582 deaths; cancer, 7,093 deaths; stroke, 2,000 deaths; and fatal accidents, 1,056 deaths.

Longevity in Connecticut is increasing because mortality rates for several health problems are declining, said Lloyd Mueller, state epidemiologist.

"Cancer mortality rates have gone down, principally colorectal and lung cancer rates have declined," Mueller said. "For men, prostate cancer rates have gone down. For women, breast cancer rates have gone down."

Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the state and nationally, but continues to decline, Mueller said. Death from accidental injury for men and women has declined in Connecticut, he said.

Though heart disease rates have declined nationally, it remains a public health threat, Stamford Public Health Director Dr. Johnnie Lee said.

Sedentary lifestyles lead to high obesity rates, heart disease and stroke, Lee said.

"Health and fitness has become more marketable. There are more opportunities for people to exercise and many more food options, so it gives people more accessibility," Lee said. "But we live in an era where the family structure tends to steer us toward fast food, food of convenience, rather than dinner around the table, which is leading to higher obesity rates in youth and heart disease among adults."

The largest decline in mortality was for homicide, which is down 17 percent, according to the CDC. The number increased significantly in 2001 after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, but if that were excluded, the decrease from 2001 to 2002 would have been 3 percent, reflecting a continued downward trend in homicides that began in 1991.

The number of deaths from HIV and AIDS nationally dropped 2 percent from 2001 to 2002, according to the CDC. HIV mortality has decreased about 70 percent since 1995 but remains the fifth-leading cause of death for people 25 to 44.