The National Center for Health Statistics released the statistics on the number of deaths in 2004. The results document the biggest drop in the American death rate in almost 70 years.

The findings are summarized in this AP article.

The center said drops in the death rates for heart disease, cancer and stroke accounted for most of the decline.

“We were surprised by the sharpness of the decrease. It’s kind of historical,” said statistician Arialdi Minino, lead author of the report.

The government also said that U.S. life expectancy has inched up again to 77.9 years, a record high but still behind that of about two dozen other countries.

This is terrific news. It suggests that the new treatments in the last few decades for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes are finally making a difference in decreasing the death rate from stroke and heart disease. The fact that the death rates from cancer are also decreasing may be a tribute to the increased focus on cancer screening and early detection.

We can hope that this trend continues in the future.