A new report on mortality from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that American life expectancy is at an all-time high. For 2012, life expectancy in the United States rose in 2012 to 78.8 years — that's up .1 years from 2011 and marks a new high for Americans.

It breaks down a little differently by gender, with a life expectancy for females of 81.2 years and 76.4 years for males. That difference of 4.8 years is the same as in 2011.

So what does life expectancy mean? The figures represent the average age to which people born in 2012 can expect to live or "the average number of years that a group of infants would live if the group was to experience throughout life the age-specific death rates present in the year of birth," the report says.

This takes into account infant mortality rates as well as teen mortality.

The report attributes the increase in life expectancy to reductions in deaths from such major illnesses as heart disease, cancer and stroke. The 10 leading causes of death stayed the same from 2011 to 2012: heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, unintentional injuries, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease and suicide. But while these causes accounted for almost 74 percent all deaths in the U.S., the age-adjusted death rates declined significantly for 8 of the 10 leading causes of death from 2011 to 2012.

Another bit of good news is that the infant mortality rate decreased 1.5 percent from 2011 to 2012 to a new low of 597.8 infant deaths per 100,000 live births. The 10 leading causes of infant death stayed constant: congenital malformations, low birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), maternal complications, unintentional injuries, cord and placental complications, bacterial sepsis of newborn, respiratory distress of newborn, diseases of the circulatory system and neonatal hemorrhage. 

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