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CDC: Life Expectancy up, Racial Gap Closes

Americans are living longer and the life expectancy gap between black and white people in the U.S. has closed, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Overall, life expectancy at birth in the U.S. rose to 77.9 years in 2007, up from 75.4 years in 1990. The gap between men and women dropped from 7 years to 5.1 years over the same time period.

The life expectancy gap between black and white Americans dropped from 7 years in 1990 to 4.6 years in 2007.

However, the U.S. still lags most developed countries in life expectancy and infant mortality rates.

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According to the data, heart-related conditions accounted for more than 25 percent of all the deaths in the U.S. Cancer was responsible for around 23 percent of all deaths.

As Americans are living longer, they are also taking advantage of medical technology and medicines at dramatically higher rates.

From 1996 to 2007, the frequency of MRI, CT or PET scans done in emergency rooms quadrupled. And the frequency nearly tripled for doctor offices and outpatient hospital visits.

The CDC says there are many more scanning machines available today. But health officials and others worry about the safety and cost of all that scanning.

Prescription drug use is also up. Between 1988 and 1994, 38 percent of the population took at least one prescription medication. Between 2003 and 2006, that number rose to 47 percent.

The percentage of Americans taking three or more prescriptions almost doubled during the same time period - from 11 percent to 21 percent.