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Life expectancy increases for NYC residents

The life expectancy of New York City residents has continued to increase, hitting a record average of 79.4 years for a person born in 2007, city officials said Monday.

In the annual report of vital statistics for 2008, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas A. Farley noted that while heart disease, cancer and influenza/pneumonia remained leading causes of deaths in the city, the data showed a continuing decline in smoking-related mortality among adults 35 years and older.

The drop in deaths connected to smoking, an estimate computed by a formula established by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, explains the life expectancy increase, Farley said in an interview with Newsday. Life expectancy averages for 2007 births reached 82 years for females and 76.3 years for males. The average, 79.4 years, has jumped 1 year and six months since 2001, officials said.

Other significant findings were the virtual disappearance of HIV deaths in infants and the fact that no New Yorker under 15 died from HIV in 2008.

"It is a remarkable success in the history of the AIDS epidemic," said Farley. "We have virtually no children born who are HIV infected."

"New York City has almost eliminated perinatal [HIV] transmission from a pregnant woman to her baby," said Dr. John Santelli, professor of clinical pediatrics at the College of Physicians and Surgeons. "It is a wonderful public health achievement."

Santelli said the success in combating pediatric HIV is due to the better care and drug regimens women are receiving to reduce their viral loads and thereby diminish the risk of fetal infection. Better delivery techniques and follow-up care have also played a role, he said.

Addressing the drop in smoking-related deaths - 7,569 in 2008, compared to 8,520 in 2003 - Farley cited the city ban on smoking in bars and restaurants as well as higher cigarette taxes, which he said have led to 350,000 fewer smokers.

Overall, the city's birth and death rates remained relatively stable in 2008, with 127,680 live births and 66,670 deaths recorded in the five boroughs.

Farley said, however, that he was unhappy with a 5.3 percent increase in 2008 of deaths from diabetes mellitus, which he noted is closely linked to obesity.

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