Life expectancy dropped about a month, from 77.9 years in 2007 to 77.8 years in 2008. The author of the report called the change minuscule and says it will take many years to see whether it's a trend. A similar decline occurred in 2005.
For the first time in 50 years, stroke fell from the No. 3 leading cause of death. It was surpassed by chronic lower respiratory diseases, which include asthma, emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
The preliminary report for 2008 was released Thursday by the National Center for Health Statistics.