According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, half of all American adults - approximately 117 million people - suffer from one or more chronic health conditions. This troubling statistic is perhaps one reason why health care costs are soaring.
In May, the CDC released an update on the nation's current struggles with chronic diseases, including obesity, heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and others. On top of finding that half of US adults suffer from a chronic disease, they also discovered that 25% suffer from two or more chronic conditions. These ailments are common, but costly. More importantly, they are preventable.
Today, researchers from the government agency published a paper in The Lancet entitled, "Prevention of chronic disease in the 21st century: elimination of the leading preventable causes of premature death and disability in the USA." The research examines the causes of the most commonly suffered chronic diseases as well as the risk factors that are associated with them. Tobacco use, poor diet, physical inactivity, excessive alcohol consumption, poorly treated high blood pressure, and high cholesterol were all listed as behaviors within one's control that can reduce such diseases.
"With non-communicable conditions accounting for nearly two-thirds of deaths worldwide, the emergence of chronic diseases as the predominant challenge to global health is undisputed," the researchers noted in their summary. "In the USA, chronic diseases are the main causes of poor health, disability, and death, and account for most of health-care expenditures."
In 2010, seven of the top ten causes of death were chronic diseases, including heart disease and cancer, which are the two leading causes of death in the United States. But obesity might be the nation's - as well as the world's - biggest issue as of late. Obesity rates have tripled since 1980, and now over 78 million adults are obese in the US (the number has also drastically increased among youths). Obesity is perhaps the germinating chronic disease that leads to others: type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, cancer, and more.
This avoidable chronic condition cost the United States over $147 billion in 2008. The medical costs for obese individuals were nearly $1,500 higher than a person of normal weight. In addition to obesity costs, heart disease led all conditions with $315.4 billion spent in 2010, followed by excessive alcohol consumption ($223.5 billion in 2006), and cancer ($157 billion in 2010).
The World Health Organization has begun to further address the global obesity issue, which could improve health in all aspects of life. The international organization hopes to drastically improve maternal, infant, and young child nutrition by 2025 in hopes of bettering the lives of millions.
You can read more about chronic disease in US adults in this Medical News Today article.