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Chronic Conditions - Becoming a Huge Problem
Categories: Caregiving Articles, Senior Care Tips | Posted: 5/1/2013 | Views: 5752

Cost of Chronic Illness

The numbers are staggering. The United States currently spends about $1.4 trillion on all healthcare costs. Of that total, 75% of all money spent is for older people with chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, stroke, arthritis, high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s Disease, and Obesity to name a few of the most common. And 95% of all healthcare spent on seniors is for chronic conditions.

Chronic Conditions Impact Quality of Life

And that is just the money. In terms of quality of life, chronic conditions impact approximately 133 million Americans. This number is expected to rise to over 148 million by 2030 as our society ages.
Older Adults over 65 are more likely to develop a chronic condition. Right now, it is estimated that 80% of seniors have one or more chronic conditions and 60% have two or more. But, it is not just a problem of the elderly. Nearly 40 million persons in the United States are affected by arthritis, including over a quarter million children.

Chronic Disease Facts

  • Chronic disease is the leading cause of US deaths.
  • 70 percent of all deaths in the United States are caused by Chronic Conditions
  • The second cause of chronic disease death is cancer followed by chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases—diabetes is seventh.
  • 25 million people in the US – or about one in ten of us – has physical limitations due to chronic disease
  • Most chronic conditions could be prevented or improved with a nutritious diet, exercise, and by not smoking.
  • With variations depending on a person’s health status, the general 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for most Americans recommend that adults engage in 2.5 hours of exercise per week to reduce the risk of cardiac and other chronic diseases.

Source: CDC, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

What is Causing Chronic Conditions?

We have more awareness than we did in the past. Perhaps, in the past, poor health was simply attributed to “aging.” But, in reality, chronic conditions are really lifestyle diseases that we have some control over.

For instance, about 30% of cancer deaths are due to the five leading behavioral and dietary risks: high body mass index, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, tobacco use, alcohol use.
The top three controllable risk factors for chronic disease are: Smoking, Diet, and Exercise.


You would almost have to be living under a rock if you have not yet been made aware of the dangers of smoking! Cigarette smoking is linked to at least 30 percent of all US deaths from cancer and smokers are three times as likely to die before the age of 60 or 70 as non-smokers from multiple diseases. Smoking is directly linked to poor cardiovascular health as well.

Quitting can be very difficult. It is important to try. Even cutting down can begin to reduce some risk. And, no matter how old a person is, quitting smoking will improve health. The American Lung Association is a good place to start to learn about ways to quit smoking.


According to the American Diabetes Association, there are 18.2 million people in the United States with Diabetes and 47 million worldwide and people with diabetes are 4 times more likely to have a stroke. While diabetes is not caused solely by diet, it is a contributing factor for type 2 diabetes in particular.
One simple way to reduce risk is to reduce sugary drinks. These types of drinks like soda and juice, have been linked to an increased risk for developing diabetes.

Even if you do not get diabetes, an unhealthy diet can lead to other problems such as heart disease and obesity.

Obesity puts a strain on the entire body including the circulatory system, which makes us more likely to have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other chronic diseases.
Most people benefit from a diet very high in fruit and vegetable content and low in fat and sugar.


Almost all information sources about chronic disease list “sedentary” lifestyle as a risk factor. Our cardiovascular system, in particular, is strengthened by exercise and made weak from inactivity. Heart disease is the leading cause of death among both men and women in the U.S. Even moderate exercise done on a regular basis over time can significantly improve health.

Other Lifestyle Issues Related to Chronic Conditions

For some, alcohol and drug use, lack of sleep, multiple prescriptions that are no longer needed, and stress can all contribute to chronic disease.  Clearing any of these issues, if they are a problem, can improve overall health.


While not all risk factors for chronic disease are controllable – we can take steps to reduce the epidemic of chronic disease in old age. If you already have chronic conditions, improving diet, not smoking, and exercise can help you better manage symptoms of your condition.


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