Chronic Diseases and Health Promotion

Heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, and cancer are among the most common of all chronic diseases.

These health issues are also the costliest health conditions in the United States, and in some cases, they're preventable. Learning about these ailments and the common factors that contribute to them can be an important first step in stopping them.

Chronic Diseases and Health Promotion

Chronic Diseases: Leading Causes of Death and Disability

It might surprise you to know that seven out of ten deaths among Americans are caused by chronic diseases every year. More than 50 percent of these are related to cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Almost half of all American adults had at least one type of chronic disease in a 2005 study. Obesity is also taking its toll, with approximately one in three adults being considered obese. Almost one in five young people between the ages of six and 19 are obese.

Approximately a quarter of people coping with chronic health conditions also suffer from one or more limitations every day. This can include limited mobility, chronic pain, or other concerns that can have a negative effect on their quality of life. Nearly 19 million Americans report activity limitations due to arthritis, which is one of the most common causes of disability. Other serious chronic diseases include diabetes, which continues to be the leading cause of kidney failure, blindness, and lower-extremity amputations among adults ages 20 to 74.

Common Causes of Chronic Diseases

Four common behaviors are at the root of many chronic health conditions: lack of physical activity, tobacco use, poor nutrition, and excessive alcohol consumption. These four behaviors are responsible for a large portion of early deaths and illnesses, and all of them can be changed.

Federal studies have shown that many adults do not follow doctors’ recommendations for aerobic physical activity. Federal data collected in 2014 found that 30 percent of adults reported engaging in no leisure-time physical activity at all. Government health officials recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.

Poor diet is another serious contributor to chronic disease. In 2007, less than 22 percent of high school students and approximately 24 percent of adults reported that they ate five or more servings of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. Fast food and other quick food fixes add to the lack of proper nutrition in the American diet. Poverty is another contributing factor.

More than 43 million American adults smoke, and a 2007 study found that approximately 20 percent of high school students in the United States were cigarette smokers. Cigarette smoking causes almost all cases of lung cancer, which is the leading cause of cancer-related death in America. Men who smoke are 23 times more likely to develop lung cancer than those who do not smoke. Women are about 13 times more likely to get lung cancer if they smoke. Other forms of cancer caused by smoking include cancer of the voice box, esophagus, mouth and throat, bladder, kidneys, pancreas, stomach, and cervix. Smoking may also cause acute myeloid leukemia.

Alcohol contributes to both death and disease in staggering numbers. In fact, excessive alcohol consumption contributes to 54 different forms of diseases and injuries. Some examples of diseases related to alcohol use include cancer of the mouth, liver, colon, and breasts. Alcohol also contributes to a variety of other health problems, including cardiovascular, neurological, gastrointestinal, and psychiatric issues. And drunk driving is the leading cause of vehicle-related deaths every year.

If you’re concerned about your health and the possibility of chronic disease, simple modifications can help. Cut back on drinking, quit smoking, eat more fruits and vegetables, and increase your amount of daily exercise so you can live a longer, healthier life.

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