Monday, November 14, 2016

More Than Half of Americans Have Chronic Health Problems

“The health of individuals in the U.S.A. is increasingly being defined by complexity and multimorbidity, the co-occurrence of two or more chronic medical conditions” said study authors, Elizabeth Lee Reisinger Walker and Dr. Benjamin Druss.

They emphasized that people with multiple health issues need more access to care and better coordination among their health care providers.

The Emory University researchers examined public health records to find out what percentage of U.S. adults have chronic medical conditions, mental illness or substance abuse problems, and how many were also living in poverty.

Chronic medical conditions looked at in the study included asthma, cirrhosis, diabetes, heart disease, hepatitis, high blood pressure, HIV/AIDS, lung cancer pancreatitis and stroke, according to the report.

The study, published online recently in Psychology, Health & Medicine, found that nearly 40% had a least one chronic medical condition. In addition, about 18% had been diagnosed with a mental illness in the past year, and about 9% abused drugs or alcohol during that time.

Overall, about 15% were living in poverty, the investigators found. Among those with chronic conditions, many had less than a high school education, were unemployed, were receiving government aid and had no health insurance.

“Just over half of adults in the U.S. have one or more chronic conditions, mental disorder, or dependence on substances. These conditions commonly overlap with each other and with poverty, which contributes to poor health,” Walker said in a journal news release. “In order to promote overall health, it is important to consider all of a person’s health conditions along with poverty and other social factors.”

The study authors are with the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta.

My Take:
I think these numbers are radically low. Over half of Americans are either diabetic or pre-diabetic. That means they are all developing cardiovascular disease as well. In 2014, over 21 million Americans were abusing drugs and that number increases every day.

A significant factor in this problem is the treatment of chronic conditions with multiple drugs that often create additional chronic health problems.

The real key is prevention. Yes, virtually all chronic health problems can be prevented with healthy lifestyle changes. Chronic health problems also can be predicted by simple laboratory tests years before they manifest as true disease. Clinically, I see the onset of metabolic syndrome by age 28 in the majority of my practice.

The Bottom Line:
Chronic health problems are a choice, or rather a lack of choice when prevention is possible. It is quite possible to reverse most chronic health issues, it’s just a lot easier to prevent them in the first place. Take stock of where your health is today and where it will be in twenty years based on your current lifestyle.

November 3, 2016 National Institutes of Health

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