It’s become increasing clear that in order to be healthier as a community, state and country, we need to do a better job of preventing and managing chronic disease.
Also known as chronic conditions, chronic disease affects millions of people in the U.S., representing the leading cause of death, and resulting in hundreds of billions of dollars in medical costs each year.
Looking at these statistics, it’s obvious that chronic disease is the main source of health problems in the U.S., yet many don’t know what chronic disease or how we can combat it.
What is chronic disease?
The famous Chinese general Sun Tzu said that one of the first steps in preparing for a battle is to know your enemy, so let’s get a better understanding of chronic disease:·
- A chronic disease is any condition that persist for three months and longer.·
- The most common chronic diseases are heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and arthritis. Other examples include depression, sleep apnea and autoimmune diseases.·
- Chronic disease tends to become more common with age.
- Chronic disease is widespread. Reports in 2012 showed that about half of all U.S. adults (117 million people) had one or more chronic health conditions, and one in four adults had two or more chronic health conditions.
What are the effects of chronic disease?
There may be no more powerful enemy to good health in the U.S. than chronic disease.
In 2010, seven of the 10 leading causes of death in the U.S. were chronic diseases, with heart disease and cancer causing approximately 48% of all American deaths.
It is truly a scourge on the country that causes not just physical and emotional pain, but financial hardship as well.
Eighty-six percent of all health care spending in 2010 was for people with one or more chronic medical conditions. This means massive costs for families, our healthcare system and our country as a whole, including:
- An estimated $315.4 billion for heart disease and stroke ($193.4 billion of which was for direct medical costs, not including costs of nursing home care)·
- A total estimated cost of $245 billion for diagnosed diabetes, including $176 billion in direct medical costs and $69 billion in decreased productivity (costs associated with people being absent from work, being less productive while at work, or being disabled due to their diabetes)
- More than $150 billion for cancer care
- About $128 billion for arthritis and related conditions, of which nearly $81 billion was for direct medical costs and $47 billion was for indirect costs associated with lost earnings
What can we do?
Sun Tzu’s advice didn’t stop at just learning about your foe. He is also quoted as saying that knowing yourself is more important to victory.
This advice rings true when considering chronic disease. In many instances, prevention and limiting or better managing the harmful side effects of chronic disease comes down to how we treat our bodies.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, much of the illness, suffering and early death related to chronic disease are the result of just four health risk behaviors: Lack of exercise or physical activity; poor nutrition; tobacco use; and drinking too much alcohol. Read a blog by Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, about this finding.
In addition to causing chronic disease, these behaviors can also result in those diagnosed with a chronic disease to live in a constant cycle of being admitted and readmitted to hospitals because of their disease.
Our battle plan is simple – we have to know ourselves. Are you and your loved ones making a commitment to being more active? Are you being more aware of what your putting in your body – be it food, tobacco or alcohol? If you have a chronic disease or have a loved one with a chronic disease, are you working to take control of the side effects and improving the quality of life?
When we can affirmatively answer these questions, then we’ll be on the path to victory over chronic disease.
Griffin can help
Griffin Hospital’s Center for Prevention and Lifestyle Management is committed to helping individuals improve their health and vitality and take proactive steps to prevent or effectively manage chronic diseases.
The Center offers a wide range of educational programs, support groups and community events, with Griffin Hospital health experts available to provide personalized information, coaching and services to help achieve optimal health.
Griffin hosts free Chronic Disease Self-Management Workshops throughout the year and there is one starting Tuesday, Aug. 25 at the hospital. Space is limited, so register today.
You can also visit our website to learn more about programs and how you can start winning the fight against chronic disease.