Chronic disease prevention in the U.S. - Statistics & Facts
The CDC estimates that six in ten adults in the United States currently live with a chronic disease such as cancer, heart disease, or diabetes. Chronic diseases are among the leading causes of death in the United States with heart disease and cancer alone accounting for around 38 percent of all deaths. Nevertheless, many chronic diseases are caused by key risk factors and avoiding these risk factors and following preventative behaviors can greatly reduce one’s risk of developing a chronic disease. The most common ways to prevent chronic diseases include avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol use, healthy eating and managing weight, regularly exercising, getting enough sleep, and regularly screening for certain diseases.
Physical exercise has several benefits and is one of the best ways to prevent chronic diseases. Not only does physical exercise reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer, but it also strengthens muscles and bones, reduces the risk of depression and anxiety, and helps with sleep and weight management. In 2021, around 76 percent of people in the United States reported they participated in physical activity. The most popular forms of physical activity at that time were fitness sports, outdoor sports, and individual sports. It is important to remember that everyone benefits from physical activity no matter their age, ability, or size and that even moderate-intensity activity is beneficial. Perhaps unsurprisingly, rates of physical inactivity increase after the age of 45, with around 34.5 percent of those aged 65 and older engaging in no physical activity. Some of the most common reasons older adults give for not exercising are being tired or lacking energy, health problems, and bad weather.
The importance of screening tests
Screening refers to checking for certain diseases or conditions before symptoms show to quickly diagnose and treat the disease before it worsens. Recommendations for screening vary depending on age, gender, and certain risk factors, but include blood pressure screening, cholesterol screening, diabetes screening, and cancer screenings. The main cancers for which the CDC supports screenings are breast cancer, cervical cancer, colorectal cancer, and lung cancer. Lung cancer screening is generally recommended for older adults who are or recently were heavy smokers, while regular colorectal cancer screenings are recommended for anyone over 45. As of 2018, around 79 percent of those aged 65 to 75 years in the United States reported being up to date with colorectal screenings. However, colorectal cancer screening rates among those aged 50 to 75 years vary significantly by state, with the states of Wyoming, Texas, and Alaska reporting the lowest rates of those who were up to date. Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among women, which is why the United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that women who are 50 to 74 should get a mammogram every two years to screen for breast cancer. In 2020, around 78 percent of women aged 50 to 64 years reported having a mammogram within the past two years.
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