Chronic diseases pose a significant threat to the general public. It can be easy for adults in the prime of their lives to overlook the danger of chronic diseases, especially if they feel good and aren’t exhibiting any symptoms to suggest their health is in jeopardy. But overlooking the potential dangers of chronic disease can prove deadly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States. Chronic diseases are costly as well, as recent reports from the Rand Corp. and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services indicate that 90 percent of annual health care expenditures in the United States are for people with chronic and mental health conditions. While there’s no way to guarantee a person won’t develop a chronic disease, avoiding certain risky behaviors can help adults greatly reduce their risk for various chronic diseases.
The CDC notes that tobacco is the leading cause of preventable disease, and not just among smokers. While 34 million adults in the United States smoke cigarettes, 58 million nonsmokers, including children, are exposed to secondhand smoke, which can cause chronic diseases like stroke, lung cancer, and coronary heart disease. Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at increased risk of impaired lung function, acute respiratory infections, middle ear disease, and more frequent and severe asthma attacks.
The value of fruits and vegetables is well-documented. In spite of that, the CDC reports that fewer than 10 percent of adults and adolescents eat enough fruits and vegetables. In addition, the CDC reports that 60 percent of young people between the ages of two and 19 and half of all adults consume a sugary drink on any given day. Such beverages, as well as processed foods, add unnecessary sodium, saturated fats, and sugar to people’s diets, increasing their risk for chronic disease as a result.
Lack of physical activity
The Department of Health and Human Services has issued physical activity guidelines designed to help people improve their overall health and reduce their risk for various diseases. But the CDC reports that just 25 percent of adults and 20 percent of adolescents meet the recommended physical activity guidelines. Low levels of physical activity can contribute to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, and obesity.
Excessive alcohol consumption
The CDC notes that excessive alcohol consumption can cause heart disease, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, and stroke. In addition, the CDC reports that the less alcohol a person drinks, the lower his or her risk of cancer becomes. Chronic diseases are a formidable opponent. But people of all ages can reduce their chances of developing such diseases by avoiding a handful of risky behaviors.