Chronic Disease Definition

by Howard Jamison on September 25, 2009

A chronic disease is one lasting 3 months or more, by the definition of the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics. Chronic diseases are noncommunicable and tend to be age related.

It has been reported that 90% of seniors have at least one chronic disease, and 77% of them have two or more chronic diseases!

The leading chronic diseases in developed countries include (in alphabetical order) arthritis, cardiovascular disease such as heart attacks and stroke, cancer such as breast and colon cancer, diabetes, epilepsy and seizures, obesity, and oral health problems. Each of these conditions plague older adults in the US (and other developed nations).

Cardiovascular diseases, including heart disease and stroke, are the first and third leading causes of death. See chart below.

Seven of every 10 Americans who die each year, or more than 1.7 million people, die of a chronic disease. The prolonged course of illness and disability from such chronic diseases as diabetes and arthritis results in extended pain and suffering and decreased quality of life for millions of Americans. Chronic, disabling conditions cause major limitations in activity for more than one of every 10 Americans, or 25 million people.

Costs of Chronic Disease

The United States cannot effectively address escalating health care costs without addressing the problem of chronic diseases:

* In 2005, 133 million people, almost half of all Americans lived with at least one chronic health condition.
* Chronic diseases account for 70% of all deaths in the United States.
* The medical care costs of people with chronic illnesses account for more than 75% of the nation’s $2 trillion medical care costs.
* Chronic diseases account for one-third of the years of potential life lost before age 65.
* The direct and indirect costs of diabetes is $174 billion a year.
* Each year, arthritis results in estimated medical care costs of nearly $81 billion, and estimated total costs (medical care and lost productivity) of $128 billion.
* The estimated direct and indirect costs associated with smoking exceed $193 billion annually.
* In 2008, the cost of heart disease and stroke in the U.S. is projected to be $448 billion.
* The estimated total costs of obesity was nearly $117 billion in 2000.
* Cancer costs the nation an estimated $89 billion annually in direct medical costs.
* Nearly $98.6 billion is spent on dental services each year.

Doctors who treat chronic diseases:

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