Surprising statistics on chronic diseases in the U.S. — and how to manage them

Kaiser Permanente

Sponsored - Six in 10 American adults suffer from at least one chronic disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More alarming is that 4 in 10 American adults suffer from two or more chronic diseases.

Those conditions — including cancer, diabetes, stroke, heart disease, respiratory diseases, arthritis, obesity, and oral diseases — can have consequences that hamper quality of life and lead to hospitalizations and even death.

Chronic diseases can affect a person’s ability to perform important activities in their personal and professional life, limiting their day-to-day activity and enjoyment of time spent with family and friends. They are particularly prevalent among older Americans. The National Council on Aging cites data that “68.4% of Medicare beneficiaries have two or more chronic diseases and 36.4% have four or more.”

In many instances, however, chronic conditions can be managed. That treatment may include medications and lifestyle changes. It also requires collaboration between physicians and patients to create a partnership for improving health outcomes.

A collaborative effort

Doctors may be experts in the field of medicine, but patients themselves are experts on their day-to-day experiences. An active patient working with a care team can lead to optimal results in the treatment of chronic conditions.

An active patient is one who is willing to ask questions and answer their doctors’ questions in as much detail as possible. It also means working with your entire care team from your physician on down — which may include speaking to a nurse practitioner on the phone or through a patient portal and talking with other experts, such as social workers on questions related to insurance. Health plans that are connected, like Kaiser Permanente, are uniquely built to create an atmosphere of transparency and collaboration.

One of the most important aspects of being an active patient is to make a plan and understand your role in that plan to help your health improve. An active patient understands the next step he or she should take. It’s a good idea to take notes or bring a support person to your appointments. You can be more confident in your plan when you have these resources.

Knowledge is power

Your care plan is likely to include information about how to manage your condition, but knowledge can extend beyond baseline information. Some health systems offer workshops to help patients learn how to manage their conditions. These workshops can have many benefits. Among them: increased confidence in communication with care providers, fewer symptoms of a condition and an uptick in energy.

The right information can lead to patients making lifestyle changes that can improve their condition. Cardiovascular diseases —including peripheral arterial disease, stroke, chronic kidney disease, abdominal aortic aneurysm, diabetes, and heart disease — are examples of treatable chronic conditions.

Workshops provided to patients can offer insight on the risk factors that may lead to their condition worsening and methods to improve health outcomes. For cardiovascular diseases, those interventions include maintaining a healthy weight, increasing activity, and moving to a diet that largely consists of foods that are low in fat and high in fiber.

The role an individual plays in improving their own health can be vital. A recent look at the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program — a set of interactive workshops for adults suffering from chronic diseases —found that individuals armed with the right information can make major strides in their health outcomes. The National Council on Aging found that participants in those programs had “improved health status in six indicators: fatigue, shortness of breath, depression, pain, stress and sleep problems.”

See how Kaiser Permanente helps you manage your chronic conditions related to Heart Disease (PHASE), Cancer and Neurology.

—Hailey Childers for Kaiser Permanente