The True Cost of Chronic Disease

by Cynthia McMurray

Right now, chronic disease accounts for 7 of the 10 leading causes of death in the United States and affects the quality of life of over 130 million Americans each year. As well, 75 cents of every dollar spent on health care in the US in 2006 was on people with one or more chronic illnesses. That translates to $1.58 trillion of taxpayer’s hard-earned money. And while these numbers are indeed alarming, what is more astounding is that up to 90 percent of chronic diseases are actually preventable.

Many chronic diseases are caused by a simple lack of proper nutrition. Sadly, 3 out of every 4 Americans are now overweight, with 33 percent considered obese. Given these numbers researchers also predict 1 in 3 children born in 2000 will develop diabetes (33 percent of all boys and 39 percent of girls). Add to this a general lack of regular exercise and other poor lifestyle choices we make on a daily basis and it’s not surprising the US ranks only 24th on the list of the world’s healthiest countries. In fact, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the average life expectancy of a US male born in 1999 is only 67.5 years. Females rank only slightly better, averaging 72.6 years.

This rise in chronic disease accounts for close to 75 percent of the overall increase in health care spending in the last two decades. And statistics show the majority of current spending goes to treat people with one or more chronic conditions. Presently, 96 cents of every Medicare dollar is spent on people with chronic illnesses. As well, 83 percent of every Medicaid dollar goes to treat people with chronic illnesses. As bad as these numbers are, they only begin to touch on the indirect cost chronic disease has on our economy.
Millions of work days are missed every year due to illnesses, which ultimately affects our ability to effectively compete in the global market. According to a 2007 study, chronic diseases such as cancers, diabetes, heart disease and stroke, indirectly cost businesses and the economy, through things like absenteeism, lost productivity and substandard work efforts, a whopping $1 trillion a year.

Chronic illnesses account for 99 percent of all doctor’s visits, 92 percent of all in-patient hospital visits and 79 percent of all home health care visits. As well, 82 percent of all prescriptions are written for chronic illnesses.

If we continue along the same path, this scenario is only expected to get worse. By 2023, researchers predict chronic disease to rise by 42 percent, affecting over 230 people throughout the US. Cancer rates are expected to soar 62 percent; diabetes is predicted to rise 53 percent and cases of heart disease are expected to increase another 41 percent. And by the year 2015 (a mere 6 years from now) an unbelievable 75 percent of all Americans are expected to be obese, a huge risk factor for chronic disease. When all is said and done, researchers predict if nothing is done to halt this trend now, chronic disease will ultimately cost the U.S. economy over $4.1 trillion a year by 2035.

The irony of the situation is that we already know the majority of chronic diseases are indeed preventable. We don’t have to sit back helplessly and watch as our family and friends fall prey to things like diabetes and heart disease. We can take steps now to assure our health. Prevention has never been more important than it is right now.

Nutrition is probably one of the most important factors in whether you will eventually succumb to chronic illness. Proper diet and nutritional support through clinically proven vitamins and supplements are key factors. Studies repeatedly show that simply making these nutritional changes alone can significantly decrease your risk of chronic illness. In fact, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates diabetes rates can be cut by as much as 80 percent when dietary changes and other simple behavioural changes are made. Heart disease rates could drop another 80 percent while cancer rates could drop by as much as 40 percent.

Right now, thousands of doctors across the US are using clinically proven nutritional supplements as an effective preventative measure against chronic illness such as diabetes, heart disease and arthritis. As studies show, when it comes to chronic disease, the best intervention is prevention and considering the grim outlook for today’s Americans, there is no better time than now to assure you remain healthy long into the future.

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