Disease is defined as any state in which there is a deterioration of the health of the human organism. Although when thinking about pathology we often turn to viral or bacterial infections, the reality is that non-communicable conditions dominate the medical field. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 74% of global deaths are caused by diseases that are not contagious, such as cancers, chronic respiratory problems, diabetes and more.
Some of the non-communicable diseases are acute and short-lived if they are treated with the right medications and therapies. On the other hand, there are various conditions that can only be addressed by relieving symptoms and preventing progression, as there is no clear cure for them. In the following sections, we show you which are the most common chronic diseases.
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What is Chronic Disease?
Chronic diseases are conditions of long duration and, generally, of slow progression. There is no consensus figure to delimit this definition, but in general, a condition that lasts longer than 3-6 months, is highly prevalent and non-curable, is considered chronic. According to epidemiological studies , up to 57% of the adult population in high-income regions has more than one chronic disease, so this pathological group represents a real challenge both clinically and socially.
10 Most Common Chronic Diseases
Chronic diseases are much more common in old age and up to 80% of people have at least one of these conditions after the age of 65. Here we are presenting the 10 most common chronic diseases and their epidemiological figures.
According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), hypertension is the most common chronic disease in adults , affecting 58% of this population group. This condition is diagnosed when the maximum value of blood pressure is equal to or exceeds 140 mmHg and the minimum value is equal to 90 mmHg or higher. More than 1.28 billion people worldwide are hypertensive, but on average half do not know it.
There are 2 types of hypertension: primary, without a clear identifiable cause, and secondary due to an underlying infection. Numerous factors contribute to the development of primary hypertension, such as advancing age, a family history of high blood pressure, sedentary lifestyle, obesity, smoking, and various other risk factors. It is necessary to treat this chronic condition, as it increases the chances of suffering strokes, heart attacks, heart failure or kidney problems, among other complications.
2. High Cholesterol
5-20% of the population has total blood cholesterol levels above 240-250 mg/dl. This chronic condition is asymptomatic on its own, making it very difficult to diagnose unless routine blood tests are performed (at least once a year). There are various diseases that can promote hypercholesterolemia, such as diabetes, chronic kidney disease, HIV infection , hypothyroidism or lupus.
Lifestyle and habits also condition the diagnosis of high cholesterol. Physical inactivity, sedentary lifestyle, obesity and an unbalanced diet are some of the most notable triggering factors. The condition of hypercholesterolemia can lead to the accumulation of plaque on the artery walls, resulting in the development of atherosclerosis, a concerning condition characterized by the narrowing of the arteries. These deposits reduce blood flow and promote serious cardiovascular problems.
Arthritis is one of the most common chronic diseases and 1 in 4 adults are diagnosed with this condition or a similar one of a rheumatic nature. Arthritis is defined as the inflammation and degeneration of one or more joints, mainly its cartilage. This process can be the result of an autoimmune disorder, a bone fracture, joint wear and tear over time, or the formation of crystals. It should be noted that there are more than 100 types of arthritis and not all of them manifest themselves the same.
4. Ischemic Heart Disease
Ischemic heart disease, also known as coronary artery disease, develops when the coronary arteries, responsible for carrying oxygen-rich blood to the heart, experience constriction or blockage. This leads to diminished blood flow to the heart muscle, disrupting the balance of oxygen supply. This condition is closely linked to atherosclerosis and hypercholesterolemia already mentioned, although it can have many other triggers, such as strokes or arteritis.
Risk factors for ischemic heart disease include advanced age, being a man, having a family history of the condition before the age of 50, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes, and unhealthy lifestyle habits. The progression of this condition can occur over time in a gradual manner or manifest suddenly and unexpectedly.
Type 2 diabetes is a prevalent chronic condition seen globally, affecting a significant number of individuals. In this condition, the pancreas does not produce enough insulin and the cells do not respond properly to it, so they cannot use the glucose (a type of sugar) present in the blood to convert it into energy. Thus, blood sugar levels are permanently altered. The incidence of this condition is 8 cases per 1000 inhabitants/year.
Signs and symptoms of this condition develop slowly and include increased thirst, frequent urination, more than normal hunger, fatigue, blurred vision, frequent infections, tingling hands and feet, and more. Healthy eating and regular exercise are essential to control the diabetic condition, but you can also opt for the consumption of certain medications if the target levels are not reached with changes in habits.
6. Chronic Kidney Disease
Chronic kidney disease is the progressive damage and loss of function of the kidneys over time. Such a situation can result in an accumulation of potentially harmful fluids, electrolytes, and waste materials within the body. Diabetes and high blood pressure are the two most common triggers for this condition, although it can also be caused by autoimmune disorders, birth defects, kidney injuries, kidney stones, arterial problems in the kidney region, the use of certain medications, and more.
This condition is slow progressing and signs and symptoms manifest over time. Fluid retention, anemia, bone weakness, decreased immune response, and damage to the central nervous system are some of the clearest complications of chronic kidney disease. Although it is not well known at the informative level, this disorder affects more than 10% of the world population, which results in more than 800 million people.
7. Heart Failure
Heart failure (one of the most common chronic diseases) is the inability of the heart to pump blood in adequate volumes to meet the body’s needs. This condition can be triggered by other heart pathologies, among which ischemic heart disease, but both terms are not interchangeable. In other words, not all insufficiencies are caused by heart disease.
Heart failure can be classified according to the degree of severity of the condition, the side of the heart affected and much more. The estimated rate of affected people ranges from 3 to 20 cases per 1,000 inhabitants and, unfortunately, mortality one year after diagnosis is estimated at 35-45%.
It should not be forgotten that many chronic illnesses are of a more psychiatric than anatomical nature. According to studies , the probability of developing a major depressive disorder throughout life ranges from 13.2%. The depressive picture is considered to be of a chronic nature when the necessary criteria are met continuously for a period of at least 2 years.
At this point, we remember that depression is the world’s leading cause of disability. Additionally, 2-15% of patients with major depressive disorder end up taking their own life. With these figures, we want to exemplify that depression must be taken seriously and in the event of any altered mental state sustained over time, urgent psychological attention is required.
9. Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Forms of Dementia
The term dementia does not refer to a specific disease, but rather to a disturbance in the ability to remember, think, make decisions, and more. In general, a loss of brain function that occurs as a consequence of various pathologies is known as dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, but other variants such as vascular, frontotemporal or mixed dementia must also be taken into account.
A person is diagnosed with dementia anywhere in the world every 3 seconds. In addition, due to an increasingly aging population, its prevalence has increased by more than 140% in recent decades. There is no cure for most types of dementia, but the symptoms can be alleviated with the right medications and therapy.
10. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
This is the last of the chronic diseases on our list and affects 11% of people over 65 years of age. COPD refers to a group of pathologies that cause obstruction of air circulation and cause problems related to the respiratory process. Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are the two primary conditions often linked to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
This chronic condition progressively worsens, but it is manageable with appropriate treatment. In high-income countries, its main cause is smoking, so quitting smoking is the first step to alleviate the symptoms in almost all cases. Certain medications, including bronchodilators and inhaled steroids, have shown effectiveness in enhancing the well-being of individuals.
Living With a Chronic Disease
The experience of living with a chronic disease can profoundly influence the physical and emotional aspects of one’s overall well-being. To promote mental peace and overall well-being while managing a chronic disease, consider the following strategies:
Acceptance and Mindset
Acknowledge your condition and embrace a mindset of acceptance. Accept that your life may differ due to the chronic disease, but it does not define you. Direct your attention towards the aspects within your control and explore creative avenues to adapt and enhance your circumstances.
Embrace self-care practices that foster tranquility and inner peace. Dedicate time to activities that bring you joy, such as indulging in hobbies, immersing yourself in a captivating book, savoring the soothing melodies of music, or embracing the serenity of mindfulness and meditation. Prioritizing moments of self-reflection and rejuvenation can effectively diminish stress levels and enhance your overall well-being.
Find healthy ways to express and manage your emotions related to your chronic condition. This can include journaling, talking to a therapist or counselor, or joining support groups where you can openly discuss your feelings and experiences.
Practice Stress Management
Chronic diseases can be stressful, and managing stress is crucial for mental peace. Incorporate stress management techniques into your daily routine, such as
- deep breathing exercises
- practicing mindfulness
- engaging in physical activity
- seeking relaxation therapies like yoga or tai chi.
Remember that each person’s journey with a chronic disease is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Explore various strategies and discover which resonate with you, integrating them into your daily routine for lasting impact and positive change. By prioritizing mental peace and well-being, you can enhance your overall quality of life while managing your chronic disease.
Living Well with Chronic Disease: Supportive Care at Desert Inn Medical Clinic
Experience personalized care and support at Desert Inn Medical Clinic as we understand the impact of chronic diseases on your well-being. Our compassionate team of healthcare professionals is here to provide comprehensive care and help you navigate the complexities of living with a chronic condition.
Our team is dedicated to addressing not only the physical aspects of your condition but also the emotional and social aspects. We provide a supportive environment where you can openly discuss your concerns and receive the necessary guidance and resources to manage your condition effectively.
With our expertise and ongoing commitment to your well-being, we are here to help you navigate the challenges of living with a chronic disease. Together, we can develop strategies to optimize your health, improve symptom management, and promote a fulfilling life, empowering you to live well despite your condition.