GENERATIONS – Journal of the American Society on Aging

Chronic Conditions, from A to Z By Kathleen A. Cameron

Life expectancy is lower in America than in other developed nations, mainly due to the toll of chronic conditions, many of which are preventable.

L ife expectancy has increased notably since the beginning of the twentieth century, due to improvements in public health, nutrition, and medical technology. Today, the 10,000 baby boomers turning age 65 every day can expect to live another eighteen years (for men) to twenty years (for women) (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2018). However, the United States falls behind many countries in life expectancy, including Japan, Canada, most European and Scandinavian coun- tries, and Australia. Millions of older adults in America struggle daily with challenges associ- ated with chronic conditions, which are the lead- ing causes of disability and death in the nation; these conditions explain, in large part, the dif- ferences in life expectancy between America and other countries (Heron, 2018). Good health is essential to ensuring longev- ity, as are independence, connectedness, sense of ‘The United States falls behind many countries in life expectancy.’

purpose, and security. Prevention and manage- ment of chronic conditions are key to maximiz- ing health, well-being, and longevity. Facts About Chronic Conditions Among Older Adults Chronic conditions are defined broadly as con- ditions that last one year or more and require ongoing medical attention, limit activities of daily living, or both. As shown in Figure 1 (see page 8), the top three conditions with the highest prevalence rates are hypertension (59 percent), hyperlipidemia (46 percent), and rheumatoid- osteoarthritis (33 percent). Nearly 30 percent of older adults has a diagnosis of ischemic heart disease (28 percent) and-or diabetes (28 percent). Anemia, chronic kidney disease, and depression each are present in about 20 percent of the Medi- care population (Centers for Medicare & Medi­ caid Services [CMS], 2016). Due to advances in treatment, certain can- cers such as ovarian, chronic leukemias, and some lymphomas, as well as HIV/AIDS, are now considered chronic conditions (American Cancer Society, 2018; Siddigi et al., 2016). Alzheimer’s

abstract This article lays out what is known about the common chronic conditions in older adults, which segments of this population are most affected, and causation of conditions. The top three conditions in older adults are hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and arthritis. Chronic conditions, which have significant personal impacts on those affected, are the primary drivers of healthcare spending in the United States. Racial-ethnic, geographic, and socioeconomic groups are disproportionately impact- ed by chronic disease with causation tied to behaviors, socioeconomics, genetics, healthcare access and quality, and the environment. | key words: chronic conditions, older adults, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, arthritis, prevention

8 | Spring 2019

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