Disease Trends in the United States
About 4.5% of the world’s population comprises of the people of United States (U.S.). The country has the world’s third largest population and statistical analysis shows that approximately 155 million people have been added to the U.S. population and figures have increased by nearly 105% in the past 50 years (Kotkin, 2010). In addition, the U.S. population has also experienced a qualitative change. According to the Population Reference Bureau, it has become greater, older and increasingly varied (Kotkin, 2010). Females over the age of 45 continue to outnumber the males in similar age groups; however, this ratio is decreasing day by day. But the most significant change in U.S. population trends is the increase in the size of the bands of 70+ and 80+ in the demographic models, which shows that average life expectancy is increasing and is predicted to do so even more in the upcoming years (Kotkin, 2010).
There are many factors responsible for these changes in the age trends. Life expectancy has greatly increased with the increase in scientific advancements. For example, rate of infant mortality was previously quite high due to the diseases caused by drinking of contaminated water. However, recent technological advances have helped overcome this problem by installation of filtration plants and chlorination of drinking water, thus reducing the infant mortality rate. Some other environmental factors involved in the changing age trends are the distinct decline in the use of toxic chemicals such as lead and mercury by chemical factories and better toxicity testing procedure now available to health organizations in the country. By such measures, there is now a lesser chance of people contracting diseases that such toxins cause and can now live a healthier, better and longer life. Excessive sun exposure, over-eating and a sedentary lifestyle has also contributed in accelerating the rate of aging among U.S. residents (Mulvihill, 1995). Therefore, organizations such as Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the U.S. strive hard to minimize the health risks caused by the environmental problems.
With the sharp incline in the rate of aging in the country, the risk of medical complications such as the cardiovascular diseases and diabetes has also been increased. Heart diseases are very likely to occur in women after menopause usually after the age of 55 while in men, after the age of 45 (Hearthealthywomen.org). Moreover, as one gets older, the buildup of fatty deposits in the coronary arteries (atherosclerosis) over the years may become large enough to cause blockages and the blood supply to the heart cut off; the result is angina and/or myocardial infarction (heart attack). Hypertension that is, high blood pressure is also very common in aged patients. Statistical studies show that there are more than 70 million patients who suffer from cardiovascular diseases in America and from amongst these, 40% of them have ages 65 years or above (Hearthealthywomen.org). Moreover, 83% of the deaths that occur due to cardiovascular diseases are of patients aged 65 years or above (Hearthealthywomen.org). So it is expected that with the increase in the percentage of senior citizens in the upcoming years, cardiovascular diseases are to be become even more common in the U.S. society.
The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) has provided enough evidence to conclude that the number of Americans suffering from insulin resistance syndrome is about 70 to 80 million and almost 40% of them are over the age of 65 (Seibel, 2010). The insulin resistance syndrome is the major cause of what we call the type 2 diabetes (Seibel, 2010). Type 2 diabetes usually occurs in middle or old age and the risks of contracting this diseases increase significantly after crossing 45 in both males and females (Seibel, 2010). It is caused by the over-expression of the gene producing catalase in the human mitochondria. Hypertension and raised cholesterol levels which are very common in elderly patients are also responsible for increasing the chances of having this form of diabetes. It is expected that there is to be a further increase in the number of elderly patients with this medical problem.
As a person ages, there is no doubt that the health complications increase in number. To enjoy a healthier and easier living, it is essential that one adopts the ways that reduce the risk of having diseases associated with aging such as those discussed above. The most important way to do this is improving eating habits and exercising routines. Having a high fiber but low fat diet regularly in the middle age can greatly reduce the chance of a person suffering from cardiovascular diseases in later years of life. Many nutritionists advise the inclusion of fruits and vegetables in the diet on a regular basis (Yih, 2012). In addition to that, rest is absolutely necessary for healthy living. Exhaustion, stress and depression result in acceleration of the aging process. Keeping your blood pressure normal is also important; high blood pressure can cause damage to arterial wall or cause arteriosclerosis, which can result in cardiovascular diseases later. Other than that, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can also result in a person falling ill with serious medical conditions such as lung cancer, cirrhosis and cardiovascular diseases so people should avoid developing such habits (Yih, 2012). Lastly but most importantly, it is very important to have regular medical checkups through every stage in life so that the medical staff can keep a check on one’s health and advise accordingly. All these measures can be taken easily and undoubtedly play a vital role in slowing down the aging process and its associated complications.
Another major health issue that has been increasingly common in the U.S. over the past few years of obesity. Obesity rates in U.S. continue to top all the charts related to the subject. In the period from 1997 to 2010, obesity rates have increased significantly from 19.4% to 35.7% and are even expected to continue to do so in the upcoming years (Wihbey, 2012). Studies have also shown that obesity has a higher rate percentage among females as compared to males but it has rather become steady now; in contrast, the obesity rate in men has been increasing in the past few years, as shown by the surveys of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) (Wihbey, 2012). Moreover, obesity rates in U.S. children have also inflated to upto 19.6% over the last three decades. It is predicted that the obesity rate will continue to increase in the upcoming decades with the greatest number of obesity cases being found in people having ages between 30 and 65.
The Cleveland Clinic suggests that environment has a major role to play in the spread of obesity. It is the effect of the environment coupled with the genetic factors that determines the body weight of a person (Finkelstein & Zuckerman, 2008). Nutrients and health officials have called the modern society ‘obesogenic’ which means that it has the potential to promote obesity (Finkelstein & Zuckerman, 2008). In such an obesogenic society, food intake is rich in energy but physical activity is quite minimized. Technological advances in the 21st century have reduced the need of physical activity of the people (Finkelstein & Zuckerman, 2008). In times when even menial tasks like dishwashing and opening the garage door was done by hand, obesity rates were definitely low. But now that machines have replaced the human activities, there is no surprise that obesity is becoming more and more common every passing day. Moreover, the types of foods being consumed in the U.S. society today are also fattening and high in calorific value, which greatly contributes in increasing body weights nowadays; this coupled with fewer options for exercise and healthy living available currently has made it tough for people to lead a healthy lifestyle and thus obesity prevails in the U.S. society (Finkelstein & Zuckerman, 2008).
Obesity has similar effects as that of aging and is also responsible for increasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes in the U.S. People who weigh 20% or more above the ideal limit and possess a lot of abdominal fat have very significant chances of suffering from cardiovascular diseases (Scott, 2010). It is understood that an obese person has a lot of body fat; more body fat means more mass and more mass means more blood is pumped to the body per unit time as compared to a person who is not obese. This in turn causes the heart to work harder and it may become strained and as a result, heart failures are very common in people suffering from obesity. Moreover, vigorous pumping of the blood at a rate higher than the normal usually results in obese patients suffering from hypertension as well. This, in addition to the increased rate of atherosclerosis in obese patients, also leads to higher chances of stroke and heart attacks in such patients (Scott, 2010). Overworking of the heart can also increase the chances of experiencing a cardiac arrest.
Considerable increase in the occurrence of Type 2 diabetes has also been observed in the United States in correlation with the increase in the obesity rate. Studies show that maintaining an ideal body weight or losing only about 5 to 7% of your weight greatly helps in reducing the chances of getting diabetes (Manzella, 2006). Statistical studies from the Center for Disease Control and prevention (CDC) show that nearly 80% of the people suffering from type 2 diabetes in the U.S. are either obsess or overweight (Manzella, 2006). This is because obesity increases resistance to insulin and intolerance of glucose, which are the major complications in this type of diabetes. Being obese also complicates the treatment for diabetes difficult by making the effects of the drugs being used less effective.
Reducing the rate of obesity in a society or country calls for a more active and healthy lifestyle. The most important way to ensure this is to increase the amount of time spent outdoors. Walks, jogging and gym are all good ways to exercise regularly and stay fit (Pennings, 2001). It is also important that one enjoys these exercises and look forward to doing them; laziness reduces the effectiveness of such kind of activities. Moreover, it is essential that the inclusion of fast food in the diet on a daily basis is strictly discourages, especially in children. Rather, one should prefer the inclusion of appreciable servings of fruits and vegetables in the diet. Restaurants should also make low — calorie, nutritious food items more available while governments should undertake the tasks of building parks and sidewalks so that people are attracted outdoors, away from their usual sedentary lifestyle of today (Pennings, 2001).
The change in the aging trends over the years has resulted in putting immense pressure on the health care system of the country. At such rates, the 80+ age group will be the fastest growing among the whole U.S. population. Increase in divorces in the current scenario and infertility cases can eventually lead to reduction in the ability of families to take care of the increasing number of old who requires long-tem services (AHRQ Task Force on Aging, 2001). Such demographic trends thus raise the concern that health care facilities will become more expensive in the future. It is expected however, that efforts will be made to coordinate the research being carried with the complications of aging in an attempt to provide better facilities. Health care facilities regarding obesity also require major improvement as it causes serious chronic illnesses which require good treatment and intensive care. With the increasing rate of obesity in the country, the need of proper nutrition guide is essential in the health systems as well. In conclusion, the health facilities in the country should be improved to meet the demands of the upcoming years and the medical complications they bring with themselves.
AHRQ Task Force on Aging., Bierman, A.S., Spector, W.D., & United States. (2001). Improving the health and health care of older Americans: A report of the AHRQ Task Force on Aging. Rockville, Md: Dept. Of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
Hearthealthywomen.org. (n.d.). Aging and heart disease. Retrieved from http://www.hearthealthywomen.org/am-i-at-risk/age-a-menopause/age-a-menopause.html
Finkelstein, E., & Zuckerman, L. (2008). The fattening of America: How the economy makes us fat, if it matters, and what to do about it. Hoboken, N.J: Wiley.
Kotkin, J. (2010, August). The changing demographics of america. Smithsonian magazine, Retrieved from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/specialsections/40th-anniversary/The-Changing-Demographics-of-America.html
Manzella, D. (2006, October 25). Obesity and type 2 diabetes: Extra weight increases risk. Retrieved from http://diabetes.about.com/od/symptomsdiagnosis/a/obesity.htm
Mulvihill, M.L. (1995). Human diseases: A systemic approach. Norwalk, Conn: Appleton & Lange.
Pennings, J.L. (2001). Factors contributing to obesity. Retrieved from http://ww2.krem.com/Global/story.asp?S=2009937
Scott, J.R. (2010, November 05). The link between weight and heart disease. Retrieved from http://weightloss.about.com/od/obesityhealth/a/heartdisease.htm
Seibel, J.A. (2010, Febuary 25). Type 2 diabetes risk factors. Retrieved from http://diabetes.webmd.com/guide/risk-diabetes
Wihbey, J. (2012, January 05). U.s. obesity trends and neighborhood effects. Retrieved from http://journalistsresource.org/studies/society/health/u-s-obesity-trends-neighborhood-effects/
Yih, L. (2012, June 15). 10 ways to reduce the risks of health problems. Retrieved from http://retirehappyblog.ca/10-ways-to-reduce-the-risks-of-health-problems/
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