The 10 most common health conditions in the United States are heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, obesity, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, substance abuse disorders, the flu, kidney disease, and mental health conditions.
Many common health conditions can be prevented, diagnosed, and managed through routine screening and lab testing. The more you know about your health, the easier it is to be in control of it. If you don’t know how or where to seek preventative health services, a membership with Mira allows you to book your next appointment in just a few clicks!
The 10 Most Common Health Conditions in the United States
Six out of ten adults in the U.S. have a chronic disease, and four out of ten adults have two or more. Chronic disease is defined as a condition that lasts for more than one year, requires ongoing medical attention, and limits daily activities. Chronic diseases are the leading cause of death and disability in the United States, and the leading driver of the nation’s $3.8 trillion annual health care costs. Infectious diseases are caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites that may spread from person to person. COVID-19 is an example of an infectious disease.
The most common health conditions include both chronic and infectious diseases and vary by age, group, and location. The 10 most common health conditions nationwide are listed below:
- Heart Disease
- Chronic Lower Respiratory Diseases (asthma, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis)
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Substance Abuse
- Influenza and Pneumonia
- Kidney Disease
- Mental Health Conditions
Each year, the National Center for Health Statistics presents U.S. mortality data on deaths and death rates by demographic and medical characteristics. In 2019, life expectancy for the total U.S. population was 78.8 years.
10 leading causes of death in the United States in 2019
The term “heart disease” refers to a number of heart conditions. In the United States, the most common type of heart disease is Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). CAD occurs from a buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries which restricts blood flow to the heart. This can lead to chest pain and eventually heart failure.
Heart disease is most common among the following groups:
- People who smoke
- People who are overweight or obese
- People with a family history of heart disease or heart attack
- People over age 55
Every year around 655,000 Americans die from heart disease, which makes up almost a quarter of all deaths annually. Fortunately, heart disease is preventable and mitigate through changes in diet, lifestyle, and routine cardiovascular screening. The main screening tests for cardiovascular disease are cholesterol screenings, glucose screenings, and c-reactive protein screening.
Risk Factors for Heart Disease
About 108 million US adults (1 in 3) have high blood pressure, one of the risk factors for heart disease. Other leading risk factors for heart disease include:
- High cholesterol
- Unhealthy diet
- Lack of physical inactivity
Cancer is a term used for diseases in which unhealthy cells multiply out of control. These cells, known as free radicals, can spread throughout the body and cause cancer. There are more than 100 types of identifiable cancer.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States. The most prevalent types of cancer are breast, prostate, lung, colon, and melanomas of the skin. Cancer rates vary by location due to environmental factors, screening availability, and differences in health across different geographic, racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups.
Below is a map that shows how the rates of cancer vary across all 50 states.
Rate of New Cancers Cases in the United States, 2018
Risk Factors for Cancer
There are several risk factors for cancer that include genetic predisposition, environmental, and behavioral factors. Leading behavioral risk factors for preventable cancers are smoking, getting too much UV radiation from the sun or tanning beds, and drinking too much alcohol. Some kinds of cancer can be caught early through screening.
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Chronic Lower Respiratory Diseases
Chronic lower respiratory disease (CLRD) refers to three health conditions that affect the lungs including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and asthma. They are characterized by shortness of breath caused by airway obstruction. Typical symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Increased mucus (sputum) production
- Chronic cough
- Racing heartbeat
Risk Factors for Chronic Lower Respiratory Diseases
Cigarette smoking is the number one cause of Chronic Lower Respiratory Diseases, accounting for about 80% of cases. Additionally, exposure to air pollutants, genetic factors, and respiratory infections can cause CLRD. To lower your risk of respiratory diseases, do not smoke or expose yourself to secondhand smoke when possible. It is also important to take precautions to minimize chemicals, dust, and fumes in your home and at work.
Obesity is a health condition where an excessive accumulation of fat presents health risks. Individuals with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above are considered obese. You can calculate your BMI here.
People who are overweight or obese are at increased risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. Oftentimes these conditions come hand in hand. In the United States, 72% of adults are overweight or have obesity.
As the population of the U.S. ages, Alzheimer's Disease is becoming more common. Alzheimer's Disease is a progressive disease that affects memory and brain function. While treatment can help, there are currently no cures for Alzheimer’s.
If you are having difficulty with your memory or organizing your thoughts, you should consider seeing a neurologist to get a screening for Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.
In 2018, 10.5% of Americans had diabetes and there was an additional estimated 7.3 million people living with undiagnosed diabetes. Diabetes occurs when your blood sugar levels, or blood glucose, are too high. Diabetes occurs when the body either fails to make insulin, a hormone that promotes the absorption of glucose from the blood or fails to respond to insulin production.
Type 1 diabetes is genetic and is usually diagnosed at a young age. Type 2 diabetes develops as a result of poor diet and lifestyle choices. Over time, undiagnosed diabetes can cause damage to your eyes, kidneys, and nerves.
There are a few different diabetes screening tests available to help individuals manage their diabetes. Weight control, a healthy diet, and sufficient exercise are all important for controlling type 2 diabetes, in addition to monitoring blood glucose levels and taking insulin as prescribed.
Substance use disorders are most prevalent among people with other mental health conditions. Substance abuse refers to the recurrent use of alcohol and/or drugs that causes problems in work or school, physical health issues, and sometimes financial problems.
You should see a doctor if you cannot stop using a drug or if you are experiencing withdrawal symptoms. A doctor may be able to help you start an intervention to safely stop using any harmful substances.
Influenza and Pneumonia
Influenza, or the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness that causes some or all of the following symptoms:
- Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults
As peak flu season approaches, the best way to protect yourself is by getting a flu shot. Many pharmacies and urgent care centers are providing free flu shots this fall to prevent the spread of the virus.
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Chronic kidney disease (kidney failure) is when your kidneys are not functioning properly, and as a result, are not filtering waste and toxins from your blood. Kidney disease worsens gradually and might go unnoticed for a long time. Diabetes and high blood pressure are the main causes of kidney disease in addition to smoking, obesity, family history of kidney disease, and older age.
Mental Health Conditions
The most common mental health condition in the United States is anxiety, affecting 40 million adults. Anxiety and other mental health conditions can be treated with counseling and medications. Despite the prevalence, many people do not seek treatment due to the cost. Thankfully, Mira offers up to 80% off of prescription drug prices, so you can get the care you need.
Common Health Conditions Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Taking control of your health can be overwhelming if you don’t know where to start or can’t find the time to visit your doctor. The key to a healthy life is being informed and taking the proper steps to seek medical attention or make lifestyle changes when necessary. Below we answer a few questions to help you take control of your health.
What are the main controllable risk factors for chronic health conditions?
The main risk factors for preventable chronic health conditions are excessive alcohol use, lack of physical activity, poor nutrition, and tobacco use. Stopping smoking (or never starting) lowers your risk of heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and lung disease.
What are some tips to stay healthy?
As a Registered Dietician with an M.S. in Human Nutrition, Caitlin Carr shares her tips on staying healthy, “Ideally, we want to act on controllable risk factors. I would recommend an individual to: decrease smoking and intake of saturated and trans fats, increase dietary intake of fiber and nutrients and physical activity throughout the week, and sleep 7-9 hrs/night on average. All of these behaviors positively impact an individual striving for health.
Equally as important as the aforementioned tips, I would encourage someone to develop healthy coping mechanisms, create meaningful friendships and connections, and develop personal values to align their actions to. Lastly, consider how the social determinants of health impact oneself personally and see what changes you, or a collective group, are able to make to stay healthy in your area.”
Why does smoking cause so many health conditions?
Cigarette smoke has chemicals that are poisonous to the human body. Smoking causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease among other chronic health conditions. Addiction is also a disease that affects around 30 million US adults and prevents them from optimal health. Smoking causes:
- High cholesterol
- Blood clots (which can block blood flow to the heart and brain)
- Damage to cells
- Plaque buildup in blood vessels.
- Thickening and narrowing of blood vessels.
Small, daily changes to your lifestyle can significantly benefit your health. By making simple choices like getting enough sleep and eating healthy, you can make healthy behaviors part of your routine.
It is also important to be aware of your family history in case you are at increased risk of any health conditions. Stay up to date with doctor’s visits and routine lab tests with a Mira membership. For only $45 per month, Mira can help you live your healthiest life.
Alexis Bryan MPH, is a recent graduate of Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health. She is passionate about increasing access to care to improve health outcomes. Outside of work, she loves to travel, read, and pay too much attention to her plants.