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The most common health conditions affecting Americans

  • Top health conditions affecting Americans
    1/ Pixabay

    Top health conditions affecting Americans

    Although the United States is the richest country in the world, huge chunks of the American population suffer from poor health. Many of the country's poorest citizens—those who are already the most vulnerable to significant health problems—live in so-called food deserts where affordable fresh vegetables and other healthy foods are simply not available. A University of North Carolina study found there are five fast-food joints for every grocery store in the country; obesity is at epidemic levels; unhealthy processed foods are staples of the American diet, and pharmaceutical companies make billions of dollars developing drugs that many people need to take indefinitely just to stay alive.

    Not all conditions, however, have the same impact on the population. Millions of Americans suffer from mental and physical health ailments that are so prevalent that the most common among them affect double-digit percentages of the public.

    Using 2017 data from the BlueCross BlueShield (BCBS) National Health Index, Stacker developed a list of the top 10 medical conditions that have the biggest impact on the health of Americans. According to BCBS, “a condition's impact is the amount it reduces health for a population, accounting for both prevalence and severity. Health conditions drive the gap between optimal health and a health index score for a population.” The conditions are ranked by national impact, and the first two data points in each slide are nationwide statistics while the last point looks only at states that were categorized as “Less Healthy” by the Health Index.

    The list is ranked in ascending order from the conditions that have the least impact to those that have the most. The article explains which conditions have the most significant impact and which states have the highest instances of each condition. It also explains the details of the conditions themselves, how to recognize them, and in some cases, how to prevent them or reduce their impact on a person's health.

    Read on to learn about the top 10 medical conditions impacting Americans. 

    You may also like: Health risk factors that lead to the most deaths

  • #10. Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis
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    #10. Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis

    - National impact: 2.5% of all adverse health conditions in America
    - Affects: 1 of every 100 people
    - States where the condition is most prevalent: Washington D.C. (40.9% greater than national impact), Maryland (28.5% greater than national impact), Alaska (24.5% greater than national impact)

    Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are the two primary inflammatory bowel diseases. Although chronic inflammation of the digestive tract is the hallmark of both, there are differences between the two ailments. According to UCLA Health, ulcerative colitis attacks only the colon while “Crohn's disease can occur anywhere between the mouth and the anus.” Ulcerative colitis creates continuous inflammation, but only in the innermost lining of the colon, while Crohn's disease includes both healthy and inflamed tissue and can reach all layers of the bowel wall. The symptoms of both, however, are very similar, they both affect women and men equally, and the causes of both are unknown.

  • #9. Psychotic disorders
    3/ photoagraphee.eu // Shutterstock

    #9. Psychotic disorders

    - National impact: 2.7% of all adverse health conditions in America
    - Affects: 1 of every 100 people
    - States where the condition is most prevalent: Massachusetts (43.6% greater than national impact), Utah (31.8% greater than national impact), Connecticut (26% greater than national impact)

    Psychotic disorders are severe mental illnesses that involve periods of psychosis, which are characterized by hallucinations, delusions, or other abnormal thoughts and perceptions, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder, but other conditions like bipolar disorder can include periods of psychosis, as can brain infections, brain tumors, and strokes. There is no single cause for psychotic disorders, which can be genetic, but can also be exacerbated by external factors such as drug use or stress. Uncharacteristic behavior or behavior that is not appropriate for a given situation can indicate the onset of a psychotic disorder, as can a decline in self-hygiene, confused or incoherent speech, paranoia, or a sudden decline in academic or work performance.

  • #8. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
    4/ Alfaz Sayed // Unsplash

    #8. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

    - National impact: 3.1% of all adverse health conditions in America
    - Affects: 2 of every 100 people
    - States where the condition is most prevalent: Hawaii (63.2% greater than national impact), Mississippi (62.5% greater than national impact), West Virginia (51.3% greater than national impact)

    Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an overarching term that includes emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and refractory (non-reversible) asthma. These progressive lung diseases, which are characterized by increasingly short breath and significant coughing, are incurable, but symptoms can be managed in many cases. COPD may be genetic or it can be the result of external pollutants, but the single biggest cause is also the most preventable: smoking. According to the COPD Foundation, cancer, sleep apnea, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, depression, arthritis, and osteoporosis appear to be more common among COPD sufferers than people with other illnesses.

  • #7. Substance use disorder
    5/ Victor Moussa // Shutterstock

    #7. Substance use disorder

    - National impact: 3.5% of all adverse health conditions in America
    - Affects: 1 of every 100 people
    - States where the condition is most prevalent: Vermont (28% greater than national impact), New Hampshire (24.1% greater than national impact), Oregon (15.6% greater than national impact)

    Substance use disorder refers to the dependence on or the reckless, excessive, or dangerous use of drugs or other intoxicating or mind-altering substances. Substance use disorder can be the root cause of poor mental and physical health, as well as negative social and physical changes, and it is often characterized by stressed relationships, legal problems, financial crises, and exposure to dangerous or hazardous situations. Two out of three overdose deaths in the United States are from illicit or prescription opioids. Likewise, two of the three states most impacted by substance use disorder are New Hampshire and Vermont, and the opioid epidemic has been deadlier in New England than anywhere else in the U.S., according to Yankee Magazine.

  • #6. Alcohol use disorder
    6/ Pixabay

    #6. Alcohol use disorder

    - National impact: 3.6% of all adverse health conditions in America
    - Affects: 1 of every 100 people
    - States where the condition is most prevalent: Vermont (68.8% greater than national impact), Alaska (33.4% greater than national impact), Utah (26.6% greater than national impact)

    “Problem drinking that becomes severe is given the medical diagnosis of ‘alcohol use disorder' or AUD,” according to the National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism (NIAA). The condition is characterized by a negative state of mind when not consuming alcohol and compulsive use or a lack of control over drinking. NIAA reports about 16 million Americans are believed to be grappling with AUD, which comes with symptoms like failed attempts to stop drinking, continuing drinking even though the habit is causing problems with family, school, or work, increased tolerance, withdrawal during periods of sobriety, and being in hazardous or dangerous situations like drunk driving or unsafe sex.

  • #5. Type 2 diabetes
    7/ Eviart // Shutterstock

    #5. Type 2 diabetes

    - National impact: 5.4% of all adverse health conditions in America
    - Affects: 7 of every 100 people
    - States where the condition is most prevalent: Hawaii (39.5% greater than national impact), Tennessee (37.1% greater than national impact), Louisiana (35.7% greater than national impact)

    Also called hyperglycemia, type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, which is an ailment that results from blood glucose, or sugar, levels being too high. Increased thirst and hunger, frequent urination, unintended weight gain, frequent infections, and fatigue are among the most common symptoms, which often progress slowly, according to the Mayo Clinic. While family history, race, age, and other factors can play a role, excessive weight—especially excess fat around the waist—and lack of activity are the most common contributors by far. Louisiana, one of three states where the condition is most prevalent, is one of the seven most obese states, where more than 35% of the population is dangerously overweight, according to the CDC.

  • #4. Coronary artery disease
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    #4. Coronary artery disease

    - National impact: 7.7% of all adverse health conditions in America
    - Affects: 4 of every 100 people
    - States where the condition is most prevalent: Hawaii (36.2% greater than national impact), New Mexico (29.6% greater than national impact), Maryland (29.3% greater than national impact)

    Coronary artery disease is caused by a narrowing or blockage—sometimes called hardening or clogging—of the coronary arteries. It's caused by plaques, which are buildups of cholesterol and fatty deposits, collecting on the inside of the artery walls and restricting blood flow to the heart. The condition, which causes heart pain called angina and can lead to heart attacks, affects 16.5 million Americans, according to the Cleveland Clinic. It disproportionately affects men, particularly men over the age of 65, African Americans, native Hawaiians, Mexican Americans, Native Americans, and some Asian Americans.

  • #3. High cholesterol
    9/ Lightspring // Shutterstock

    #3. High cholesterol

    - National impact: 8.2% of all adverse health conditions in America
    - Affects: 22 of every 100 people
    - States where the condition is most prevalent: Hawaii (80.5% greater than national impact), Florida (45.5% greater than national impact), Nevada (23.1% greater than national impact)

    Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in the blood that the body needs to build healthy cells. Too much, however, creates blood-flow-restricting deposits that increase the risk of heart disease. When cholesterol deposits break off and form clots, they can cause strokes and heart attacks. High cholesterol, which has no symptoms and can only be detected through blood tests, can be inherited, but in most cases, it results from obesity, poor diet, and unhealthy lifestyle choices like smoking and lack of exercise, according to the Mayo Clinic.

  • #2. Major depression
    10/ Pixabay

    #2. Major depression

    - National impact: 9.6% of all adverse health conditions in America
    - Affects: 5 of every 100 people
    - States where the condition is most prevalent: Utah (82.1% greater than national impact), Idaho (52% greater than national impact), Iowa (43.6% greater than national impact)

    Major depression is sometimes called major depressive or unipolar disorder. It's estimated that 20%–26% of women will report suffering from major depression in their lifetimes, compared to 8%–12% of men, with women suffering the greatest risk around the times of puberty, menopause, and childbirth. Depression, which sometimes occurs with other mental disorders, can have a genetic component and is characterized by an overall feeling of melancholy and disinterest in activities that were once exciting. Symptoms include irritability, agitation, lack of focus, suicidal thoughts, weight loss or gain, excessive sleeping, and withdrawal from friends, family, and social circles.

  • #1. Hypertension
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    #1. Hypertension

    - National impact: 12.1% of all adverse health conditions in America
    - Affects: 22 of every 100 people
    - States where the condition is most prevalent: Alabama (49.3% greater than national impact), Mississippi (39.3% greater than national impact), Arkansas (36.3% greater than national impact)

    Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is both common and dangerous, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). About 75 million Americans suffer from hypertension, and only about half have their high blood pressure under control. Since it has no symptoms, hypertension is often called the “silent killer,” and is now being diagnosed in greater numbers of young people and children. Those who suffer from hypertension are at greater risk for stroke and heart attacks, two of the leading causes of death in the United States.

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