Chronic Disease On the Rise Impacting Health, Finances & Productivity

The Prevalence of Chronic Disease    Your Wellness Lifestyle

The Prevalence of Chronic Disease
 Your Wellness Lifestyle

Course Outline

Learning Objective:

Become aware of the prevalence and types of Chronic Disease in our society.

Behavioral Objective:

Consider your Lifestyle Behaviors around Nutrition, Exercise, Sleep and Stress Management and how they may contributing to your risks of getting one or more Chronic Diseases.

Key Thought:

Chronic Diseases are on the rise, have significant monetary and productivity costs to both the individual and society as a whole, and are reducing quality of life.


Centers for Disease Control

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a national public health institute in the United States. It is a United States federal agency, under the Department of Health and Human Services, and is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia.

Chronic Disease

Chronic diseases are defined broadly as conditions that last 1 year or more and require ongoing medical attention or limit activities of daily living or both.

Healthy Lifestyle Behaviors

Healthy Lifestyle Behaviors can be defined as all the behaviors believed and applied by individuals to be healthy, maintain health, and be protected from diseases.

What Is Chronic Disease?

Everyone has likely heard of chronic diseases. But few people know just how prevalent they are. Nearly half of all Americans have a chronic disease, including young people. One out of every four young adults is too overweight to serve in the military.

We can all do more to combat chronic disease starting with being better educated. There are many facets to explore, including how we can adopt healthier lifestyle behaviors to mitigate our chances of getting chronic disease.

chronic diseases are long-lasting in nature, more than 1 year requiring on-going treatment
6 of each 10 Adults in the USA have a chronic disease.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines chronic disease as a condition "that last(s) 1 year or more and require(s) ongoing medical attention or limit(s) activities of daily living or both."

It does not matter what caused the disease. It does not matter which parts of the body are impacted by the disease. Duration, continuous medical treatment, and disability serve as the bases for the definition.

A person may suffer from multiple chronic diseases at once. In fact, two in five adults in the United States have two or more diseases.

"Chronic" does not mean "incurable." Many chronic diseases have cures. If they don't, they have treatment plans that can decrease the severity of symptoms.

A chronic disease may go away only to resurface later. A person may survive one chronic disease, only to have another one.

An injury may cause medical treatment for a year or longer. But an injury in itself is not a chronic disease unless the injury causes one.

Chronic disease can occur at any point in a person's life. Many diseases are age-related, but even children can get one. A person may be born with a chronic disease, or they may acquire one through life.

What Are the Most Prevalent Chronic Diseases?

There are many diseases that are prevalent. We can break them into categories based on what part of the body they affect. Some diseases may affect multiple parts at once, so this is a rough categorization.

A rare chronic disease can still be devastating. For example klinefelter syndrome is a genetic disorder that affects one in every 650 newborn boys, and increases the risk for a number of ailments, including depression and breast cancer.

Yet the most common diseases are equally devastating. Here are brief descriptions with examples.

Chronic Kidney Disease

The kidneys control the urinary and endocrine systems. They allow wastes to enter the urine and leave the body. They control hormone rates, regulating the acid-base balance in the blood.

Chronic kidney disease means the kidneys cannot filter blood. Excess fluids and wastes build up in the body, triggering cardiovascular disease and organ failure. Increased water consumption can clear out wastes, but more extensive measures are needed.

The kidneys may stop working entirely. Dialysis filters and purifies the blood, allowing the body to continue working. On occasion, a transplant may be needed.

15 percent of American adults have chronic kidney disease. Diabetes is a leading cause of kidney failure, though it is not a kidney disease in itself. High blood sugar rates damage the kidneys because the kidneys have to clean out so much sugar from the blood.

Chronic Lung Disease

The lungs are the center points of the respiratory system. They extract oxygen from the air and bring it into the bloodstream while releasing carbon dioxide.

Chronic lung disease can impact the lungs in a few different ways. Obstructive lung diseases limit the amount of air that can enter the lungs. Obstructive diseases include asthma and COPD. 

Restrictive lung diseases limit the amount of lung tissue that can handle oxygen. Examples include pulmonary fibrosis, which replaces lung cells with connective tissues.

Nine percent of American adults suffer from asthma. Most people with asthma can live full lives. But COPD and fibrosis can cause long-lasting complications, including lung failure and death.

Chronic Heart Disease

The heart is the center point of the cardiovascular system. It pumps blood, carrying oxygen and nutrients throughout the body.

Different diseases can impact the heart in different ways. Coronary artery disease narrows the blood vessels, reducing blood flow to the heart. Cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscles so they cannot pump blood at a high rate.

A heart attack is not in and of itself heart disease. Coronary artery disease causes many heart attacks by reducing the flow of blood to the heart muscle. A heart attack can cause chronic problems if the muscle tissue does not repair itself.

Any heart disease is dangerous. One person dies from a cardiovascular disease every 36 seconds in the United States. Any kind of heart ailment can lead to cardiac arrest or a stroke.

Brain Disease

The most common chronic brain disease is Alzheimer's. The brain wastes away, decreasing in size and function until a person is unable to speak or move.

Alzheimer's disease does not kill people in itself, but it destroys all brain functions. More than five million Americans are living with Alzheimer's.

More and more scientists consider drug addiction to be a chronic disease. Addiction alters the reward system of the brain, skewing it toward drugs and alcohol.

A person needs stronger doses of drugs to receive a rush of dopamine, the pleasure hormone. They may only receive dopamine if they take drugs. This results in a high dependency that does not end until a person receives treatment.

More than 20 million Americans struggle with substance abuse. The categorization of addiction as a brain disease is controversial, but it is becoming more common. More people may be able to receive help if consensus about addiction as a brain disease builds.

Autoimmune Disease

The immune system fights off infections, viruses, and cancer cells. An autoimmune disease occurs when the immune system accidentally attacks healthy body tissues.

HIV/AIDS is one of the most notorious chronic diseases. The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) attacks immune cells, leaving the body open to infection. Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) occurs after HIV has destroyed enough immune cells that the person contracts cancers like Kaposi's sarcoma.

Lupus is another common autoimmune disease. The immune system becomes hyperactive, attacking tissues throughout the body.

Autoimmune diseases are tricky because they attack multiple parts of the body at once. Lupus can impact the skin, joints, kidneys, and heart. 


Cancer occurs when cells grow at an abnormal rate. Healthy cells receive signals to grow, but cancer cells grow without and in spite of signals. Left untreated, cells spread into other tissues and disrupt their progress.

A person can develop cancer in virtually any part of the body. Lung, breast, and colon cancers are among the most common forms.

Cancer might be the most prevalent chronic disease. 40 percent of men and women will receive a cancer diagnosis at some point in their lives. Some people survive one round of cancer, only for their cancer to return.

Death rates are going down. Treatments like omega fatty acids help reduce inflammation and control tumor rates. But the survival rates for brain, pancreatic, and esophageal cancer remain low.

What Are the Costs of Chronic Diseases?

The United States spends nearly four trillion dollars every year on health care. Roughly 90 percent of expenditures are for people with chronic conditions.

But the costs of chronic diseases go beyond health care expenses. Many people are unable to work because of their condition.

Even if they can work, they miss appointments and take fewer responsibilities. This all results in a loss of productivity. Productivity is difficult to measure, so cost figures may be conservative.

Heart diseases cost 214 billion dollars every year in health care expenses. But it also causes 138 billion dollars in lost productivity. Combining both figures, heart diseases cost 352 billion dollars a year.

The total cost of diabetes is 327 billion dollars, including both medical costs and productivity losses. But this cost is for people with diagnosed diabetes. Undiagnosed cases may cost the country billions of dollars more.

Alzheimer's disease costs 305 billion dollars. Patients require skilled nurses, usually at facilities like nursing homes. The round-the-clock care they provide leads to substantial costs.

Chronic diseases lead to high costs for a number of reasons. Patients can live with a chronic disease for decades, which naturally leads to high costs. They need ongoing treatments, sometimes daily, which also drives the expenses up.

Why Are They Increasing?

People tend to live with chronic diseases more than they die from them. If you are diagnosed with one, you may be able to live a full life for at least several years.

But rates of chronic diseases will go up over time. Nearly 14 million Americans will have Alzheimer's disease by 2050. This is in spite of advanced treatments for the disease.

One reason that rates might be going up is that training has improved. Doctors now know the many causes and symptoms of diseases. Cases of cancer or diabetes that would have gone undiagnosed are now spotted, which drives up the reported numbers.

Another reason is that people are living longer. Though life expectancy rates went down this year, they have gone up by nearly a decade since the 1960s. Living longer means a person has more time to contract a chronic disease.

There are several risk factors as well. Millions of Americans continue to smoke cigarettes. Smoking is a leading cause of lung cancer and respiratory ailments like COPD. 

Excessive alcohol use is associated with addiction. But it can also cause liver damage and colon cancer. The body converts alcohol into chemicals that can damage DNA and cause abnormal cell growth.

Millions of Americans don't exercise and eat a healthy diet. Either can lead to heart disease, cancers, and diabetes.

The continued impacts of climate change may increase chronic disease rates. Air pollution can cause respiratory ailments.

What Are the Solutions?

Thankfully, there are many solutions for chronic diseases. The first is to be aware of causes and symptoms. If you notice you have symptoms, go to a doctor right away.

Chronic diseases may have genetic components. If someone in your immediate family had a heart attack before age 50, your chance of a heart attack is high. Being familiar with your family history is important.

To avoid heart disease and diabetes, practice mindful eating. Before you sit down to eat, take notice of why you are eating. Consider how hungry you are and what you are hungry for.

Take a bite, then put your utensil down. Chew it using both sides of your mouth and your tongue. Eat without distractions, including television and music.

Pause and evaluate how hungry you are. Then take another bite. This process will train you to stop when you are full, avoiding overeating.

The standard American diet is full of red meat, processed grains, and sugars. Eat at least two cups of fruits and vegetables every day. Drink water instead of alcohol or soda.

Exercise for at least 30 minutes every day. You do not have to be labor-intensive. You can go for a walk, jog up stairs, or lift weights.

Get at least eight hours of sleep every night. Sleep allows your body to rest and repair itself after a long day. Clear your bedroom of all distractions to allow yourself to rest completely.

The Scourge of Chronic Disease

Chronic disease is not going away. But we can fight it with the facts.

A chronic disease impacts a person for at least one year. It requires ongoing medical attention or limits mobility. Examples include COPD, HIV/AIDS, and cancer.

Chronic diseases cost billions of dollars every year. Despite advanced treatments, they are increasing because of Americans' sedentary lifestyle.

Stop smoking and start eating healthy foods. Get out and exercise, but make sure to sleep eight hours.

Get help when you need it.

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    What is a Wellness Economy?

    The use of the term wellness has been growing exponentially over the past decade, but what does it mean? What is the definition of the wellness economy? Why is the global wellness industry worth US$4.5 trillion?

    globe and stacks of coins representing a global economy
    Declining health has led to a rise in Wellness products and services worldwide.

    In a nutshell, wellness is the practice of daily habits that improve your wellbeing - both mental and physical. According to the World Health Organization, the definition of wellness is "a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."

    There are several areas of a person's wellbeing which contribute to overall wellness. These include nutrition, exercise, sleep, social connectedness, and mindfulness. Taking care of each of these aspects of health help with the optimization of a person's wellbeing.

    Key Sectors in the Wellness Industry

    The global wellness industry includes the fitness and beauty industries. The industry also includes the nutrition and weight loss industries, wellness tourism (retreats and spa visits), workplace wellness, and wearable fitness trackers.

    A subsection of the wellness economy is the mental wellness economy, valued at US$121 billion. The Global Wellness Institute claims mental wellness is "an internal resource that helps us think, feel, connect, and function. It is an active process that helps us to build resilience, grow, and flourish." The mental wellness economy includes the below sectors:

    Senses, Spaces, and Sleep

    This section covers businesses that sell products to optimize sleep. This includes but is not limited to mattresses, eye masks, smart bedding, and sleep tracking apps. It also includes products that enable people to destress using sensory experience. This can be anything from scents and diffusers to white noise, noise cancellation, weighted blankets, and floatation tanks.

    Brain-Boosting Nutraceuticals and Botanicals

    This sector covers supplements and superfoods that help boost wellbeing, energy levels, and brain function. It also includes the booming CBD industry. The vast array of CBD and canna oil products claim to help people calm their anxiety and get better sleep.


    Self-improvement means books, online courses, and videos that teach people how to optimize their lives.

    Other products included in this sphere are in-person events run by wellness industry leaders. These events include talks and seminars that offer actionable advice to attendees.

    Meditation and Mindfulness

    Meditation is a well-known aspect of mental wellness. This subsection of the wellness industry includes apps, meditation teachers, retreats, and items such as mindful coloring books. There is also a large market for various meditation accessories such as bolsters, blankets, chimes, beads.

    The State of the Global Wellness Economy

    The wellness industry was booming in 2020. It has been growing almost twice as fast as global economic growth, with a 6% growth in 2017 (global economic growth is 3%).

    When the Global Wellness Institute carried out a study of wellness economic statistics in 2017, it contributed to 5.3% of global output. This number has continued to increase in the last three years as the wellness economy has sustained continued growth.

    The US has the largest market for wellness, last valued at $52.5 billion. China is the second-largest market for wellness, valued at $19.9 billion. Australia is next with a $9.5 billion value, then the UK with $9 billion, and Germany with $6.4 billion. According to predictions, China will take the lead in the next five years.

    Why Has Wellness Become So Important?

    Countries are more frequently measuring their citizens' happiness. With the publication of reports such as the World Happiness Report, there is no denying wellbeing has shifted up on the global agenda.

    Governments have started to connect citizens' health to productivity. Health care systems around the world are overburdened; the onset of the 2020 pandemic has highlighted this. There is more of a cultural shift to preventing disease than just medicating once the disease is detected.

    High-stress work-lives and unhealthy diets mean the nation's health has deteriorated over the last few decades. The invention of fast food and poor dietary choices mean people are in their worst health. According to estimates, almost 160 million Americans are obese or overweight.

    Children are also overweight; 30% of American children have a high BMI, which is up 21% from 1990. People are time-poor due to overwork, making it harder to make conscious and healthy decisions about nutrition.

    The population is waking up because poor lifestyle choices have long-term impacts on their lives. It's not just long term chronic illness that is being affected by poor lifestyle choices but the ease of daily life.

    With better nutrition and exercise choices comes better sleep. With better sleep comes less stress. Simple steps can help people to show up in their daily lives as the best versions of themselves. This leads to more clarity and focuses at work and better relationships with those they love.

    Stress, loneliness, overwork, and a poor work-life balance are becoming bad for mental health, too. As a result, many people are heading towards burnout. People have started to turn to alternative therapies to improve their well-being. Culturally, there has been a much more open dialogue about mental well being, understanding it, and taking care of it.

    Technology and Wellness

    Technology has also made access to information about health and wellbeing easier and more accessible. Offerings such as apps to guide meditation, apps that track sleep, track calorie intake, steps, and activity levels. Everyone has the ability to see how much they move just by looking at a device. People have never had it easier when it comes to having data on how well the body functions.

    Another reason the wellness economy is booming is likely due to digital media. People now have information about their health on demand and can find information with the click of a button.

    Social media has also influenced the growth of the wellness industry. Social media tends to show optimized versions of people's lives. In turn, it may encourage users to be the best versions of themselves and make an effort to live better.

    Digital media is a great tool to get inspiration and ideas of things that can contribute to well-being. Whether that's using a recipe, completing a guided meditation, work out, or something larger such as going on a wellness retreat.

    Global Wellness Economy Trends

    As the global pandemic has turned normal life upside down, people's mental health and wellness, in particular, has suffered. As a result of global deteriorating mental health wellness, the industry will step up. The plethora of tools available to help improve mental wellbeing will only continue to increase in the next few years.

    It's not only the mental wellness sector that will continue to grow. It is predicted that the physical activity economy will be worth $1.1 trillion by 2023. There is an ever-increasing number of fitness apps and trackers released onto the market every day. As a result, technology is predicted to be the second fasted growing wellness market.

    With the closure of many gyms and fitness studios due to the pandemic, virtual fitness training has become one of the stands out trends of 2020. Exercise at home will only continue in 2021 as people become comfortable with working out in their own homes.

    It is estimated the sale of fitness equipment increased by 170% at the beginning of the pandemic. Manufacturers could not keep up with consumer demand.

    Trends in Workplace Wellness

    Sitting for long periods of time can actually increase the chances someone will get diabetes or cancer. It can also affect their brain function. The Global Wellness Institute predicts that employee unwellness costs the global economy 10-15% of the economic output.

    1. Workplaces are increasingly offering wellness programs to take care of the well-being of their employees. Employers finally realize that the sedentary lifestyle of many office workers is detrimental to their long term health.

    2. Employers are increasingly providing gym memberships, free yoga, and meditation classes and encouraging workers to take more exercise.

    3. Wellness programs help increase worker productivity, reduce stress, and improve employee engagement. It is estimated that 79% of US employers offer a wellness program. The amount spent on healthcare is less for companies that have a wellness program.

    4. Flexible working setups will increase as more workers do their work at home due to the pandemic. Flexible hours and no commute every day are proven to have a positive impact on employees' wellbeing.

    Spa Industry Growth Trends

    1. The spa industry is one of the largest contributors to the wellness economy. It has been growing at a consistent 10% yearly rate since 2017. By 2022 it is expected to be worth $128 billion.

    2. The spa industry employs approximately 2.5 million workers globally. The top 5 markets are the USA, China, Germany, France, and Japan.

    3. The mineral and thermal spring industry have also been growing rapidly at 4.9% annually since 2017. It is expected to reach $77 billion in revenue by 2022. 95% of the revenues are made from establishments in Europe and Asia-Pacific. More specifically, China, Japan, and Germany. 

    Wellness Tourism Trends

    1. Wellness tourism is considered to include fitness holidays, yoga and meditation retreats, and self-improvement holidays. 17% of global tourism is wellness tourism.

    2. As of 2017, Wellness tourism was a $639 billion market, which is predicted to grow to $919 billion by 2022.  Wellness tourists tend to spend 53% more on a trip than a typical tourist. The price tag for a wellness holiday is often high, which makes this a lucrative business. 

    With the travel bans and countrywide lockdown restrictions that have been put in place in 2020 and the beginning of 2021, people are desperate to book a getaway. Many will want to book travel, which contributes to their mental and physical wellbeing.

    The retreats business in 2022 is going to boom. A travel renaissance is on the horizon; people will travel more mindfully and in a way that will positively impact their lives in a more long term way.

    Wellness Real Estate

    Wellness real estate means homes built by communities who want to live in a way that promotes wellness. It is predicted the market for this type of residence will be worth $198 billion in 2022.

    Mental Wellness Economy Trends

    The mental wellness economy is also projected to continue growing at an exponential rate. With meditation apps such as Calm valued at $1billion, the business of digitally guided meditation is here to stay.

    Good quality sleep is integral to weight loss, lower stress levels, and higher productivity. Sleep startups are another growing trend, with numerous products, technology, and apps appearing on the market. Their main goal - to help people get the best night's sleep possible. Optimizing sleep has long been a struggle for many people, but new technologies are changing this.

    Trends in Supplements and Superfoods

    People are becoming more concerned about their nutrition and ensuring their bodies are getting the correct nourishment. Data from Google searches show that the interest from consumers in superfoods grew rapidly in 2020. This category alone is projected to grow to $5.61 billion by 2024.

    The Future of Wellness

    The wellness economy will only continue growing over the next five years. Health habits and behaviors have been challenged as a result of the pandemic.

    More and more people are looking for ways to improve their mental and physical wellness. There are thousands of companies worldwide that aim to help people do this. Whether selling a product, service, or experience, the business of wellness companies is booming.

    Making small incremental changes over a long time is how people can improve their long-term well-being and prevent disease. Feeling physically strong can, in turn, help with feeling mentally healthy.

    What is integral to wellness? Good nutrition, taking supplements, quality sleep, stress management, and exercise. Our online wellness education program is an excellent way to get started on your wellness journey.

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