There are many different ways to identify the leading health concerns in a community. You could look at the most common causes of death, the total associated cost of a disease, or the conditions people worry about the most. While these lists are not always the same, certain conditions tend to appear across all of them. The top five health concerns today are:
Hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure, is a serious medical condition that has become increasingly common in the last few decades. When you have hypertension, blood pushes against the walls of your arteries with a much higher force than normal. This can damage your heart and cause many additional health problems over time. The American Heart Association defines Hypertension Stage 1 as blood pressure at or over 130/80 mmHg, and Hypertension Stage 2 as blood pressure at or over 140/90 mmHg.
Having hypertension puts you at risk for both stroke and heart disease, which are the leading causes of death in the U.S. Most of the time, there are no obvious symptoms of high blood pressure. This is why it is often called a “silent killer." An estimated 46% of adults with hypertension are unaware that they have the condition.
Major depression, also called clinical depression, is characterized by intense feelings of sadness for over two weeks. People with major depressive disorder (MDD) experience consistently low moods, low self-esteem, and a loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. Other symptoms include poor concentration, lack of energy, sleep disturbances, appetite changes, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, and suicidal thoughts. The most frequently prescribed treatments for depression include medication and talk therapy.
Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide and one of the most common mental disorders in the U.S. Approximately 19.4 million adults (7.8% of the population) in the U.S. have at least one major depressive episode in their lifetime. Individuals aged 18-25 are the most likely group to have depression (15.2%).
Cholesterol is a waxy, fatty substance found in the blood. Our body needs cholesterol to build healthy cells, but too much of it can lead to major health problems. High cholesterol levels promote the development of fatty deposits in the blood vessels. These deposits grow over time, making it difficult for enough blood to flow through your arteries. The blockage makes you more likely to have heart problems or a stroke. The National Institute of Health defines high cholesterol for adults as a total blood cholesterol level of over 200mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter).
High cholesterol generally has no symptoms. You learn that you have it through a blood test. About 94 million U.S. adults over the age of 20 have total cholesterol levels higher than 200 mg/dL. While high cholesterol can be inherited, it is most often caused by unhealthy lifestyle choices. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and in some cases, medications will help reduce high cholesterol levels.
Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disease that causes high blood sugar. It is a malfunction of the process that converts blood sugar into energy in your body. There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes (diabetes while pregnant). About 90-95% of people with diabetes have Type 2. Over time, high blood sugar can lead to complications such as heart disease, kidney disease, eye problems, nerve damage, or foot problems.
Insulin is the hormone that helps sugar from food get into your cells to be used for energy. With Type 1 diabetes, the body is not able to produce enough insulin. In the case of Type 2 diabetes, your body becomes resistant to insulin. This type of diabetes builds up over time and is generally diagnosed in middle-aged adults. It is largely caused by excess body weight and a lack of physical exercise. Gestational diabetes can develop in pregnant women but typically goes away after the baby is born.
Substance use disorders
A substance use disorder (SUD) is characterized by a person's addiction to substances such as legal or illegal drugs, alcohol, medications, or tobacco. Researchers have found that about half the individuals with SUD also experience another mental disorder in their lifetime. These conditions can include bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, and schizophrenia. Typical symptoms of drug addiction include:
- Intense urges for the drug — daily or even several times a day
- Increased drug dosage to get the same effect over time
- Reduced recreational or social activities because of drug use
- Continued use of the drug, even though you know it causes problems in your life
- Experience of withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking the drug
There are many other symptoms specific to the drug being used. 35 million people worldwide are estimated to have drug use disorders. Behavioral therapies and medications can help treat both substance use and mental disorders.
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American Heart Association: "The Facts About High Blood Pressure," "What is Cholesterol?"
Bains, N., Abdijadid, S. Major Depressive Disorder, StatPearls Publishing, 2021.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "About Multiple Cause of Death, 1999-2019," "High Cholesterol Facts," "What is Diabetes?"
Harvard Health Publishing: "The most important health problems (and why they matter)."
National Institute of Mental Health: "Major Depression," "Substance Use and Co-Occurring Mental Disorders."
U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Cholesterol Levels: What You Need to Know."
World Health Organization Newsroom: "Diabetes," "Drugs (psychoactive)," "Hypertension."
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DepressionDepression is an illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts and affects the way a person eats and sleeps, the way one feels about oneself, and the way one thinks about things. The principal types of depression are major depression, dysthymia, and bipolar disease (also called manic-depressive disease).
Depression and SuicideDepression is a psychiatric illness that affects one in six people in the United States. Nearly two-thirds of people with depression do not realize that they have a treatable illness and do not seek treatment. Depression could happen when there is a decrease in the functional balance of the brain chemicals e.g., serotonin and norepinephrine.
Learn to Spot Depression: Symptoms, Warning Signs, MedicationKnow when you or someone else is depressed. Get information on depression symptoms, signs, tests, and treatments for many types of depression chronic depression and postpartum depression.
Depression QuizMany people do not recognize the symptoms and warning signs of depression and depressive disorders in children and adults. With proper diagnosis, treatments and medications are available. Take this quiz to learn more about recovery from depression.
Diabetes (Type 1 and Type 2)Diabetes is a chronic condition characterized by high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood. The two types of diabetes are referred to as type 1 (insulin dependent) and type 2 (non-insulin dependent). Symptoms of diabetes include increased urine output, thirst, hunger, and fatigue. Treatment of diabetes depends on the type.
Drug AbuseDrug addiction is a chronic disease that causes drug-seeking behavior and drug use despite negative consequences to the user and those around him. Though the initial decision to use drugs is voluntary, changes in the brain caused by repeated drug abuse can affect a person's self-control and ability to make the right decisions and increase the urge to take drugs. Drug abuse and addiction are preventable.
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
High blood pressure (hypertension) is a disease in which pressure within the arteries of the body is elevated. About 75 million people in the US have hypertension (1 in 3 adults), and only half of them are able to manage it. Many people do not know that they have high blood pressure because it often has no has no warning signs or symptoms.
Systolic and diastolic are the two readings in which blood pressure is measured. The American College of Cardiology released new guidelines for high blood pressure in 2017. The guidelines now state that blood normal blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg. If either one of those numbers is higher, you have high blood pressure.
The American Academy of Cardiology defines high blood pressure slightly differently. The AAC considers 130/80 mm Hg. or greater (either number) stage 1 hypertension. Stage 2 hypertension is considered 140/90 mm Hg. or greater.
If you have high blood pressure you are at risk of developing life threatening diseases like stroke and heart attack.
REFERENCE: CDC. High Blood Pressure. Updated: Nov 13, 2017.
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What Is High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)? Symptoms, TreatmentsWhat causes high blood pressure (hypertension)? What is normal blood pressure? Know the warning signs and symptoms of high blood pressure. Read about high blood pressure medications, diet, and long-term treatments.
Prediabetes is a situation where a person's blood sugar levels are higher than they should be, but aren't high enough to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. There are no signs or symptoms of prediabetes. Some of the risk factors for prediabetes are
- high blood pressure,
- high cholesterol,
- heart disease,
- family history,
- poor diet, and
- lack of activity.
Diet changes along with other healthy lifestyle changes are important in treating prediabetes.
Teen DepressionDepression in teenagers may be caused by many factors. Symptoms of teen depression include apathy, irresponsible behavior, sadness, sudden drop in grades, withdrawal from friends, and alcohol and drug use. Treatment of depression in adolescents may involve psychotherapy and medications.
Depression Therapy MythsFalse ideas scare many depression suffers away from therapy and the quick relief and help these pros can provide. Let our experts help you understand the truth about therapy.
Type 1 Diabetes QuizWhat are the causes of type 1 diabetes? Take this quiz and challenge your knowledge of causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatments for this common condition, formerly known as juvenile diabetes.
Type 2 DiabetesType 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that may be reversible with diet and lifestyle changes. Symptoms include excessive thirst, frequent urination, weight loss, fatigue, and an unusual odor to your urine. Most people don't know they have type 2 diabetes until they have a routine blood test. Treatment options include medications, a type 2 diabetes diet, and other lifestyle changes.
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What Is High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)?High blood pressure or hypertension is when the blood pressure readings consistently range from 140 or higher for systolic or 90 or higher for diastolic. Blood pressure readings above 180/120 mmHg are dangerously high and require immediate medical attention.
Why Does Alcohol Cause Hypertension?Alcoholic beverages are regular drinks in most parts of the world. No one knows how alcohol causes hypertension, but it may be due to the effects of alcohol endothelium, nervous system, cortisol levels or other body systems.