Last posted at webmd.com
While most health issues can be costly, today there are some that stand above the rest in terms of the expense that they incur both physically, as well as financially, on the patient and on those who care for the individual.
Below are the top 5 costliest chronic diseases in the U.S. today, as well as some suggestions on what you can do to help manage or control that condition for yourself or the one you care about who may be suffering from it.
Cost: $193.4 billion
It is estimated that more than one in three Americans currently suffers from some type of heart disease. That makes this the most costly chronic health condition in the United States today.
Cause(s): Research has shown that some of the primary causes of heart disease include smoking, as well as second hand smoke. Some other key factors can include high amounts of certain fats and cholesterol in the blood, as well as having high blood pressure.
How to Help: Some ways to help in managing or controlling this condition can be eating lots of fruits and vegetables, along with foods that are high in fiber. Those who may be prone to this condition should also avoid foods that are high in saturated fat and cholesterol. In addition, it is recommended that people should get at least 30 minutes of exercise almost every day, and avoid smoking.
Cost: $157 billion
More than 13 million Americans are estimated to have some type of cancer today. The good news is that over the past decade, cancer death rates have been declining.
Cause(s): It is thought that gene mutations are the primary cause of cancer. Most gene mutations occur after a person is born. There are many different entities that can cause a gene mutation, including radiation, smoking, and certain viruses, as well as cancer-causing chemicals, hormones, and even a lack of exercise.
How to Help: In order to lower the risk of certain types of cancer, it is recommended that individuals avoid smoking, and to cut back on the consumption of alcohol. In addition, sticking to a healthy diet and exercising can be helpful. If out in the sun for long periods of time, wearing sunscreen is also recommended.
Cognitive Conditions / Mental Disorders
Cost: $57.5 billion
Although many people may think that mental disorders are rare, the truth is that they are a lot more common than you might imagine. The reality is that more than one in four adults suffers from some type of a cognitive disorder.
Cause(s): It is not known what causes these types of disorders. However, it is thought that they could be caused by a combination of biological, genetic, psychological, and even environmental factors.
How to Help: It is important to ensure that you know the warning signs so that you can get the help that a loved one may need. Some of these signs include intense highs and lows, long-lasting sadness, extreme worries and fears, and social withdrawal.
COPD and Asthma
Cost: $79.6 billion
COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, includes the diseases of the lungs known as emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
Cause(s): COPD is typically caused by smoking, as well as dust, air pollution, and chemical fumes. Those who have asthma may have inherited it, as it tends to be hereditary.
How to Help: In order to help with COPD, quitting smoking is the best way, if this is applicable. Also, staying away from dusty and / or polluted areas is another. For the control of asthma attacks, it is best to avoid any triggers that you may have, and to take any medications that your doctor has prescribed.
Cost: $80.8 billion
There are many different types of joint disorders that can befall someone throughout their lifetime. Yet, as you get older, these can tend to become even more of a chronic – and costly – condition.
Cause(s): As people age, they are more apt to develop issues with their joints. One of the most common issues in this area is osteoarthritis, or OA, which is a leading cause of hip and knee replacements.
How to Help: Losing weight can help to lower the chances of osteoarthritis. Also, doing lower-impact exercises such as bicycling and swimming can help to keep joints active without causing pain.
Caregiving Can Be Costly Too
In addition to having a chronic health condition, being a care provider for someone who is ill can also be quite costly. It is estimated that there are more than 40 million people in the United States who provide care for another individual.
These caregivers pay roughly $200 per month from their own pockets in order to subsidize the care they provide – and, with an average of more than four years of providing that care, these expenses can really add up.
Caregivers can also lose out financially in other ways, too. For example, according to Met Life’s Study of Caregiving Costs to Working Caregivers, males who leave the workforce early or reduce their work hours to care for a loved one lose an average of over $89,000 in cumulative wages. Over time, this can equate to a loss in Social Security benefits of more than $144,000.
Females can also lose quite a bit financially when it comes to providing care for someone else. With an estimated loss in wages of approximately $142,700 combined with a loss in Social Security benefits of roughly $131,350 as well as a loss of an additional $50,000 in retirement savings, the average loss financially for women can be more than $324,000 in total.
The Caregiving Financial Solution
One of the best ways to help in covering the financial impact of a potential long-term care need is to purchase long term care insurance. These policies cover a variety of different needs, including care in a facility, as well as care in the recipient’s own home.
Today, many long-term care insurance policies will also provide a certain amount of benefits to cover at least some of the costs that an informal caregiver incurs. This can be the case, even if the individual is not a paid professional such as an RN or an LPN.
It is important that long-term care insurance be purchased while a person is still healthy enough to qualify. Therefore, looking into coverage early can help to ensure better coverage options, as well as lower premium cost.