Health and Economic Costs of Chronic Diseases


Heart Disease and Stroke

Nothing kills more Americans than heart disease and stroke. More than 877,500 Americans die of heart disease or stroke every year—that’s one-third of all deaths. These diseases take an economic toll, as well, costing our health care system $216 billion per year and causing $147 billion in lost productivity on the job.3

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Each year in the United States, more than 1.7 million people are diagnosed with cancer, and almost 600,000 die from it, making it the second leading cause of death. The cost of cancer care continues to rise and is expected to reach more than $240 billion by 2030.4


More than 34.2 million Americans have diabetes, and another 88 million adults in the United States have a condition called prediabetes, which puts them at risk for type 2 diabetes. Diabetes can cause serious complications, including heart disease, kidney failure, and blindness. In 2017, the total estimated cost of diagnosed diabetes was $327 billion in medical costs and lost productivity.5

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Obesity affects 20% of children and 42% of adults, putting them at risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. Over 25% of young people 17 to 24 are too heavy to join the US military. Obesity costs the US health care system nearly $173 billion a year.6


Arthritis affects 58.5 million adults in the United States, which is about 1 in 4 adults. It is a leading cause of work disability in the United States, one of the most common chronic conditions, and a common cause of chronic pain. The total cost attributable to arthritis and related conditions was about $303.5 billion in 2013. Of this amount, nearly $140 billion was for medical costs and $164 billion was for indirect costs associated with lost earnings.7

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Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease, a type of dementia, is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that affects about 5.7 million Americans, including 1 in 10 adults aged 65 and older. It is the sixth leading cause of death among all adults and the fifth leading cause for those aged 65 or older. In 2020, the estimated cost of caring for and treating people with Alzheimer’s disease was $305 billion. By 2050, these costs are projected to be more than $1.1 trillion.8


In the United States, about 3 million adults and 470,000 children and teens younger than 18 have active epilepsy—meaning that they have been diagnosed by a doctor, had a recent seizure, or both. Adults with epilepsy report worse mental health, more cognitive impairment, and barriers in social participation compared to adults without epilepsy. In 2016, health care spending for epilepsy was $8.6 billion in direct costs.9

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Tooth Decay

Cavities (also called tooth decay) are one of the most common chronic diseases in the United States. One in six children aged 6 to 11 years and one in four adults have untreated cavities. Untreated cavities can cause pain and infections that may lead to problems eating, speaking, and learning. On average, 34 million school hours are lost each year because of unplanned (emergency) dental care, and over $45 billion is lost in productivity due to dental.

Risk Factors

Cigarette Smoking

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States. More than 16 million Americans have at least one disease caused by smoking. This amounts to more than $225 billion in direct medical costs that could be saved every year if we could prevent youth from starting to smoke and help every person who smokes quit.12

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Physical Inactivity

Not getting enough physical activity comes with high health and financial costs. It can lead to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and obesity. Physical inactivity also costs the nation $117 billion a year for related health care.13

Excessive Alcohol Use

Excessive alcohol use is responsible for 140,000 deaths in the United States each year, including 1 in 10 deaths among working-age adults.14,15 In 2010, excessive alcohol use cost the US economy $249 billion, or $2.05 a drink, and $2 of every $5 of these costs were paid by the public.16 Binge drinking is responsible for over 40% the deaths and three-quarters of the costs due to excessive alcohol use.14,16

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How to Manage Your Chronic Disease During a Disaster

How to Stay Healthy During a Disaster If You Have….

Alzheimer’s Disease or Other Dementias

  • Disasters, or any change in routine, can be especially upsetting and confusing for people with Alzheimer’s or related dementiaexternal icon. Be aware of signs of anxiety or agitation in people with dementia and be prepared with strategies to calm them during times of stress.
  • People with dementia sometimes wander and can become easily lost. Don’t leave the person with dementia alone when their routine or environment is disrupted.
  • If you have a family member in a long-term care facility, find out about its disaster plans and rules for visitors during those times.
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  • If you have trouble moving or getting around, make a note of that in your emergency planexternal icon. Think about how you will stay mobile during an emergency.
  • Keep medicines for pain and other arthritis symptoms handy, and plan for special medicine needs, such as scheduled infusions or refrigeration of medicines like biologicals.
  • Keep any assistive devices you use to get around where you can find them quickly.
  • Avoid hard physical work like disaster cleanup to prevent joint injuries that can worsen your arthritis symptoms. Learn more about things you can do to manage arthritis.


  • Be prepared for an emergency with an emergency supply kit. The kit should include your doctor’s contact information and a list of your medicines and doses. It should also include enough bottled water and food to last at least 3 days, enough medicine and medical supplies to last at least 7 days, and contact information for people who are important to stay in touch with.
  • If you have a cancer survivorship care plan, keep it in your disaster supply kit. Bring it with you if you need to leave your home.
  • If you are being treated with chemotherapy, watch for signs of an infection, such as chills and sweats, a sore throat or new mouth sore, nasal congestion, or vomiting. Call a doctor right away if you notice any signs or symptoms of infection.
  • Get more emergency tips for patients with cancer from the National Cancer Institute.
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  • Follow the Diabetes Preparedness Plan pdf icon[PDF – 871 KB]external icon. Store at least 14 days of diabetes supplies in your disaster supply kit and consider having an extra glucagon emergency kit.
  • Keep your insulin, supplies, and equipment in your disaster supply kit. Insulin loses some effectiveness at extreme temperatures, but it can still be used for 28 days at room temperature up to 86°F. Learn how to store insulinexternal icon.
  • Check your feet every day for cuts, redness, swelling, sores, blisters, corns, calluses, or any other change to the skin or nails. Call a doctor as soon as possible if you see an injury or wound.
  • For more information, visit the Diabetes Disaster Responseexternal icon website or call 1-800-342-2383.
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  • For some people with epilepsy, seizures can be triggered by flashing lights, sounds, lack of sleep, stress, or other triggers. If possible, know what triggers your seizures.
  • If you are staying at a shelter, make sure the staff know you have epilepsy.
  • Talk with people surrounding you such as family, neighbors, co-workers, and friends about what to do if you have a seizure. Teach them how to help you and things to do in case you have a seizure.
  • Learn more about Epilepsy and Disaster Preparedness.

Heart Disease

Kidney Disease

  • Include information about your local dialysis center in your emergency plan and disaster supply kit.
  • Ask your dialysis center for their disaster plans and where you will get treatments if the center is closed during a disaster. Your local health department may be able to help with transportation to the dialysis center or recommend another place if yours is closed. If you need more help, call the Kidney Community Emergency Response (KCER)external icon Hotline at 1-866-901-3773.
  • If you cannot get your treatments, follow the 3-Day Emergency Diet pdf icon[PDF – 189 KB]external icon and keep the foods on this diet in your disaster supply kit. If you are pregnant or have an infant or child who is on dialysis, talk to your doctor or dietitian about changes to this diet.
  • In case of a power failure, if you have a home dialysis machine, you may be able to do manual exchanges until the power comes back on.
  • Learn what to do in an emergency if you need dialysis.

CINTAA Elder care shares useful information regarding healthcare on weekly basis. The post is only for information purpose only. Please check with your health care professional before using this information. To keep yourself updated with many other health tips, stay with us. We provide certified caregivers for seniors at home. If you need any help regarding eldercare, please feel free to call us today at 561-963-1915.