According to a recent study published in JAMA Cardiology, the number of adults in the United States dealing with multiple chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and kidney disease is on the rise. These conditions are the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the country and are estimated to account for every 1 in 3 deaths.
The study found that approximately 1 in 4 adults have a chronic cardiac, renal, or metabolic condition, and nearly 1 in 10 have multiple conditions. The risk of having multiple conditions also increased with age, with one in three adults aged 65 and older having a cardiac, renal, or metabolic condition.
The researchers analyzed health data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from January 2015 to March 2020. They compared these trends to data collected between 1999 and 2002. The analysis included over 11,600 non-pregnant adults aged 20 and over.
The study revealed that 26.3% of adults had at least one chronic condition, 8% had at least two, and 1.5% had three. The most common comorbid conditions were type 2 diabetes plus chronic kidney disease, followed by cardiovascular disease plus type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease plus chronic kidney disease.
The burden of these conditions was found to be greatest among non-Hispanic Black individuals and those who reported being unemployed, of low socioeconomic status, or having no high school degree. Disparities in access to healthcare services were identified as a contributing factor to delayed diagnosis and treatment, leading to worse outcomes.
The researchers also highlighted the low prescription rates of medications that target the underlying mechanisms of these conditions. Newer medications like GLP1 agonists and SGLT2 inhibitors, which have been found to improve these conditions, were prescribed at a very low rate. Factors such as insurance coverage, overall cost to the patient, and prescriber comfort in using newer medications were identified as barriers to prescription rates.
The study emphasizes the need to improve the situation by promoting healthy lifestyles, improving access to healthcare, and raising awareness about risk factors and early detection. The researchers believe that by utilizing the common links between these conditions, personalized treatment can be provided to prevent their onset. The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to further accelerate the rising prevalence of these conditions due to decreases in physical activity and increases in sedentary behavior and weight gain.
In conclusion, the study highlights the increasing prevalence of multiple chronic conditions in the United States and the urgent need to address the situation through awareness, screening, and improved access to healthcare.