8 Factors that Put You at Risk for Developing Chronic Illnesses

Apr 10, 2023
8 Factors that Put You at Risk for Developing Chronic Illnesses
A number of factors increase your risk for developing one or more chronic illnesses. Managing those risks can keep you healthy. Keep reading to learn more.

The number of Americans living with at least one chronic health condition — ongoing diseases that are treatable but generally not curable — has reached some 133 million, or nearly half the population. That number is 15 million higher than just a decade ago, and it’s expected to reach 170 million by 2030.

Eighty percent of adults over 65 have at least one chronic condition, while 68% have two or more. With our increasingly aging population, that makes for a tremendous impact on health care needs and costs, as well as quality of life.

At AGP Family Clinic, family medicine practitioner and preventive medicine physician Dr. Richard Pedroza and his staff offer chronic disease management for their patients in and around Tomball, Texas. Because preventing illnesses is always more effective than treating them when they occur, the team wants you to understand the factors that put you at risk for chronic conditions, so you can manage your health better.

Most common chronic illnesses

According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the top 10 chronic illnesses in the 65 and older population are:

  1. Hypertension (high blood pressure) 58%
  2. High cholesterol 47%
  3. Arthritis (joint inflammation) 31%
  4. Ischemic/coronary heart disease 29%
  5. Diabetes 27%
  6. Chronic kidney disease 18%
  7. Heart failure 14%
  8. Depression 14%
  9. Alzheimer's disease and dementia 11%
  10. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) 11%

Since many of these ailments are preventable through lifestyle choices or early detection and management of risk factors, it’s important to understand your risk factors and actively work to reduce them.

8 factors that put you at risk for developing chronic illnesses

According to the World Health Report 2010, major risk factors include:

1. Obesity

Obesity is strongly associated with many chronic health conditions, including hypertension; heart disease; type 2 diabetes; stroke; arthritis; and breast, colon and endometrial cancers. And each year, it contributes to approximately 300,000 deaths. AGP Family Clinic offers a medically supervised weight loss program if you’re unable to lose the extra weight on your own.

2. Tobacco use

There’s nothing positive to say about smoking. It dehydrates your tissues, slows healing, makes you more resistant to insulin’s effects (increased risk for diabetes), and lines your arteries with a sticky plaque that impedes normal blood flow and can lead to heart attack or stroke. The sooner you quit, the sooner you can be on the path to better health.

3. Hypertension

Hypertension forces your heart to work harder to pump blood to your body, and the high pressure can damage your arteries and veins. It also increases your risk for heart attack and stroke. Controlling blood pressure reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke by 33-50%

4. High cholesterol

Your body needs some cholesterol to build cells and perform basic bodily functions, but it produces all that you need. When you consume extra cholesterol from fatty animal products, it builds up in your arteries and veins, narrowing and stiffening them; causes blockages; and leads to heart disease and stroke.

5. Unhealthy diet

A diet filled with saturated fats, sugar, and empty calories can impact all the systems in your body and lead to obesity, high cholesterol, hypertension, and diabetes, among many other conditions. Try to eat more fruits and vegetables, fewer carbohydrates and sugars, more whole grains, and lean protein to keep your body running smoothly.

6. Lack of exercise

Being inactive, just like eating an unhealthy diet, impacts your entire body, including leading to obesity and insulin resistance. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity at least five days a week to keep your body strong.

7. High blood glucose

Glucose is the body’s source of energy, but once it’s released by the breakdown of food, it needs insulin to carry it into the cells to be put to work. If you’re overweight, have hypertension or high cholesterol, or if you smoke, your cells can become resistant to insulin’s effects, and the glucose level in the blood rises. 

Recent studies by the CDC show that moderate weight loss and exercise can prevent diabetes among those at high risk for the disease, and, once diagnosed, it can be effectively managed to reduce complications. Control of blood sugar levels reduces the risks of eye, kidney, and nerve disease by 40%.

8. Too much stress

Constant stress, a product of our modern society, interferes with the normal functioning of all your body’s systems and leaves you open to developing chronic diseases. Try stress management techniques like yoga, mindfulness, or meditation.

Want to learn more about your risk factors for chronic illness or need help managing those risks? Give AGP Family Practice a call at 832-684-3909, or book online with us today.