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Death, disability rates in U.S. increase for age-related disease over two decades

The rate of diseases and injuries has changed over the past two decades in terms of toll they take on Americans’ health, according the U.S. Burden of Disease Collaborators in a recent report on the state of U.S. health from 1990 to 2010.

That toll is measured in a term called disability-adjusted life years, which is the sum of years of life lost due to premature death and years lived with disability

The United States has made progress in some areas, such as infectious diseases. For example, HIV/AIDS fell from a #11 ranking to #33 – showing the success of drug treatments, the National Institutes of Health said in a blog post.

For many other diseases, especially those related to aging, the burden is increasing. For example, Alzheimer’s disease jumped from #25 to #12 and is likely to continue rising as the Baby Boomer generation grows older – unless new strategies for treatment and prevention are found, the NIH said

The rates also increased for drug use disorders, chronic kidney disease, kidney cancer, and falls during the two-decade period.

The leading risk factors related to disabilities were dietary risks, tobacco smoking, high body mass index, high blood pressure, high fasting plasma glucose, physical inactivity, and alcohol use.

The report also shows that U.S. life expectancy for both sexes combined increased from 75.2 years in 1990 to 78.2 years in 2010. During the same period, the healthy life expectancy – a measure taking into account length of life and level of health – increased from 65.8 years to 68.1 years.

However, among 34 countries that belong to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development between 1990 and 2010, the U.S. rankings dropped for:

  • The death rate, from 18th to 27th.
  • The years of life lost due to premature deaths, from 23rd to 28th.
  • The years lived with disability, from 5th to 6th.
  • The life expectancy at birth, from 20th to 27th.
  • The years lived with disability, from 14th to 26th.

This means improvements in the health of Americans in the U.S. haven’t kept pace with advances in health in other wealthy nations, The Journal of the American Medical Association said in a summary of the report.

Copyright 2013, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist

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