Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Aging and Health Report

The National Academy on an Aging Society website has an informative report entitled The State of Aging and Health in America 2007. Here are a few excerpts from the report:

Demographic changes create an urgent need

Improved medical care and prevention efforts have contributed to dramatic increases in life expectancy in the United States over the past century. They also have produced a major shift in the leading causes of death for all age groups, including older adults, from infectious diseases and acute illnesses to chronic diseases and degenerative illnesses. Currently, about 80% of older Americans are living with at least one chronic condition.

The growth in the number and proportion of older adults is unprecedented in the history of the United States. Two factors — longer life spans and aging baby boomers — will combine to double the population of Americans aged 65 and older during the next 25 years. By 2030, there will be 71 million American older adults accounting for roughly 20% of the U.S. population.

America’s older adult population also is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse. At the same time, the health status of racial and ethnic minorities lags far behind that of non-minority populations. Th e burden of many chronic diseases and conditions — especially high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer — varies widely by race and ethnicity. Data from the 2004 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) indicated that 39% of non-Hispanic white adults aged 65 years or older reported very good or excellent health, compared with 24% of non-Hispanic blacks and
29% of Hispanics.(5)

There is a strong economic incentive for action

The cost of providing health care for an older American is three to five times greater than the cost for someone younger than 65. As a result, by 2030, the nation’s health care spending is projected to increase by 25% due to these demographic shifts.

More than one-third of U.S. deaths are preventable

Three behaviors — smoking, poor diet, and physical inactivity — were the root causes of almost 35% of U.S. deaths in 2000. These behaviors are risk factors that often underlie the development of the nation’s leading chronic disease killers: heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes.

The above statistics highlight the need to focus on improving the health of older adults by encouraging them to adopt healthier behaviors and obtain regular health screenings that can reduce the risk for many chronic diseases, help decrease health disparities, and lower health care costs.