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A chronic disease is one that is long lasting while an acute disease is short lasting. Chronic diseases usually last 1 year or longer and require ongoing medical attention. A chronic disease may limit your daily activities. You can be born with a chronic disease or you can develop a chronic disease at any point in life. 

Genetics, lifestyle and environmental facts can increase your risk of certain conditions. Some chronic diseases can be prevented or treated.  However, other chronic diseases cannot be prevented and some do not have a cure. Some chronic diseases do not have a known cause.

Chronic diseases are very common. The CDC estimates that 6 in 10 adults have at least 1 chronic disease. Even if you have a chronic disease, you often can still manage the symptoms of the disease to increase your quality of life. Your healthcare provider can help you develop the best plan for you. 

Eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active, avoiding smoking and tobacco and getting regular check ups can help prevent some chronic diseases from developing.

There are many chronic diseases, these are just a few of the more common ones. 


Arthritis can cause pain around your joints. Arthritis affects 1 in 4 adults. You can develop arthritis at any age, though it is more common as you get older.

There are many types of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. Osteoarthritis impacts the bone and cartilage of the affected joint(s). The bones become weaker and the connective tissue holding the join together weakens.

Maintaining a healthy weight, staying active, and eating a healthy diet can be helpful in preventing arthritis or reduce the severity. Medications can also be helpful so talk with your medical provider if you are experiencing joint pain.

Learn more about arthritis 


Asthma is a respiratory disease that can affect your breathing. Most people who develop chronic asthma have symptoms by the time they are 7 years old but you can develop asthma at any age. Young children may outgrow asthma. While there is not a cure for asthma, it can be treated through medication and avoiding environmental triggers as much as possible. The severity of your asthma can change based on a number of factors. For example, if you are around your environmental triggers (pollen, tobacco smoke, etc.), your asthma may become more severe. Your asthma triggers and the severity of your symptoms may also change as you age.

An asthma attack can be life-threatening and you may need to go to the emergency room for treatment. Many people with asthma keep treatments at home they can use for a mild asthma attack. Asthma can make you more susceptible to other respiratory illnesses. Work with your healthcare provider to develop an asthma management plan that is right for you.

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Cancer has been one of leading causes of death in the United States for more than 75 years. It is estimated to affect 1 in 3 people in the United States. Cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon make up almost 50% of new cancers. Cancer is considered a genetic disease, because cancers are caused by changes in genes that control how cells function. These changes are caused by three types of external factors – physical agents (such as UV radiation), chemical substances (such as those found in tobacco smoke), and biological agents (such as viruses). Factors such as dietary choices, alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, obesity and diabetes may affect the risk of developing cancer. An estimated 30-50% of cancers are preventable. Cancer prevention includes a healthy lifestyle, avoiding exposure to known cancer-causing substances, and taking medicines or vaccines that can prevent cancer from developing.   

Cancers caught early by screening can often be treated. Several national organizations, such as the National Cancer Institute, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and the American Cancer Society, provide recommendations for cancer screening.  

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

COPD is a respiratory condition that makes it harder to breathe. Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are forms of COPD. It is estimated that more than 16 million Americans have COPD and it is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. Individuals with COPD usually have a chronic cough with mucus and shortness of breath. The most common early symptom is shortness of breath with activity.

There is not a cure for COPD but it can be treated and symptoms can be managed through medications or supplemental oxygen. In the United States, smoking tobacco is a significant cause of COPD. 

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Coronary Heart Disease

Coronary heart disease is a type of cardiovascular disease. It is also known as coronary artery disease or ischemic heart disease. Coronary heart disease is the most common form of heart disease. It is caused by the buildup of cholesterol in the large vessels of the heart which leads to narrow or blocked arteries in your heart. Chronic inflammation can make plaques rupture. Coronary heart disease can lead to heart attacks or blood clots. A “heart healthy” diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, helps to fight this inflammation.

Some people with coronary heart disease do not experience any symptoms, or they might have chest pain (angina).

Maintaining a healthy weight, physical activity, eating a healthy diet and avoiding tobacco are important to prevent coronary heart disease. It is important to “know your numbers”. Knowing your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, A1C level and blood sugar levels can help you and your healthcare provider make decisions about your medical care.

​Learn more about coronary artery disease


Diabetes affects about 15% of adults in the United States. There are three types of diabetes. Type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes all have different causes and require slightly different treatments to manage. 90-95% of the people living with diabetes have type 2. You can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes though lifestyle choices such as exercising and eating healthy food. Untreated or poorly managed diabetes can lead to health complications including vision loss or kidney disease.

All three types of diabetes result in the body being unable to control blood sugar (glucose). Blood sugar is the primary source of energy for the body. Insulin helps cells use the blood sugar. People with type 1 diabetes do not make insulin. People with type 2 diabetes do not use insulin correctly. Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy and may go away once the child is born.

Prediabetes means you have high blood sugar but not enough to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Almost 40% of all adults in the U.S. have prediabetes. It is a warning that you are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. You can prevent prediabetes turning into type 2 diabetes through lifestyle changes.

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HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are chronic conditions. Hepatitis B and Herpes are chronic STIs because there is no cure but they can be managed. Other STIs, including gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis, can be treated with medication.

Antiretroviral therapy (ART) allows individuals with HIV to live longer and healthier lives. If HIV is not managed, the virus can then cause AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) to develop. Having HIV is not the same thing as having AIDS. If you do have HIV or a chronic STI, there are many ways to prevent spreading the viruses to others.

Prevention of HIV and STIs focuses on practicing safe sex. HIV prevention also includes avoiding injection drug use and potentially taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

Learn more about STIs

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Hypertension (high blood pressure)

Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, affects up to 50% of the adults population in the United States. Many people do not know they have hypertension. It is sometimes called the “silent killer” because many people do not show symptoms in the beginning stages. Although it is normal for blood pressure to change throughout the day, if blood pressure remains above normal for extended periods of time, the risk for heart attacks and strokes increases. Blood pressure is considered normal if it is less than 120/80 mm Hg.

You do not have control over some risk factors for hypertension. Family history, being male or being Black, Hispanic or Asian increases your risk of hypertension. However, there are other factors you can control to reduce your risk. Being physically active, eating a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight all can help prevent or manage hypertension. In some cases, you may need medication to reduce your blood pressure.

Many people do not show symptoms of hypertension in the beginning stages. Checking your blood pressure might be the only way you know you are developing or have hypertension. 

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Mental Illness

It is estimated that 1 in 5 adults in the United States have mental illness and 1 in 25 have a serious mental illness (such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or severe depression) . Some mental illnesses can be chronic since they cannot be cured but symptoms can be managed with medication and lifestyle changes.

Mental illness symptoms can affect emotions, thoughts and behaviors. Chronic mental illness causes psychiatric symptoms that impact how a person performs activities of daily living (ADLs) and how they function at work or at school. It also affects their relationships with other people, to include family members.

Having another chronic condition can increase the risk of depression, and other mental illnesses may be chronic on their own. Depression can lead to developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic pain. Many mental illnesses are caused by factors outside your control, such as genetics or childhood trauma.

Seek medical attention if you believe you have a mental illness. If you experience a mental health crisis where you fear you might hurt yourself or others, call 988 or go to the emergency room. 

Learn more about mental health