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Smoking

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. On average, nonsmokers live 10 years longer than smokers. Smoking damages nearly every organ in the body and causes cataracts, respiratory disease, heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Smoking is also associated with accelerated cognitive decline; past smoking is a risk factor for dementia and premature impairment. Cessation, even in older smokers, can have profound benefits on current health status as well as improve long-term outcomes. Smoking is estimated to cost $300 billion yearly in direct health care expenditures and productivity losses.


Data source: Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2014 For details: www.americashealthrankings.org/ALL/smoking_sr


Measure: Smoking - Ages 65+, 2016 Senior Report
Measure: Smoking - Ages 65+, 2016 Senior Report

Why does this matter?

Smoking cigarettes is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Smoking damages nearly every organ and causes serious health problems, including:

  • Chronic bronchitis, emphysema, pneumonia, influenza and other respiratory diseases.
  • Heart disease and stroke.
  • Cancers of the lung, mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, liver and pancreas.
  • Diseases of the eye, including cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.

Even among older adults and long-term smokers, smoking cessation has been shown to improve health outcomes. Smoking costs the U.S. over $300 billion annually in direct health care expenditures and productivity losses due to premature death and secondhand smoke.

Source:
  • CDC, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2014




Excessive Drinking

Excessive alcohol consumption is the United States’ third-leading cause of preventable death. The attributable death rate due to excessive alcohol among seniors is double the rate of the general population. Excessive alcohol consumption in seniors can lead to sleep disorders, depression, anxiety, suicide, liver disease, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Heavy drinking can exacerbate health problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Alcoholism is also a significant risk factor for dementia. Acute impairment from heavy drinking can cause unintentional injuries and deaths. Bereavement, loneliness, and social isolation may contribute to excessive drinking. In 2010 excessive drinking cost $249 billion in the United States.



Data source: Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2014 For details: www.americashealthrankings.org/ALL/ExcessDrink_Seniors


Measure: Excessive Drinking - Ages 65+, 2016 Senior Report
Measure: Excessive Drinking - Ages 65+, 2016 Senior Report

Why does this matter?

Excessive drinking is a problem that affects people of all ages and is responsible for approximately 95,000 deaths and 2.8 million years of potential life lost each year in the United States. Adults ages 65 and older experience a higher alcohol-attributed death rate than adults ages 25-44 years. Between 2015 and 2019, nearly 48,000 people ages 65 and older died from excessive alcohol use on average each year. 

Excessive alcohol consumption is associated with many negative health outcomes, including:

  • Unintentional injuries such as alcohol poisoning, motor vehicle accidents and falls.
  • Cardiovascular conditions including hypertension, heart disease and stroke.
  • Cancer of the breast, colon, esophagus, liver, mouth and throat.
  • Mental health consequences, including dementia and mood disorders such as anxiety and depression.

Alcohol tolerance tends to decrease with age, often leading to increased alcohol sensitivity among older adults. Alcohol also causes negative interactions with many prescription drugs, which are commonly used among older populations. More than 87% of people ages 65 and older have used at least one prescription drug within the last 30 days, and nearly 40% have used five or more prescription drugs. One study found that 20% of community-dwelling adults ages 57-84 reported drinking at least one drink a week while taking a medication with a documented alcohol interaction.

Source:
  • CDC, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2014



Obesity

Obesity is a leading cause of preventable death that contributes to cognitive decline, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and certain cancers; it may also lead to disability due to excess weight on joints. The effect of obesity on mortality risk increases significantly with age. Obese seniors experience more hospitalizations, emergency department visits, and use of outpatient health services than non-obese seniors, leading to higher health care costs. Physical activity, healthy diet, supportive communities and social networks, and an environment that encourages exercise all play a role in reducing obesity in older adults.


Data source: Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2014 For details: www.americashealthrankings.org/ALL/obesity_sr


Measure: Obesity - Ages 65+, 2016 Senior Report
Measure: Obesity - Ages 65+, 2016 Senior Report

Why does it matter?

Adults with obesity have an increased risk of developing serious health conditions such as hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, sleep apnea and breathing problems, osteoarthritis, certain cancers, and mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. Research suggests that the strength of the association between obesity and mortality risk increases with age, making obesity among older adults an area of particular concern.

Contributing factors for obesity in older adults include behaviors such as poor diet and physical inactivity, certain health conditions, genetic predisposition and environmental elements such as safety, food access and infrastructure.

The estimated health care costs of obesity were $342.2 billion in 2013. Beyond direct medical costs, the indirect costs of decreased productivity tied to obesity are estimated at an additional $8.65 billion per year.

Source:
  • CDC, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2014



Underweight

Underweight older adults may be frail, have more difficulties with activities of daily living, and need more caregiving assistance than older adults with healthy weight. They are at increased risk of acute illness and death. Poor nutrition is a main risk factor for being underweight. Social isolation, psychological disorders, poverty, physiological function, medications, and poor oral health are all factors that put older adults at an increased risk of being undernourished. Community meal services, education for adults at risk of being underweight, encouraging physical activity, and nutritional management training for care workers play a role in helping seniors maintain a healthy weight.


Data source: Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2014 For details: www.americashealthrankings.org/ALL/underweight_sr


Measure: Underweight - Seniors, 2016 Senior Report
Source:
  • CDC, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2014



Physical Inactivity

Physical inactivity increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and premature death. Aging causes muscle mass and strength to decrease which challenges older adults who want to remain active. Increasing physical activity prevents and helps manage numerous chronic diseases. Physical activity has also been shown to increase bone density, reduce falls, prevent memory loss, and decrease depression. Growing evidence illustrates the importance of environment and community design to promote physical activity for seniors. Inadequate levels of physical activity in American adults is associated with an estimated $117 billion in health care expenditures per year after adjusting for body mass index.


Data source: Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2014 For details: www.americashealthrankings.org/ALL/physical_inactivity_sr


Measure: Physical Inactivity - Ages 65+, 2016 Senior Report
Measure: Physical Inactivity - Ages 65+, 2016 Senior Report

Why does this matter?

Physical inactivity, or being sedentary, can increase the risk of several health outcomes such as:

Around 10% of deaths among adults ages 40-69 and 7.8% of deaths among adults ages 70 and older were attributed to physical inactivity. Costs associated with physical inactivity account for more than 11% of total health care expenditures and are estimated at $117 billion annually.

Source:
  • CDC, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2014



Dental Visits

Oral health naturally declines with age, and problems arise if routine care is not maintained. Poor oral health is associated with such chronic diseases as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and can have a large impact on quality of life resulting in pain and affecting the ability to chew or speak. Gum disease affects nearly a quarter of adults aged 65 to 74 and more than 50,000 emergency department visits occur as a result of preventable dental conditions in adults aged 65 and older. Evidence indicates that older adults who use preventive dental care reduce their dental bills and out-of-pocket payments because they have fewer visits for expensive non-preventive procedures.


Data source: Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2014 For details: www.americashealthrankings.org/ALL/dental_visit_sr


Measure: Dental Visit - Seniors, 2016 Senior Report
Source:
  • CDC, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2014



Pain Management

Osteoarthritis (OA), the most common form of arthritis, is a progressive degenerative joint disease more common in older, overweight individuals and those with a history of joint injury. It is associated with pain, aches, stiffness, and swelling. Many seniors believe that aches and pains are an inevitable part of aging, but risk factors can be prevented or modified to reduce pain caused by OA. Key factors that reduce risk include maintaining a healthy weight and regular physical activity, controlling blood sugar, and avoiding joint injuries. Physical activity can reduce pain and improve function, mobility, mood, and quality of life for many adults with arthritis.


Data source: Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2013 For details: www.americashealthrankings.org/ALL/pain_management_sr


Measure: Arthritis Management - Seniors, 2016 Senior Report
Source:
  • CDC, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2013

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