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Chronic Disease

According to the National Center for Health statistics, chronic diseases are diseases that last three months or more and generally cannot be prevented by vaccines or cured by medication, and do not go away on their own. Examples include heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and diabetes. Substance addiction, mental illnesses, and obesity have not always been included in most lists of chronic diseases, but using the above definition, they also would qualify.

Why It's Important

Chronic diseases are among the most common, costly, and preventable of all health problems. The burden of chronic disease is high for society and for those who have them. Chronic diseases made up 7 of the 10 leading causes of death in New Mexico in 2015. Obesity is a serious health concern and does not appear to be improving. Arthritis is the most common cause of disability, with one in every four adult New Mexicans having been diagnosed by a doctor with arthritis. Diabetes is not only a leading cause of death, but also a leading cause of kidney failure, non-injury-related lower-limb amputations, and new cases of blindness among adults.

What Is Known

In 2015, cancer was the leading cause of death in New Mexico accounting for 20.3% of all deaths, followed closely by heart disease deaths with 19.8%.

According to the data from the 2015 New Mexico Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey:

  • 445,000 (27.8%) of New Mexico adults ages 18 and over (nearly half a million adults) ages 18 and over were obese (BMI of 30 or greater).
  • 392,000 (24.5%) New Mexico adults had been diagnosed by a doctor with arthritis.
  • 184,000 (11.5%) were told by a doctor that they had diabetes.
  • 158,400 (9.9%) adults had current asthma.
  • 97,600 (6.1%) had had some kind of cancer other than skin cancer.
  • 94,400 (5.9%) had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
  • 49,600 (3.1%) had chronic kidney disease.

Who Is at Risk

Research suggests that in addition to individual biology, lifestyle behaviors play an integral part in chronic illness in a population. According the World Health Organization (WHO) Health Report 2010, risk factors for chronic illness include:

  • tobacco use
  • harmful use of alcohol
  • raised blood pressure (or hypertension)
  • raised cholesterol
  • overweight/obesity
  • unhealthy diet
  • raised blood glucose

How To Reduce Risk

Research has shown that chronic disease risk reduction can be addressed through evidence-based strategies that promote healthy lifestyles based on non-smoking, good nutrition, regular physical activity, acceptable BMI, and low/moderate alcohol intake. Preventive care practices, timely affective care and appropriate disease management have been shown to be effective in reducing the incidence and progression of various chronic conditions. In addition to reducing behavioral risk factors, the impact of environmental and occupational risk factors should also be explored.

How It's Tracked

The New Mexico Department of Health tracks chronic diseases through:

  • New Mexico's Bureau of Vital Records and Health Statistics (NMBVRHS).
  • Mexico Hospital Inpatient Discharge Data.
  • New Mexico Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.