Americans include two health-related issues among the 10 most
important problems facing the U.S.,
according to a recent Gallup survey
. Healthcare in general ranked fourth on the list, with Ebola
coming in at no. 8. But is Ebola really among the biggest health
problems for Americans? Not when we look at the chances of
actually being infected.
So, what are the actual biggest health problems that Americans
face? One way to answer this question is to look at what drugs
are prescribed the most. Here are the seven top health problems
based on the most-prescribed drugs in the U.S., according to
Medscape's analysis of data provided by IMS Health.
Synthroid ranks at the top of the list of most-prescribed drugs.
Synthroid is used to treat hypothyroidism, a condition caused by
an underactive thyroid gland.
The American Thyroid Association estimates that 2%-3% of
Americans have pronounced hypothyroidism, while 10%-15% have a
mild version of the disease. Hypothyroidism occurs more
frequently in women, especially women over age 60. Around half of
Americans with the condition don't realize that they have
2. High cholesterol and high triglycerides
Coming in at a close second on the list is
Crestor. The drug is used to help control high cholesterol and
high triglyceride levels.
According to the American Heart Association, nearly 99 million
Americans age 20 and over have high cholesterol. Elevated
cholesterol levels are one of the major risk factors for heart
attacks and strokes. The problem is that you won't know if you
have high cholesterol unless you get tested -- and around one in
three Americans haven't had their cholesterol levels checked in
the last five years.
3. Heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease
AstraZeneca also claims the third most prescribed drug in the
nation -- Nexium. The "purple pill" helps treat hearburn
and gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, also commonly
referred to as acid reflux.
Around 20% of Americans have GERD, according to the American
Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. A lot of people take
over-the-counter medications, but that's not enough for many
others. Medscape reported that over 18.6 million prescriptions of
Nexium were filled between July 2013 and June 2014.
4. Breathing disorders
The next two highly prescribed drugs treat breathing disorders.
Ventolin HFA is used by asthma patients , while the company's
Advair Diskus treats asthma and chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease, or COPD.
More than 25 million Americans have asthma. Around 7 million
of these patients are children. Meanwhile, COPD, which includes
chronic bronchitis and emphysema, ranks as the third-leading
cause of death in the U.S.
5. High blood pressure
claims the next top-prescribed drug with Diovan. The drug treats
high blood pressure by relaxing and widening blood vessels,
thereby allowing blood to flow more readily.
Around one-third of American adults have high blood pressure.
Many don't know that they are affected, because the condition
doesn't usually manifest symptoms for a long time. However, high
blood pressure can eventually lead to other serious health
issues, including heart and kidney problems.
Several highly prescribed drugs combat diabetes, with
's Lantus Solostar taking the top spot for the condition. Lantus
Solostar is a long-acting basal insulin that is used for type 1
and type 2 diabetes mellitus.
According to the National Diabetes Statistics Report
released in June 2014, 29.1 million Americans had diabetes in
2012. That's a big jump from just two years earlier, when 25.8
million Americans had the disease. Diabetes ranks as the seventh
leading cause of death in the U.S.
7. Depression and anxiety
's Cymbalta fell just below Lantus Solostar in number of
prescriptions. Cymbalta is the leading treatment for depression
and generalized anxiety disorder.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America estimates
that 14.8 million Americans ages 18 and older suffer from a major
depressive disorder each year. Around 3.3 million have persistent
depressive disorder, a form of depression that lasts for two or
more years. Generalized anxiety disorder affects around 6.8
million adults in the U.S.
Common thread for common diseases
One thing that stands out about several of these common diseases
affecting millions of Americans is that many people have one or
more of these conditions -- but don't know it. This underscores
the importance of getting a checkup on a regular basis.
Regardless of what the Gallup survey found, the odds of you
getting Ebola are very low. On the other hand, the chances of you
or someone in your family already having one of these seven
conditions could be higher than you might think. Perhaps the
truly biggest healthcare challenge facing Americans is knowing
the status of their own health.
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7 Biggest Health Problems Americans Face
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