Tag Archives: chronic disease

The Cost of Chronic Disease

The primary issue that consumes the majority of the burden of healthcare costs in the United States is preventable chronic disease: while the most prevalent health conditions are simultaneously the most avoidable, they continue to cost the country’s budget billions of dollars. While overall numbers have decreased since 2010, when chronic disease cost the U.S. a total of $315 billion, morbid obesity rates have continued to rapidly spike—a condition that leads to a range of critical health issues including heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

Primary care providers have long faced the struggle of determining how to implement best practice care for patients diagnosed with chronic diseases. Recent studies indicate that almost half of the entire U.S. population has at least one chronic health condition—including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, or arthritis. Statistics designate these health care treatments costs to account for 86% of cumulative national healthcare spending, and the CDC reports that chronic conditions are the leading causes of death and disability in the country.

Yet the past decade has seen the advent and proliferation of digital health technology, spurring the generation of new techniques and strategies for healthcare professionals to utilize in chronic disease management. These types of technology vary in terms of accessibility and usability, but include remote monitoring, mobile health apps installable on phones, and wireless wearables—which serve as activity trackers.

A series of interviews conducted by Medical News Today demonstrate a bright future for the potential of new technology, and its ability to spur and provide high-quality care. Suzanne Falck, MD, an associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, noted that a highly successful digital tool is currently in use for the management of heart failure: an implanted sensor immediately transmits data to a healthcare practitioner, who then analyzes the data in order to make medical recommendations. Further clinical trials and studies indicate that remote monitoring is more cost-effective than traditional, conventional management.

Moreover, the burgeoning popularity of medical apps signifies that mobile technology can make a hugely positive impact on chronic disease management. There are currently approximately 259,000 medical health apps available to purchase; over half are aimed at targeting consumers with chronic conditions. Clinical trials have repeatedly shown that patients with type 2 diabetes who utilized an app to monitor their blood glucose levels showed greater benefits than those who did not. A recent article in Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics states that the prognosis in patients with diabetes is ‘strongly influenced by the degree of control of their disease,’ which reinforces the effectiveness of self-management support through mobile apps.

Another innovative and exciting development is wearable technology and devices, which are currently being studied in a variety of clinical research settings. Many healthcare providers believe that the ‘potential of this technology is endless,’ as they can improve access to care while simultaneously enhancing convenience—and likely patient compliance.

Most importantly, being conscious of medicinal needs and treatments requires a consistently high level of responsibility and awareness. Healthcare experts urge patients to take active, informed roles in managing their health: online workshops have been developed to offer chronic disease self-management programs, which have been proven to significantly improve health statuses. Moreover, healthcare practitioners and professionals must collectively work together and utilize the new landscape of digital medical technology to their patients’ benefits.

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Mold Exposure & Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome

Exposure to mold, and other biotoxins, can cause a syndrome termed Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS) in up to 40 million people in the United States. Presenting symptoms include fatigue, weight gain, memory loss, joint pain, IBS, mood disorders, headaches, and several others. Moreover, symptoms of mold exposure and CIRS affect multiple symptoms in the body, causing those affected to exhibit a wide array of symptoms. Clinical studies indicate that the neuroimmune, vascular, and endocrine dynamics present in CIRS may also play significant roles in other types of chronic illness, including chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, post-treatment Lyme disease, and multiple sclerosis.

Yet recent research has identified specific genetic susceptibility patterns—and consequent innate immune dysfunction—that can ultimately generate a high disease burden: even resulting in brain damage, which can now be reliably identified. Despite the complexity of this illness, there are now validated treatment protocols available to practitioners, designed to properly diagnose exposure, scope and measure, and even resolve genetic and proteomic immune responses, in addition to repairing injury to the central nervous system. All Integrative, Functional, and Anti-Aging practitioners should familiarize themselves with this critical topic, and be equipped with a working knowledge of proper and effective treatment approaches. The upcoming Chronic Infections, Inflammation, and Biotoxins Symposium will focus on the ways in which recently emerging strategies and tactics can address this often unmet, under addressed public health need.

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Tick Town: Increasing Occurrences of Lyme Disease

First recognized in the United States in 1975 after a puzzling and unexplainable outbreak of debilitating health issues near Lyme, Connecticut, it was not until 1982 that doctors identified the correlation between deer ticks and Lyme disease. The disease is caused by several strains of the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected tick. Once a tick emerges from an egg, it frequently becomes infected during its larval or nymph stage, as it feeds off small animals like squirrels, mice, or birds that carry the Lyme-causing bacteria. During the tick’s subsequent feeding cycle, it passes the bacteria to a human, or another animal.

Early symptoms of the disease often manifest as a flu-like illness, with accompanying fever, chills, muscle aches, and joint pain. While the characteristic ‘bulls-eye’ rash called erythema migrans is often present, many people develop a different type of rash, or none at all. Moreover, a host of Lyme symptoms occur in other diseases, and as a result, many patients suffering from Lyme disease are misdiagnosed with conditions like fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, and other psychiatric illnesses, before being correctly treated.

If Lyme is not diagnosed or treated in its early stages, it transitions to a chronic, highly problematic late-stage disease, and symptoms increase in their severity. Untreated Lyme disease will eventually infect joints, the heart, and the nervous system—causing nerve paralysis and meningitis, and difficulty with memory and concentration.

There are approximately 329,000 new cases of Lyme disease each year, and the number of those infected is expected to increase. According to Rick Ostfeld, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, the illness is on track to produce its worst numbers in 2017. Moreover, many experts believe the true number of Lyme cases is higher than reported, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention require ‘objective measures’ like positive blood tests or rashes; therefore, estimates indicate that CDC surveillance only captures approximately 10% of reportable Lyme cases. There is currently no vaccine for Lyme disease, and most researchers note that the FDA-approved blood tests are often inaccurate.

Because of the multi-faceted and complex nature of Lyme, neither standard nor functional medical treatments work very well in this patient population, nor is it enough only to treat the infection in many patients. Andrew Heyman, MD, MHSA, a renowned expert in chronic infections and Lyme disease, states: “Common complaints such as fatigue and weight gain can be wrapped in a much deeper problem such as Lyme that may be underlying the clinical presentation. To successfully treat Lyme patients, one must eradicate the infection, resolve the chronic inflammatory response and repair the injury to the brain – all of which is possible with targeted therapies to restore patients back to health.” A true specialist in this field, therefore, must have an extraordinary ability and capacity to treat the patient as a whole, with experience and skill in not only hormonal balance, stress management, microbiome health, and detoxification, but also genomics, brain trauma and injury, chronic infections, and mold exposure—along with managing other complicated factors associated with Lyme disease.

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