During the pandemic, much focus has been on infectious diseases that can start and spread quickly. Many of the common and costly healthy problems in Alaska, however, are chronic diseases — those that go on for a long time and often don’t go away completely. Examples of chronic diseases include obesity, heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, asthma, and arthritis.
The Alaska Department of Health’s annual Chronic Disease Brief Report shares the percentage of Alaskans living with chronic diseases and the number of Alaskans who died from these diseases in 2020. The report also shares the habits, screenings and programs that can prevent, diagnose and manage these diseases to feel better.
Four healthy habits can help prevent and manage chronic diseases.
Four healthy habits can help protect Alaskans from developing and living with chronic diseases: never smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active, and following a healthy diet. These habits are linked to as much as an 80% reduction in the chances of developing the most common and deadly chronic diseases.
Limited access to care can make it harder to receive services that prevent chronic diseases.
Access to health care impacts everything from prevention of disease, to quality of life, to life expectancy. Limited access can reduce the possibility of receiving preventive health care, including routine disease screening and immunizations.
Having chronic diseases can increase chances of serious illness from COVID-19.
Nearly 3 out of 4 Alaska adults (72%) have underlying ongoing health concerns or chronic diseases that increase their chances of serious illness or death from COVID-19, should they contract the virus. Examples of these concerns follow, and others are found in the full report:
- 44% of Alaska adults are current or former smokers
- 31% have obesity
- 20% are inactive
Alaskans can take steps to prevent and manage chronic diseases.
Community partners and public health professionals can:
- Make the healthy choice the easier choice. Examples include providing smokefree workplaces and ensuring all foods and drinks sold at schools and worksites promote health.
Health care providers can:
- Advise patients about staying active, maintaining healthy weight, avoiding sugary drink consumption and addressing tobacco use.
- Screen for chronic conditions and refer patients to appropriate preventive and treatment services.
- Take an active role in your health by being active, eating a healthy diet, avoiding tobacco use, and cutting out sugary drinks.
- Ask your health care provider about recommended screenings and services:
- Alaska’s Tobacco Quit Line offers free, confidential help quitting: 1-800-784-8669.
- Free and low-cost programs are available to lose weight, prevent and manage diabetes, and lower blood pressure.