Growing Pains

By Earl Whipple

I’m one of those people that always hated the following question: What would you like first – the good news or the bad news?  But as I worked on this week’s post and thought about chronic disease, the perspective of good news vs bad news really made sense in framing the issue.

So…what is the good news?

People today are living longer than ever before. Life expectancy reached a record high in 2007 of 77.9 years[1] and our nation’s 65+ population will more than double by 2050.[2]

Improved access to health care, advances in medicine, healthier lifestyles, and better health before age 65 are all credited for decreasing death rates among older Americans. It’s not exactly a fountain of youth formula but it seems to be working!

Now for the bad news: as our country continues to age, we’re facing a growing chronic disease burden. The “baby boomer” generation, known for being the most active generation in history, is being weighed down by increasing rates of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and arthritis. For example, the prevalence of arthritis is expected to increase from 47 million in 2005 to nearly 67 million by 2030.[3] May is National Arthritis Month, and an important time for us to take notice of the increasing burden of chronic diseases like arthritis – our “growing pains,” if you will.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the “wear-and-tear” kind of arthritis, which is most common.[4]Although I
am just behind boomer generation in approaching my mid 40s, OA has
affected me personally.My titanium hip entitles me to a complimentary
manual screening at any airport.

But seriously, at least 80% of OA patients have limited movement and 25% can’t perform major activities of daily living, such as walking up and down stairs, getting in and out of a car, or walking around the mall.Today’s older yet active adults want to keep moving.

I personally think this is a core sentiment behind the AstraZeneca mission to make a meaningful difference to patient health. So no matter how long someone lives, they can live it to the fullest. Since May is National Arthritis Month, I encourage you to check out the Arthritis Foundation’s Web site to learn more and get details on upcoming Arthritis Walks in your area. I know I’m looking forward to the May 15th walk in Philly!

Do you know someone whose life has been impacted by OA? Has a medical condition ever prevented you from doing what you love? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section!


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[1] CDC, NCHS Data Brief, No. 26, December 2009. Death in the United States, 2007. Accessed March 2010.

[2] US Census Bureau News. Census Bureau Reports World’ Older Population Projected to Triple by 2050. June 23, 2009. Accessed March 2010.


[3] Hootman, Jennifer M. And Hemlick, Charles G. Projections of US Prevalence of Arthritis and Associated Activity Limitations. Arthritis & Rheumatism. Vol. 54. No. 1. January 2006, pp 226-229.

[4]US CDC. Arthritis. Osteoarthritis. Accessed March 2010.