Female doctor checking blood pressure with stethoscope and sphygmomanometer

Disease prevention

Chronic diseases —including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer— account for some of the most common health problems in the United States, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Yet many of these chronic diseases are preventable, as they’re linked to poor diet and lifestyle choices including tobacco use, excessive alcohol consumption, and inadequate physical activity.

The CDC reports some sobering statistics about Americans:

  • Chronic diseases are the leading causes of death and disability.
  • 70% of annual deaths are due to chronic diseases.
  • These preventable conditions not only compromise quality of life, they add to rising health care costs—75% of our health care dollars are devoted to treat these diseases.
  • Among adults ages 20 to 74, diabetes remains the leading cause of kidney failure, blindness, and non-traumatic lower-extremity amputations.

The good news is that you have the power to help prevent chronic disease, as making positive diet and lifestyle changes can help reduce risk. Eating healthy foods, getting enough exercise, and refraining from tobacco and excessive alcohol use confer numerous health benefits—including possibly preventing the onset of chronic diseases.

Terms of Use

The aim of the Harvard School of Public Health Nutrition Source is to provide timely information on diet and nutrition for clinicians, allied health professionals, and the public. The contents of this Web site are not intended to offer personal medical advice. You should seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Web site. The information does not mention brand names, nor does it endorse any particular products.