During the 20th century, the leading causes of death in the United States shifted from infectious to chronic diseases. Chronic diseases are now among the most prevalent, costly, and preventable health problems and account for seven of the 10 leading causes of death in the United States, including the three leading causes—heart disease, cancer, and stroke.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. older population grew rapidly for most of the 20th century, from 3.1 million in 1900 to 35.0 million in 2000. The older population in 2030 is projected to be twice as large as in 2000, growing from 35 million to 72 million and representing nearly 20 percent of the total U.S population at the latter date.
As the population ages, the burden of chronic diseases will become more and more important, and communities will need to find innovative ways to prevent or alleviate chronic disease.
Ann Pearman is involved in research concerning memory performance and memory complaints in older adults. Kymberly Sterling has research interests in cancer prevention and control. Sheryl Strasser has conducted research involving health outcomes of older adult Medicare beneficiaries.