Study: 40% of Puerto Rico Seniors diagnosed with 6 or more health conditions
SAN JUAN – The health of Puerto Rico’s senior citizens is highly compromised, according to a new study by the University of Puerto Rico’s Graduate School of Public Health. More than 40% of people age 65 or older have been diagnosed with six or more health conditions.
“For the first time, we now have data that provides us ample vision–sustained with reliable facts–about the seriousness of the situation regarding the health of senior adults in Puerto Rico. The data also urges us to take drastic measures for the prevention of chronic diseases, the promotion of health and specialized services to this population,” said Dr. José R. Carrión, associate professor of the gerontology program.
The study, made using a database of 11 health insurance companies operating in Puerto Rico, revealed that the five most common health conditions affecting the 424,479 insured people 65 and older were high blood pressure (70.2%), lipid metabolic disorders (62.2%), diabetes (53.6%), hypothyroidism (35.1%) and anemia (33.2%). The study did not reveal significant differences by gender and geographic location.
For study purposes researchers studied the prevalence of diabetes, hypertension and lipid metabolism disorders as a combined variable identified as Metabolic Trio. The study revealed 18.3% of the population did not have any of the conditions, 15.6% had at least one of the diseases, 27.9% had at least two and 38.2% had all three conditions.
Carrión explained that, while the study did not include determining which specific six conditions are more prevalent among the 40% of people diagnosed, he estimated the ones comprising the Metabolic Trio should be among them.
“The fact that seniors and geriatric patients have so many health conditions affecting their health is clear evidence of the complexity of the treatment required and the importance of and integral vision of the patient, the prevision and prevention of possible complications and the adequate management of medicines [polypharmacy, or the simultaneous use of multiple drugs by a single patient, for one or more conditions],” Carrión argued.
The researchers recommended public health efforts should be geared toward prevention, early detection and treatment of the most common diseases so there could be a significant improvement in the quality of life of the island’s elderly.