Chronic Conditions Across Adulthood: Common Types and Treatments

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  • 0:03 Chronic Conditions
  • 0:53 Cancer
  • 2:05 Heart Disease
  • 2:54 Arthritis
  • 4:15 Osteoporosis
  • 5:40 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Devin Kowalczyk

Devin has taught psychology and has a master's degree in clinical forensic psychology. He is working on his PhD.

In this lesson, we will explore several chronic diseases and conditions that can afflict a person in adulthood. These range from the lethal to the painfully annoying. In addition, we will discuss common ways that they are managed.

Chronic Conditions

Sometimes, living is a pain. And not in a metaphorical pain, like 'It hurts me when my boss is stupid,' or 'I have to get up early for my job or school.' No, sometimes living is actually physically painful.

Chronic conditions, sometimes referred to as chronic diseases, are conditions that develop more slowly and typically worsen over time. The list of chronic diseases is very long and doesn't really help anyone understand them.

Let's look at some of the common ones and how to treat them. Yes, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as 'Lou Gehrig's disease,' is interesting. However, so few people have it that an in-depth understanding of this disease is not super helpful to an everyday person.


Let's start off serious and then work our way to less serious things. Cancer is abnormal cell growths that grow out of control in the body. Cells, controlled by their DNA, occasionally get warped or twisted and then begin to grow like crazy. This puts a strain on the body because these growing cells take in food in the form of oxygen and put out waste products like nobody's business.

It's sort of like having a rude friend move into your house for a week. Pretty soon, he's set up shop in your spare bedroom and has eaten all your food. According to the American Cancer Society, about 13 million people in the U.S. had cancer in 2010.

Managing cancer is mostly about managing symptoms of treatment. It is a chronic disease that must be treated heavily, and sometimes often, with powerful chemicals and radiation. This leads to symptoms, such as nausea, hair loss, weakness and fatigue, as well as a general decline in overall health. To manage this, a person needs to keep up on their health in other ways, such as eating healthier and taking better care of themselves.

Heart Disease

Heart disease, officially called cardiovascular disease, is a broad category of acute and chronic conditions dealing with the heart or cardiovascular network. This includes things like heart attack, stroke and other reductions in blood flow. Often, this is discussed as a more chronic disease than an acute one, but it can be lethal all on its own. The Center for Disease Control estimates that one in four deaths in the U.S. each year are due to heart disease related issues.

Management of heart disease is about reducing risk factors and increasing protective factors. This includes things like being tobacco-free, eating healthier foods, getting moderate to vigorous physical activity every week and maintaining blood pressure and cholesterol levels.


Arthritis is a catchall term for a group of muscular and bone ailments that can cause intense pain, inflammation and damage. Sometimes the joints swell up, sometimes the immune system attacks the joints and sometimes the lubricating cartilage wears out and it is bone rubbing on bone. Just thinking about that last one gives me the heebie-jeebies. The CDC estimates that as many as 52 million people in the United States suffer from arthritis.

Kind of like heart disease, the best strategy for halting the advancement of arthritis is increasing protective factors and decreasing risk factors. First off, understanding what is happening and exploring the different management strategies helps reduce the frustration and pain of dealing with a chronic disease. Remaining active can decrease pain levels, increasing functioning and delay overall disability.

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