The Most Expensive Medical Conditions

An application for health insurance, a stethoscope and some pills( — What’s the cost of poor health? A lot more than you may think. The nation’s 10 most expensive medical conditions cost about $500 billion to treat in 2005, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). This includes money spent on visits to doctors’ offices, clinics and emergency departments, hospital stays, home health care, and prescription medications. AHRQ calculated the costs of these health conditions using information gathered from a nationally representative sample of more than 32,000 people, as well as supplemental data from medical providers.

Many of the conditions, including heart disease, cancer and diabetes, are common, chronic diseases that also tend to be preventable. But experts say aging Americans, who are facing ever increasing health care costs, often underestimate their ability to prevent these illnesses and their costly complications.

Here, the top 10 diseases that top the spending scale:

Heart Conditions: $95.6 Billion
More than 80 million Americans have cardiovascular disease, which claims more than 860,000 lives a year. Heart disease is the most expensive U.S. health condition, according to the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. To reduce your risk of heart disease complications, maintain a healthy weight by eating right and getting regular exercise. Don’t smoke. Be sure to follow your doctor’s recommendations to control other risk factors, like high blood pressure and diabetes.

Trauma: $74.3 Billion
Americans make 30 million to 40 million emergency hospital visits annually for injuries. Traffic crashes are the most common form of serious trauma, causing 33,308 fatalities in 2009. However, thanks to better road design, air bags, seat belt laws, and anti-drunk-driving laws, traffic fatalities in 2009 reached their lowest total since 1950. You can save lives by driving safely and wearing your seat belt.

Cancer: $72.2 Billion
More than 11.7 million Americans have some form of invasive cancer, and more than 560,000 die each year, making cancer the nation’s second leading cause of death. It’s also the third most expensive U.S. health condition, after heart disease and trauma, according to the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The good news: Overall, cancer rates have been falling since 1999. Experts say environmental causes, including poor lifestyle choices, cause up to two-thirds of cancer cases in the U.S. Reduce your risk by eating healthy, exercising, taking recommended screening tests, and not smoking.