Chronic Conditions
Washington County, Oregon

Chronic Conditions

Six in ten Americans live with at least one chronic disease, like asthma, heart disease, cancer, stroke, or diabetes. These and other chronic diseases are a leading causes of death and disability in Washington County, and they are also a leading driver of health care costs. Chronic conditions are typically defined as lasting one year or more. These conditions may limit the activities of daily living and may require ongoing medical attention.

Six in ten Americans live with at least one chronic disease


Asthma is a chronic lung condition where breathing is difficult due to inflammation and constriction in the lungs. The disease can cause reccurring episodes of wheezing and/or breathlessness. Asthma is a type of chronic lower respiratory disease, a leading cause of death in the United States.

We see a higher burden of asthma in lower income communities and communities of color. Quality of life for people living with asthma can be improved by increasing awareness of asthma in communities, protecting people from secondhand smoke and reducing environmental health risk factors, including emissions from woodburning stoves (see Healthy Environment).

Heart Disease

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, resulting in about one in every four deaths. Every minute, someone in the United States dies from a heart disease-related event. The most common form of heart disease in the United States is coronary artery disease which limits blood-flow to the heart. A complete blockage of blood results in a heart attack. 

Certain populations are more at risk of contracting heart disease. This includes people with abnormal heartbeats or heart defects, high body mass indexes, or diabetes. In addition, negative lifestyle choices can increase risk of heart disease including poor diet, smoking, and excessive drinking.


Cancer is caused by the development of neoplasms (tumors) which divide uncontrollably, spreading to and destroying surrounding tissues. There are many kinds of cancer, and many risk factors associated with them—notably tobacco and alcohol use.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States. Only heart disease kills more people. Roughly 600,000 Americans died from cancer in 2017—nearly 185 deaths for every 100,000 people. 


Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the body’s ability to process food for energy. Without diabetes, the body processes the food eaten and turns it into sugars, or glucose. After that, the pancreas releases insulin. With diabetes, this process doesn’t happen correctly. The body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use its own insulin as well as it should, causing sugars to build up in the body’s blood supply.

Diabetes can cause serious health complications such as blindness, amputations, kidney failure, stroke and heart disease. Quitting smoking, eating healthfully (access to affordable foods), and getting physical activity (access to safe places to exercise) are all beneficial in reducing the risk of developing diabetes. (Note that the prevalence and mortality data shown here includes both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.)

About the Data

Prevalence estimates shown as percentage charts for asthma and diabetes are from Washington County Public Health. The percentages are age-adjusted to enable more useful comparisons between different populations or locations that have different age demographics.

State-level prevalence estimates are from the CDC's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. 

Chronic lower respiratory disease mortality data was queried from CDC Wonder based on the following parameters: Underlying Cause of Death, ICD-10 codes: J40-J47.

Diabetes mortality, also from CDC Wonder, uses Multiple (not underlying) Cause of Death to more broadly capture cases where diabetes may contribute to mortality. It uses ICD-10 codes ICD-10 codes: E10-E14.

Heart disease mortality, also from CDC Wonder, uses Underlying Cause of Death, ICD-10 codes: I00-I02, I05-I09, I11, I13, I20-I25, I26-I28, I30-I51.

Cancer mortality, also from CDC WONDER, uses ICD-10 codes: C00-C97.