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Americans Fear Chronic Disease Above All Else

Despite worries, they do little to change habits that put them at risk

WEDNESDAY, March 25 (HealthDay News) -- Although Americans fear chronic disease above debt, divorce or unemployment, their lifestyle choices put them at risk for diseases such as diabetes, according to a report released March 24 by the American Diabetes Association.

The ADA conducted a survey of 2,516 U.S. adults, of whom 52 percent rated chronic illness as the worst thing that could happen to them, versus 19 percent who cited heavy debt, 13 percent who cited divorce or living alone and 11 percent who cited losing their job. Despite their concerns about chronic illness, half of the respondents had not discussed common chronic illnesses with their doctor, the researchers found.

Although 83 percent correctly identified overweight and obesity as a diabetes risk factor, over half also mistakenly cited excessive consumption of sugar as a risk factor, the report states. Moreover, about one-fourth did not consider smoking a risky behavior, and between 30 percent and 40 percent did not view maintaining an unhealthy weight or a poor diet as risky, the report reveals.

"We know Americans view activities like bungee jumping as especially risky and so they avoid them," Richard M. Bergenstal, M.D., president-elect, medicine and science at the American Diabetes Association, said in a statement. "However, these same people are gambling daily by ignoring risk factors for a life-altering disease like diabetes and doing nothing about it."

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