Rx Nation: Top 5 Ailments in the U.S. by Prescriptions Dispensed

By FeaturesFOXBusiness

FOX Business looks at the top ailments contracted by Americans, ranging from the specific (hypertension and high cholesterol) to more broad categories (mental health and pain). Using data from IMS Health, a leading pharmaceutical market research firm, the conditions are ranked by number of prescriptions dispensed in 2014.

1. Hypertension

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Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is the top ailment afflicting Americans. Hypertension occurs when the pressure of blood against artery walls is intense enough that it may pose health risks, including heart attack and stroke. It is recommended that anyone with high blood pressure change their diet to consume less salt, exercise regularly, quit smoking and maintain a healthy weight. IMS says 705 million hypertension prescriptions were dispensed in the U.S. in 2014. While there are a number of medications on the the market to treat hypertension, The Mayo Clinic says thiazide diuretics are often the first choice.

2. Mental Health

MentalHealth.gov defines mental health as one’s “emotional, psychological, and social well-being.” Family history, brain chemistry and life experiences all play a role in your mental health. The synergy between these factors often contribute to mental health issues including anxiety, behavioral disorders, eating disorders, mood disorders and psychotic disorders. There are a multitude of symptoms concerning mental health disorders, and even more medications on the U.S. market to treat them. Roughly 537 million prescriptions relating to mental health were dispensed in 2014.

3. Pain

There were 480 million pain medication prescriptions dispensed in 2014. Injuries, medical conditions, surgery and a variety of other factors can prompt the need for pain medication. Unlike other classifications of medication, there is a risk of abuse with painkillers. According to the June 15 issue of Time Magazine, 2.1 million Americans are estimated by the NIH (National Institutes of Health) to be addicted to opioids, a class of pain medication.

4. Bacterial Infections

Common bacterial infections include Streptococcus, Staphylococcus and E. coli. The U.S. National Library of Medicine says less than 1% of bacteria make people sick. There were 267 million prescriptions dispensed for antibiotics, which treat bacterial infections, in 2014. There is a downside to taking antibiotics, however. The NLM says each time you take antibiotics you increase the chances that bacteria in your body will learn to resist them.

5. High Cholesterol

Cholesterol, the waxy substance found in the fat in your blood, can increase your risk of heart disease if too much builds up. The Mayo Clinic says the risk of a heart attack increases because your heart may not get as much oxygen-rich blood as it needs, and decreased blood flow to your brain can cause a stroke. High cholesterol can be inherited, but is mainly caused by unhealthy lifestyle choices. There were 263 million lipid regulator prescriptions dispensed in 2014 to treat high cholesterol.

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