Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are among the leading cause of death worldwide. It’s estimated that 3-in-5 people will die from an NCD. Globally, these conditions affect poverty rates and continue to impede the economic advancement of many countries
1. Cardiovascular Disease
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the #1 cause of death worldwide. CVD encompasses a wide range of disorders, including coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, and congenital heart disease. Altogether, CVD is responsible for around 17.9 million deaths every year.
Risk factors for CVD include poor diet, tobacco use, and physical inactivity. Changing any one of these bad habits can lower the risk of CVD. Treatments for CVD vary but include medications, surgery, and rehabilitation. New research is providing insights into genetic risk factors as well. In 2019, 22 new regions of the genome were identified that affect the risk of venous thromboembolism, which can be fatal for many patients.
Cancer accounts for 7.6 million deaths worldwide, with a disproportionate amount occurring in low- and middle-income countries. The top types of cancer affect over 3.2 million people every year and it’s predicted that these rates will only continue to rise in the coming years. According to the Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases (GACD), over 30% of cancers are preventable through lifestyle modifications, with tobacco use being the leading risk factor accounting for 22% of cancer deaths.
Early detection is key to treatment, but oncology research continues to provide promising new treatment options using gene and immunotherapy.
3. Chronic Respiratory Illness
Rates of chronic respiratory illness have been steadily increasing over the past 30 years. These illnesses include COPD, pneumoconiosis, asthma, and pulmonary sarcoidosis. Compared with other leading causes of death, respiratory illnesses are sadly neglected.
Diabetes affects over 422 million people worldwide, and the numbers have been steadily increasing each year. The majority of people living with diabetes have type 2, which is attributed to excess body weight and inactivity. Over time, diabetes can lead to blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, strokes, and lower-limb amputations. Treatment typically includes monitoring insulin levels, increasing physical activity, and insulin treatment.
While there is still no cure for diabetes, research continues to advance with the hope of one day creating an artificial pancreas or replacing damaged islet cells.
5. Mental Illness
An estimated 10% of the world’s population suffers from some type of mental illness. Stigma around mental health issues causes many cases to go untreated. It is acceptable to take time off if we are sick with a cold or the flu, but patients dealing with severe depression or anxiety do not receive the same level of understanding. Left untreated, mental illness can lead to dire consequences, including loss of work, trouble with the law, deteriorating physical health, self-harm, and suicide. It’s estimated that untreated mental illness costs the global economy $2.5 trillion in lost productivity every year.
There is strong evidence that common mental health disorders can be successfully treated by increasing access to care, expanding research capacity, and implementing prevention programs.