Noncommunicable diseases

Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), principally cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases, impose a major and growing burden on health and development in the Western Pacific Region.

NCDs are the leading causes of death and disability in the Region, responsible for 75% of all deaths in a region that is home to more than one quarter of the world’s population. Globally, NCD deaths are projected to increase by 15% between 2010 and 2020 (to 44 million deaths), with the highest numbers predicted in the Western Pacific (12.3 million deaths) and South-East Asia (10.4 million deaths) Regions. Of particular concern is the high level of premature mortality from NCDs (deaths before 70 years of age) in several low- and middle-income countries (LMIC).

10 Facts about noncommunicable diseases:

  • NCDs account for 63% of all deaths--Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), primarily cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes, are responsible for 63% of all deaths worldwide (36 million out 57 million global deaths).
  • 80% of NCDs deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.
  • More than nine million of all deaths attributed to noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) occur before the age of 60.
  • Around the world, NCDs affect women and men almost equally.
  • NCDs are largely preventable by means of effective interventions that tackle shared risk factors, namely: tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and harmful use of alcohol.
  • NCDs are not only a health problem but a development challenge as well--They force many people into, or entrench them in poverty due to catastrophic expenditures for treatment.
  • One and a half billion adults, 20 and older, were overweight in 2008.
  • Nearly 43 million children under five years old were overweight in 2010.
  • Tobacco use kills nearly six million people a year--By 2020, this number will increase to 7.5 million, accounting for 10% of all deaths.
  • Eliminating major risks could prevent most NCDs—If the major risk factors for chronic disease were eliminated, at around three-quarters of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes would be prevented; and 40% of cancer would be prevented.

Cardiovascular diseases (Updated: September 2011)

  • CVDs are the number one cause of death globally: more people die annually from CVDs than from any other cause.
  • An estimated 17.3 million people died from CVDs in 2008, representing 30% of all global deaths. Of these deaths, an estimated 7.3 million were due to coronary heart disease and 6.2 million were due to stroke.
  • Low- and middle-income countries are disproportionally affected: more than 80% of CVD deaths take place in low- and middle-income countries and occur almost equally in men and women.
  • By 2030, almost 23.6 million people will die from CVDs, mainly from heart disease and stroke. These are projected to remain the single leading causes of death.

Cancer (Updated: October 2011)

  • Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for 7.6 million deaths (around 13% of all deaths) in 2008 (1).
  • Lung, stomach, liver, colon and breast cancer cause the most cancer deaths each year.
  • The most frequent types of cancer differ between men and women.
  • About 30% of cancer deaths are due to the five leading behavioral and dietary risks: high body mass index, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, tobacco use, alcohol use.
  • Tobacco use is the most important risk factor for cancer causing 22% of global cancer deaths and 71% of global lung cancer deaths.
  • Cancer causing viral infections such as HBV/HCV and HPV are responsible for up to 20% of cancer deaths in low- and middle-income countries.
  • About 70% of all cancer deaths in 2008 occurred in low- and middle-income countries.
  • Deaths from cancer worldwide are projected to continue rising, with an estimated 13.1 million deaths in 2030 (2).

Chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (Updated: November 2011)

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a life-threatening lung disease that interferes with normal breathing – it is more than a “smoker’s cough”.
  • An estimated 64 million people have COPD worldwide in 2004.1
  • More than 3 million people died of COPD in 2005, which is equal to 5% of all deaths globally that year.
  • Almost 90% of COPD deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.
  • The primary cause of COPD is tobacco smoke (through tobacco use or second-hand smoke).
  • The disease now affects men and women almost equally, due in part to increased tobacco use among women in high-income countries.
  • COPD is not curable, but treatment can slow the progress of the disease.
  • Total deaths from COPD are projected to increase by more than 30% in the next 10 years without interventions to cut risks, particularly exposure to tobacco smoke.

Diabetes (Updated: August 2011)

  • 346 million people worldwide have diabetes.
  • In 2004, an estimated 3.4 million people died from consequences of high blood sugar.
  • More than 80% of diabetes deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.
  • WHO projects that diabetes deaths will double between 2005 and 2030.
  • Healthy diet, regular physical activity, maintaining a normal body weight and avoiding tobacco use can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.
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