Facing the Facts #1
chronic diseases and their
common risk factors
ChroniC diseases are the major cause
of death and disability worldwide
Chronic obstructive respiratory disease is caused by irreversible
obstruction of the larger airways in the lung; asthma is caused
Chronic diseases are the major cause of death and disability worldwide.
Stroke is a disease of the brain caused by interference to
the blood supply. Stroke and heart disease are the main by reversible obstruction of the smal er airways in the lung.
» Chronic diseases wil take the lives of over 35 mil ion people in 2005, including many young people and those in
» The total number of people dying from chronic diseases is double that of al infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS,
Diabetes is characterized by raised blood glucose (sugar)
tuberculosis and malaria), maternal and perinatal conditions, and nutritional deficiencies combined.
Cancer describes a range of diseases in which abnormal levels. This results from a lack of the hormone insulin,
cel s proliferate and spread out of control. Other terms used which controls blood glucose levels, and/or an inability of
80% of chronic disease deaths occur in low and middle income countries and half are in women.
are tumours and neoplasms. There are many types of can-
the body’s tissues to respond properly to insulin. The most
» Without action to address the causes, deaths from chronic disease will increase by 17% between 2005 and 2015.
cer and all organs of the body can become cancerous.
common type of diabetes is type 2, which accounts for about
Projected main causes of death, What are
90% of al diabetes and is largely the result of excessive
chronic respiratory diseases
weight and physical inactivity. The usual childhood form of
Diseases of the lung take many forms. Chronic obstructive diabetes (type 1 diabetes) is caused by an absolute lack of
worldwide, all ages, 2005
» cardiovascular diseases, mainly heart disease and
respiratory disease and asthma are the most common forms. insulin. Without insulin, type 1 diabetes is rapidly fatal.
maternal and perinatal
» chronic respiratory diseases;
Causes of chronic diseases
conditions, and nutritional
» others, such as mental disorders, vision and hearing
TOTAL DEATHS 2005
impairment, oral diseases, bone and joint disorders,
Raised blood pressure
and genetic disorders.
Raised blood glucose
Abnormal blood lipids
There are many forms of heart disease. Coronary
heart disease, also known as coronary artery disease
or ischaemic heart disease, is the leading cause of
Other chronic diseases
death globally. It is caused by disease of the blood
vessels (atherosclerosis) of the heart.
air pol ution, which contribute to a range of chronic diseases
including asthma and other chronic respiratory diseases.
The causes (risk factors) of chronic diseases are wel estab-
Psychosocial and genetic factors also play a role.
lished and wel known; a smal set of common risk factors are childhood risk
responsible for most of the main chronic diseases. These risk There is now extensive evidence from many countries that
factors are modifiable and the same in men and women:
conditions before birth and in early childhood influence
» unhealthy diet;
health in adult life. For example, low birth weight is now
» physical inactivity;
known to be associated with increased rates of high blood
pressure, heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
These causes are expressed through the intermediate risk risk accumulation
factors of raised blood pressure, raised glucose levels, Ageing is an important marker of the accumulation of modi-
abnormal blood lipids, overweight and obesity. The major fiable risks for chronic disease: the impact of risk factors
modifiable risk factors, in conjunction with the non-modifi-
increases over the life course.
able risk factors of age and heredity, explain the majority
of new events of heart disease, stroke, chronic respiratory underlying determinants
diseases and some important cancers. The relationship The underlying determinants of chronic diseases are a
between the major modifiable risk factors and the main reflection of the major forces driving social, economic and
chronic diseases is similar in al regions of the world.
cultural change – globalization, urbanization, population
ageing, and the general policy environment.
other risk Factors
Many more risk factors for chronic diseases have been iden-
tified, but they account for a smal er proportion of disease. Chronic diseases and poverty are interconnected in a vicious
Harmful alcohol use is an important contributor to the global circle. At the same time, poverty and worsening of already
burden of disease but its relationship to chronic disease existing poverty are caused by chronic diseases. The poor
is more complex. Other risk factors for chronic disease are more vulnerable for several reasons, including greater
include infectious agents that are responsible for cervical exposure to risks and decreased access to health services.
and liver cancers, and some environmental factors, such as Psychosocial stress also plays a role.
Without action to address the causes,
deaths from chronic disease will
increase by 17% over the next ten years