Chronic Diseases: What You Should Know

February 14, 2020
Chronic diseases are a huge public health problem worldwide. The aging population is one of the main causes. In today's article, we'll explain what the current situation is and how you can prevent these diseases.

Chronic diseases are diseases that affect the body over a significantly long period. They involve symptoms that exceed six months in length.

In general, chronic diseases evolve slowly. Therefore, they’re capable of impairing the various body systems and organs. It’s also common for a chronic disease to be linked to another one. In fact, this is the case with arterial hypertension, as it often coexists with diabetes. Also, hypothyroidism is often associated with various hormonal conditions.

Estimates indicate that chronic diseases lead to about 75% of the deaths worldwide. Heart problems, cancers, diabetes, and respiratory conditions account for more than 60% of these deaths. Overall, a third of people under sixty die from chronic conditions. However, it’s not exclusively a problem that affects the elderly. In fact, it extends far beyond this age group.

As for diabetes, its relationship with obesity is alarming. Diabetes is becoming more frequent with the prevalence of overweight people around the world. Estimates indicate that the number of diabetics will double in most countries in ten years.

The most common chronic diseases

There are many common chronic diseases and they cause the most deaths. However, the four most relevant diseases in this group are:

  • Cancer in all its forms. This disease represents a significant portion of serious health problems that affect the general population.
  • Acute myocardial infarctions, heart failure, and strokes are examples of chronic heart diseases that don’t only lead to death but are often impairing. The various degrees of disability arising from these conditions affect entire families.
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) includes asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and atelectasis. Smoking is the most common risk factor associated with these.
  • Finally, it’s hard to ignore diabetes, both in its juvenile form – type 1 diabetes – and in its adult form – type 2 diabetes. This is because, unfortunately, it’s currently on the rise.

The poverty problem

There’s a widespread belief that chronic diseases are a problem in first-world countries, but this is a myth. This is because statistics reveal that poor countries are actually the most affected by chronic disease. Overall, about 80% of deaths resulting from the aforementioned diseases happen in third-world countries and only 20% in wealthier countries.

Also, half of those deaths happen in people under the age of 70. Thus, people are dying at a younger age, and people in poorer countries often get sick and pass away well before their time.

A person with dirty hands.
Chronic diseases are more frequent in poor countries than in rich ones.

Read: Chronic and Acute Diarrhea: Causes and Treatment

Risk factors for chronic diseases

Chronic diseases are preceded by many risk factors. These are often due to the unique characteristics of the environment or the person, which makes them more susceptible to disease. The risk factors are – for the most part – well-known, and health organizations take many actions to try to keep them at bay. In fact, there’d be up to 80% fewer cases of heart disease and diabetes and 40% few cases of cancer if we could control the risk factors.

Among the most relevant risk facts, we can find:

  • Alcohol. The consumption of this substance leads to about three million deaths a year worldwide. Alcohol is responsible for liver cancer, cirrhosis, trauma, and many accidents.
  • Excess weight and obesity. These conditions also lead to about three million deaths per year. Overall, they’re due to poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle. An obese person has a much higher risk of developing a disabling, long-term chronic disease.
  • Tobacco. Smoking affects the people who do so as well as those around them. According to estimates, twice the amount of people die from smoking than from alcohol-related conditions – about six million deaths per year.
  • Diet. Excess weight and obesity aren’t the only consequence of a bad diet. Inadequate nutrition may imply that a diet contains excess salt, carcinogenic components, or not enough fiber. Many of these diets are behind arterial hypertension and irritable bowel syndrome.
  • A sedentary lifestyle. Physical inactivity leads to obesity and contributes to the development of chronic diseases.
A man watching TV.
Sedentarism is the most common risk factors of this era.

Keep discovering: The Risks of a Sedentary Lifestyle on Your Heart

Controlling the risk factors is in your hands

As you can see, all of these factors may significantly increase your chances of developing a chronic disease. However, fortunately, controlling them is entirely in your hands. By adopting healthy habits and eliminating risk factors, you can limit your risk of developing a chronic disease and help make the world a healthier place. 

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