What are non-communicable diseases?
Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), sometimes referred to as chronic diseases, are conditions that develop over an extended period of time as a result of a combination of genetic, physiological, environmental, and behavioral variables. Their cause cannot be attributed to a single agent.
The four primary types of NCD are diabetes, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases (such chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma), and cardiovascular disorders (including heart attacks and stroke).
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Major risk factors for non-communicable diseases
The causes for these diseases is multifactorial. There are many risk factors associated with these diseases. The following factors all increase the risk of dying from a NCD:
- Tobacco use
- Physical inactivity
- The harmful use of alcohol
- Unhealthy diets – key among them excess salt/sodium intake
- Obesity/ overweight
The link between unhealthy diets and non-communicable diseases
In recent decades, calories from foods high in fiber, such as whole grains, pulses, and roots, have decreased while calories from diets high in meat, sugar, and oils and fats have increased. In low and medium income countries, the consumption of processed and convenient foods is still rising quickly. Dietary habits and nutrient intake are impacted by this nutrition shift, which raises the risk of NCDs.
Consuming primarily plant-based meals lowers the chance of getting diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and several types of cancer. Vegetarian diets are high in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and they contain only trace amounts of dairy and meat.
Both fruits and vegetables help to prevent cardiovascular disease on their own. Consuming processed and red meat raises your risk of getting colorectal cancer. Blood cholesterol and cardiovascular risk are both increased by trans and saturated fats. Higher salt and sodium intake is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and perhaps stomach cancer. Additionally, high-meat and dairy diets raise blood pressure. Obesity and overweight are caused by diets rich in refined carbohydrates, sugary drinks, and energy-dense, highly processed meals. Obesity further poses higher risk.
Effects of non-communicable diseases
According to the World Health Organization, Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) kill 41 million people each year, which is equivalent to 71% of all deaths globally. This shows that these diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide.
More than three quarters (77%) of all NCD fatalities worldwide; 31.6 million, occur in low- and middle-income countries, where they affect people disproportionately. More than 15 million persons aged 30 to 69 die from NCD every year; 85% of these “premature” deaths take place in low- and middle-income nations. Cardiovascular diseases, followed by malignancies (9.3 million), respiratory illnesses (4.1 million), and diabetes (1.5 million), cause the majority of NCD deaths, or 17.9 million people per year. These four disease types cause more than 80% of all deaths from NCDs that occur prematurely.
Besides death, NCDs contribute to:
- Increased burden on health care – high expenses
- Dependence on medication
- Restricted ability to work – reduced productivity
- Many households struggle with increased financial risk due to the high expenses incurred
- These high healthcare expenses and reduced productivity strain developing economies and impede social and economic development.
- The NCDs threatens to overwhelm health care systems.
Detection, screening and treatment
Detection, screening and treatment of NCDs, as well as palliative care, are key components of the response to NCDs. In all cases, early detection increases the success of management options available.
Prevention and control of NCDs
The most important way of controlling NCDs is to focus on reducing the risk factors associated with these diseases.