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Health Facts on Non-Communicable Diseases

Last Updated on Jul 19, 2021

Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) are a group of Chronic conditions that include hypertension, diabetes, stroke, Chronic Respiratory Diseases and Cancer. Non-communicable diseases pose a significant threat globally due to the rising trends of occurrence as well as related deaths.


Twelve Health Facts on Non-Communicable Diseases:

  1. Non-Communicable Diseases lead to more deaths globally than communicable diseases. Among communicable diseases malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS form the main cause of death but their numbers are falling down.
  2. Non-Communicable Diseases are responsible for about 41 million deaths per year, which account for 71% of the total global deaths.
  3. The burden of non-communicable diseases is more in low and middle-income developing countries, which includes India.
  4. Unlike majority of the communicable diseases, no single cause or agent can be held responsible for the emergence of non-communicable diseases.
  1. Although these chronic diseases are responsible for most of the deaths and disease burden in older age (more than 70 years), a significant number of deaths have also been seen in the age group of 30 to 69 years. These premature NCD deaths account for about 15 million deaths annually.
  2. Most of the NCD deaths are due to cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attacks (ischemic heart disease), hypertension (increased blood pressure), rheumatic heart disease, stroke (cerebrovascular disease). These chronic cardiovascular conditions account for 17.9 million deaths annually. This is followed by cancers, with a death rate of 9.3 million per year. Respiratory diseases and Diabetes are responsible for 4.1 million and 1.5 million deaths per year, respectively.
  3. Sedentary lifestyle (inadequate physical activity), stress, tobacco smoking, harmful alcohol intake, high blood sugar, high salt diet, obesity, high cholesterol and triglyceride levels are few of the major risk factors leading to non-communicable diseases. Rapid urbanisation has significantly contributed to the rising trends of the risk factors mentioned.
  4. Lifestyle modification is the mainstay of prevention and control of non-communicable diseases. Practice of a healthy lifestyle is advocated; regular exercise, cessation of smoking, avoidance of harmful levels of alcohol intake, consumption of low salt and low fat diet, increased intake of dietary fibres are few of the measures that can improve outcomes.
  5. Tobacco is a major risk factor common to most of the diseases in the NCD spectrum. Tobacco use is responsible for around 7.2 million deaths per year. This includes people who smoke first hand, as well as non-smokers, who are exposed to tobacco smoke passively.
  1. Cessation of smoking significantly reduces the risk of death from coronary heart diseases. The risk declines substantially within 1 year of cessation. Moreover, after 20 to 30 years of tobacco free period, the risk of an individual to succumb to tobacco related coronary heart disease becomes the same as that of a non-smoker. The risk of fatal heart attack episodes also decreases by almost 50%.
  2. Cutting down quantity of high glycemic index food items from diet is another notable approach. Glycemic index is a grading system based on how quickly a food item affects the blood glucose levels. Foods with a high glycemic index are broken down rapidly by our body, leading to a sharp rise in blood glucose levels. On the contrary, low glycemic index foods are broken down slowly. They are readily digestible and lower the absorption of sugar.

    Low GI <=55 Non-starchy vegetables, Lentils, Beans, Chickpeas, most fruits, Milk, Oats, Nuts.
    Medium GI 56-69 Honey, Brown rice, fruits like Banana, Grapes, Pineapples.
    High GI >=70 White rice, White bread, Breakfast cereals, Potatoes, Watermelon, Candies, Packaged fruit juices.

  3. Studies suggest that a minimum duration of 150 minutes of heart pumping aerobic exercises per week in the adult population can be beneficial in improving cardiac outcomes. It can be divided into 30 minutes of brisk walking, cycling, swimming, running, etc. for at least 5 days a week.

The prevention and control of non-communicable diseases in low and medium-income countries is now of utmost importance as it poses a significant burden on health and social well-being.


  1. Noncommunicable diseases - (https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/noncommunicable-diseases)
  2. About Global NCDs - (https://www.cdc.gov/globalhealth/healthprotection/ncd/global-ncd-overview.html)
  3. Park’s Textbook of Preventive and Social Medicine, 25th edition

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