Non-Communicable diseases (NCDs): A Major Health Challenge of the 21st Century

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Non-Communicable diseases (NCDs) Deaths

In 2008, among over all deaths 63% were due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) at global level. Increase in NCDs deaths and growth in older adults both are directly proportionate.

Risk factors


Percentage (%)

Raised blood pressure




Increased Cholesterol




Physical Inactivity


Tobacco Use


Risk factors have multiple effects one may lead to others. For example - 22% heart disease deaths and 16% of stroke deaths occurred due to diabetes. Likewise raised blood pressure caused 51% of stroke deaths and 45% of coronary heart disease deaths.

NCD deaths - Cause

Percentage (%)

Cardiovascular disease




Chronic respiratory diseases




Reasons for 80% heart diseases and stroke were tobacco use, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet and the harmful use of alcohol. Except in African and European countries in all others, mean blood pressure has decreased dramatically. In 2008, the prevalence of raised blood pressure was highest in African Region with 36.8%.

Age-standardized prevalence (%) of raised blood pressure (SBP ≥140 mm Hg or DBP ≥90 mm Hg) among adults aged 25 years and over by WHO region, 1980 and 2008
AFR - African Region AMR - American Region
SEAR - South East Asian Region EUR - European Region
EMR - Eastern Mediterranean Region WPR - Western Pacific Region

Cardiovascular Deaths (CVDs)

As per projection, cardiovascular deaths will increase up to 25 million in 2030 and cancer deaths 13 million. Because of this, total annual number of deaths also will increase.
Low and middle-income countries were mostly affected by NCDs, especially among people under the age of 70. In sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe and parts of Asia, major NCDs deaths occurred in people between 30-70 age group.

Cancer Deaths

In low-and middle-income countries more than 2/3rd deaths occurred due to various cancers. 20% and 9% of cancer deaths occurred in low-and middle-income countries and in high-income countries correspondingly due to various infections. But types of cancer vary based on underlying risks. For example - cervical cancer was the leading one in sub-Saharan Africa where as in high-income countries lung cancer was common.

Obesity and Overweight

Obesity was the main cause of NCD deaths, which resulted in 2.8 million deaths. It may lead to other risk factors. In last 3 decades, prevalence of obesity almost doubled. Comparatively women were more obese than men. America was in highest position with 62% overweight population and South-East Asia Region was in lowest with 14% where as in other regions it was 50%.

Age-standardized prevalence (%) of obesity (body mass index ≥30 kg/m2) among adults aged 20 years and over by WHO region, 1980 and 2008
Source: WHO-2012 report
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