Iceland is a country with a small population of about 338,000, making the nation ideal for medical research. Due to a long period of isolation, natives are genetically similar. This means that identifying common diseases in Iceland is simple.
Below are the three most common diseases in Iceland according to the most current global health statistics.
- The number one cause of death in Iceland is Coronary Heart Disease (CHD). CHD is “caused by damage or inflammation of the blood vessels that supply the heart.” The result is a narrowing of the blood vessels that slows or prevents blood from reaching the heart. Per 100,000 people in Iceland, about 139 people die annually from CHD. It also contributes to “1,696 annual years of healthy life lost per 100,000 people.”CHD persists in Iceland due to a poor diet that contributes to 87% of the total deaths caused by the disease. Since 1990, the average years of healthy life lost due to CHD has dropped by 42%. This is most likely due to continued research on CHD and the promotion of a healthier diet.
- Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is the number two cause of death in Iceland. AD is the most common form of dementia, which is the loss of memory and other important cognitive functions. AD is mainly caused by genetic predisposition, though many think of it as a normal part of aging. The disease worsens over time so that memory loss increases gradually over many years. The number of people with AD globally is increasing as more people live past the age of 65. In Iceland, AD-caused fatalities increased by 16.9% between 2005 and 2015. Iceland is more susceptible to AD because of its small population and limited genetic diversity. This population also makes it ideal for genetic study towards curing diseases like this. A genetics firm named deCODE based in Iceland has already sequenced the genomes of 2,636 inhabitants working towards this goal. Utilizing their genetic research, scientists have identified two genes, TM2D3 and ABCA7, that are risk factors for AD. Moving forward this information could be utilized to help end AD worldwide.
- After cerebrovascular disease, a cardiovascular disease, lung cancer is the fourth leading cause of death in Iceland. Not just one of the common diseases in Iceland, lung cancer is one of the most common cancers worldwide. A majority of lung cancer cases are caused by smoking tobacco products. In Iceland, tobacco smoke is the second-ranking risk factor that “drives the most death and disability.”Iceland joined the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control on Feb. 27, 2005, in an attempt to combat this. Since then, Iceland has established smoke-free public places, banned most tobacco advertising and required warnings on tobacco products.
The three most common diseases in Iceland are also common to most developed nations, including the United States. Placing more attention on global health will be important in preventing and curing these diseases through collaboration and collective research.
– Haley Hurtt