In 2015, the top five of the world’s deadliest diseases accounted for more than 23 million deaths. The top two deadliest, heart disease and stroke, have been the two leading causes of death in the world since 2000 and account for 65 percent of the 23 million deaths.
The world’s deadliest diseases can be either communicable or non-communicable. Communicable disease are contagious and threaten the population with the spread of the disease. Common communicable diseases include respiratory infections and diarrheal diseases. Non-communicable disease are not contagious.
In 2015, as compared to 2000, there are fewer communicable disease in the top global causes of death. This means that medical treatments are working and more people have the ability to access treatments and preventive measures for those diseases.
The World’s Deadliest Diseases as of 2015
- Heart disease
The risk of heart disease comes from both genetic and lifestyle factors. While genetic factors cannot be controlled, changing unhealthy habits to lower the risk of heart disease can be life-saving.
Stroke is caused by a temporary disruption of blood flow to the brain, depriving it of oxygen. That oxygen deprivation can lead to long-term brain damage or death. Education about the warning signs of stroke can lead to life-saving early identification.
- Lower respiratory infections
These infections, such as pneumonia, are contagious but treatable. Greater access to medical care will lead to early diagnosis to prevent their spread among the population and antibiotic treatments that can help lower their prevalence.
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
COPD is an inflammatory lung disease that killed more than three million people in 2015. It is caused by exposure to irritating gases, most often from cigarette smoke or burning fuel. Ensuring healthy environments and education on the harms of tobacco can decrease COPD.
- Lung cancers
This includes trachea and bronchus cancers as well, most often caused by smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke. Avoiding smoking and being in the presence of others smoking is the most effective way to prevent lung cancer from developing.
Even though these are the world’s deadliest diseases, diseases do not affect the entire population equally. In countries of lower economic status, the diseases most likely to harm the population differ due to varying access to life-saving resources, such as healthcare and knowledge of best health practices.
In low-income economies, the prevalence of communicable diseases is higher and affects the population more severely. In these countries, the top two killers are lower respiratory diseases and diarrheal diseases. Also in the top 10 deadliest diseases in low-income economies are HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, all of which are communicable.
Even though these communicable diseases currently threaten the populations of low-income countries, they are all treatable diseases. With appropriate access to healthcare, healthy environments and knowledge of health practices, the spread of these diseases can be slowed. Preventing these diseases would greatly increase the average lifespan for citizens of low-income countries.
Globally, access to healthcare is important in preventing and treating any of the world’s deadliest diseases. Even though they are the diseases most likely to kill, they can often be avoided with healthy lifestyles and increased access to medicine.
– Hayley Herzog