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Most Global Deaths Are From Preventable Noncommunicable Diseases


FILE - A doctor checks blood pressure during a general check-up on a patient after he claimed that he had a high temperature and fever in a hospital in Khampaengphet province, 310 km (193 miles) north of Bangkok .

The World Health Organization warns noncommunicable diseases kill 41 million people each year, equivalent to 74 percent of all deaths globally.

A new global report by the World Health Organization finds noncommunicable diseases now outnumber infectious diseases as the top killers globally. Each year, it says 17 million people under age 70 die prematurely from noncommunicable diseases or NCD. The biggest killers are cardiovascular diseases, followed by cancers, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes.

WHO director of noncommunicable diseases, Bente Mikkelsen, says most of these deaths are preventable.

“Every two seconds, someone under the age of 70 is dying from an NCD," said Mikkelsen. "And many people do not still realize that 86 percent of these premature deaths, namely dying too young are taking place in low-and-middle-income countries, making NCD an issue of equity and sustainable development as well as health.”

WHO blames most of these preventable deaths on four key risk factors. It cites high blood pressure as the biggest threat, noting 1.3 billion adults worldwide have this condition.

Mikkelsen says too many people are unaware they have this potentially deadly condition. Consequently, they are not getting the lifesaving treatment they need.

“If people had access to health services where they could get their blood pressure checked and get support to manage hypertension, nearly 10 million heart attacks and strokes could be averted by 2030," said Mikkelsen. "Other major risk factors like unhealthy diet, tobacco use, and harmful use of alcohol are heavily influenced by industry, including the formulation, packaging design, marketing, and promotional product.”

WHO reports at least 39 million deaths could be averted by 2030 if every country were to adopt the interventions known to work.

The U.N. Health Agency urges people to embrace healthier lifestyles and modify risky behavior to reduce their chances of getting a deadly disease. It says those who stop smoking, exercise more, eat a healthier diet and drink only moderate amounts of alcohol will add years to their lives.

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