No matter what corner of the globe we hail from, no matter our gender, race, or religion, we face a basic, irrefutable fact as human beings: we are susceptible to a variety of common diseases. The study and progress made with noncommunicable diseases and the successful incidents of diagnosis, treatment and prevention of these diseases have had many impacts on society. However, while our scientific progress can provide a more thorough knowledge of common human diseases, these conditions are, in many ways, permanent figures of our world.
Although incurable and fast-spreading diseases are often the ones to capture media coverage and public imagination, our biggest concerns should be the typical illnesses we are more likely to develop throughout our lives. According to the World Health Organization, of 59.6 million deaths that occurred in 2016, 54% were caused by 10 of the most common worldwide diseases. Whether infectious or not, these health conditions, as well as their causes and preventative measures, are essential for every person to know.
Common Infectious Diseases and Prevention
Infectious diseases are those disorders which are caused by microscopic organisms, such as fungi, bacteria, parasites, and viruses. These organisms are passed from one human to another, or from an infected animal that can in turn infect humans. As noted by Baylor University, infectious diseases continue to be a leading cause of death throughout the world and are particularly deadly amongst children in lower-income countries. Here are three of the world’s deadliest and most common infectious diseases:
Lower respiratory infections
Lower respiratory infections are infections of the lungs and airways that may be the result of bronchitis, pneumonia, tuberculosis, or influenza. Either bacteria or viruses can cause these infections, and if left untreated, may result in death.
A preventative measure to limit the chances of developing a lower respiratory infection is to get a flu shot every year and thoroughly washing hands with soap and water regularly to avoid transmitted bacteria.
Diarrheal diseases and dehydration
The second leading cause of death in children under 5 years old is diarrheal disease and the dehydration that results from this condition. Bacteria or intestinal viruses cause diarrhea by passing through contaminated water or food. Once a person passes loose stool at least three times a day, they have a diarrheal disease; after a few days in this state, the body begins to lose precious water and salt. The result is dehydration which then leads to death.
The prevention of diarrheal diseases and dehydration occurs through the practice of good hygiene, including thorough hand washing, which can reduce the chances of this disease by 40%.
Although HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) and AIDS (Auto Immune Deficiency Syndrome) are no longer on the top 10 list of common diseases, they still cause over a million deaths a year according to Baylor, especially in lower-income countries. HIV infects cells the body needs to fight infections, leading to full-blown AIDS; thus, people with this condition may die because they cannot fight off bacterial or viral infections that would usually be harmless. Although there has been an overall decline in HIV infections, this disease remains a deadly one.
Because of HIV’s ability to mutate, scientists continue to search for a vaccine to prevent its transmission. As STD rates in the US continue to rise, preventing new infections is critically important to control the spread of this disease. Latex condom use, microbicides, limiting the number of sexual partners, voluntary male circumcision, and using clean needles are some means by which to prevent exposure to HIV/AIDS.
Common Noncommunicable Diseases and Prevention
A non-communicable disease (NCD) cannot be directly passed between people. Diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and certain cancers are examples of noninfectious health conditions. NCDs, also known as chronic diseases, are responsible for 71% of all deaths globally, or about 41 million people per year. The following three NCDs are amongst the most common:
Coronary heart disease
Coronary heart disease (CAD) is the world’s deadliest disease and the cause of 1 in 4 deaths in the United States alone. When blood vessels that supply blood to the heart narrow, CAD occurs and can lead to arrhythmias, chest pain, cardiac arrest, and heart failure. CAD can also develop as a result of other untreated diseases and conditions, such as chronic vein disease and anxiety.
Education about an individual’s family history and awareness of personal health, including high blood pressure, obesity, and high cholesterol, can help prevent the development of CAD. Maintaining a healthy weight, eating a low-sodium diet high in vegetables and fruits, exercising regularly, drinking in moderation, and avoiding smoking are other ways to prevent CAD.
Amongst the world’s deadliest diseases, strokes are the leading cause of extensive disabilities and death. When an artery in the brain is blocked, brain cells are deprived of oxygen and begin to die. People experiencing a stroke may feel numbness, lose vision, and have trouble moving or walking. Family history, a record of smoking, being female or African American, and having high blood pressure are factors that contribute to the risk of stroke.
Preventative measures for stroke include maintaining a healthy lifestyle with a low-sodium diet and regular exercise. Avoiding smoking and drinking, as well as taking high blood pressure medication, may also decrease the risk of stroke.
Lung cancers are the deadliest cancers worldwide and result in roughly 4 million deaths a year, with developing countries seeing a significant increase due to pollution and smoking. Although these cancers of the lung, trachea, and bronchus can affect anyone, people who smoke or use tobacco or those individuals exposed to solid fuel emissions increase their risk of having these cancers.
The best preventative techniques against respiratory cancers are to avoid smoking cigarettes or tobacco products and to avoid fumes if possible. Proper medical checkups and early detection may significantly reduce the symptoms of respiratory cancer.
The Common Bonds of Humanity
Regardless of our backgrounds, races, or religions, human beings share the distinct bond of being susceptible to a range of common diseases and illnesses. With further health education and outreach, people can learn what causes these diseases and what steps we can take individually and collectively to prevent their occurrence.