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‘Heart disease, dementia, diabetes, pneumonia now leading causes of death’

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Heart disease, dementia, diabetes and pneumonia are the four leading causes of death worldwide, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.

According to its 2019 Global Health Estimates published yesterday, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) now make up seven of the world’s top 10 causes of death. This is an increase from four of the 10 leading causes in 2000. The new data cover the period from 2000 to 2019.

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The Global Health Estimates present comprehensive, comparable, and transparent time-series data for population health, including life expectancy, healthy life expectancy, mortality and morbidity, and burden of disease at global, regional, and country levels disaggregated by age, sex, and cause, from 2000 onwards.

The estimates revealed trends over the last two decades in mortality and morbidity caused by diseases and injuries. They clearly highlighted the need for an intensified global focus on preventing and treating cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases, as well as tackling injuries, in all regions of the world, as set out in the agenda for the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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According to the WHO, heart disease has remained the leading cause of death at the global level for the last 20 years. However, it is now killing more people than ever before. The number of deaths from heart disease increased by more than two million since 2000, to nearly nine million in 2019. The disease now represents 16 per cent of total deaths from all causes. More than half of the two million additional deaths were in the WHO Western Pacific region. Conversely, the European region has seen a relative decline in heart disease, with deaths falling by 15 per cent.

The WHO noted that deaths from diabetes increased by 70 per cent globally between 2000 and 2019, with an 80 per cent rise in deaths among males. In the Eastern Mediterranean, deaths from diabetes have more than doubled and represent the greatest percentage increase of all WHO regions.

According to the estimates, in 2019, pneumonia and other lower respiratory infections were the deadliest group of communicable diseases and together ranked as the fourth leading cause of death. However, compared to 2000, lower respiratory infections were claiming fewer lives than in the past, with the global number of deaths decreasing by nearly half a million.

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