Noncommunicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes, injuries, and heart disease now account for seven of the world’s top 10 causes of death, the World Health Organization’s 2019 Global Health Estimates, published Wednesday, said.

This is an increase from four of the 10 leading causes in 2000, says the new data covering the period from 2000 to 2019.

“These new estimates are another reminder that we need to rapidly step-up prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of noncommunicable diseases,” said Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO. “They highlight the urgency of drastically improving primary health care equitably and holistically. Strong primary health care is clearly the foundation on which everything rests, from combatting noncommunicable diseases to managing a global pandemic.”

The estimates reveal trends over the last two decades in mortality and morbidity caused by diseases and injuries.

They highlight the need for an intensified global focus on preventing and treating cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases and tackling injuries in all world regions.

Heart disease No. 1

Heart disease remains the number one killer; diabetes and dementia enter the top 10. It 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.

Heart disease deaths have increased by more than 2 million since 2000 to nearly 9 million in 2019.

It now represents 16 percent of total deaths from all causes. More than half of the 2 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 percent.

Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are now among the top 10 causes of death worldwide, ranking third in both the Americas and Europe in 2019.

Women are disproportionally affected: globally, 65 percent of deaths from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are women.

Deaths from diabetes increased by 70 percent globally between 2000 and 2019, with an 80 percent rise in deaths among males.

Diabetes in Eastern Mediterranean

In the Eastern Mediterranean, deaths from diabetes have more than doubled and represent the most significant percentage increase of all WHO regions.

There is a global decline in deaths from communicable diseases, but still a significant challenge remains in low- and middle-income countries.

In 2019, pneumonia and other lower respiratory infections were the deadliest group of infectious diseases and together ranked as the fourth leading cause of death.

However, compared to 2000, lower respiratory infections claimed fewer lives than in the past, with the global number of deaths decreasing by nearly half a million.

This reduction is in line with a general global decline in the percentage of deaths caused by communicable diseases.

For example, HIV/AIDS dropped from the 8th leading cause of death in 2000 to the 19th in 2019, reflecting the success of efforts to prevent infection, test for the virus, and treat the disease over the last two decades.

While it remains the fourth leading cause of death in Africa, the number of deaths has dropped by more than half, falling from over 1 million in 2000 to 435,000 in 2019. (Anadolu via PNA)