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    Some of the deadliest diseases in the world are preventable

    Datuk Dr Nor Ashikin Mokhtar

    THE STAR – People probably think of fast-acting, incurable diseases when they think of the deadliest diseases in the world.

    In fact, many of these types of diseases don’t even rank among the top 10 causes of death worldwide.

    Several of the deadliest diseases are partially preventable, which is even more surprising.

    While a person’s location, access to preventive care and the quality of healthcare are non-preventable factors, there are others that can be changed to reduce one’s risk of these diseases.


    Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the world’s deadliest disease.

    Heart disease caused by narrowed blood vessels is also known as ischaemic heart disease.

    Heart failure, arrhythmias and chest pain can result from untreated CAD.

    As life expectancy increases, socioeconomic changes occur and lifestyle risks increase, CAD death rates are rising in many developing nations.

    Risk factors for CAD include family history of CAD; diabetes; being overweight; high blood pressure; high cholesterol; and smoking.

    By maintaining good heart health and taking medications when needed, you can prevent CAD.

    To reduce your risk, you can take the following steps:
    -Exercise regularly
    -Maintain a healthy weight
    -Avoid smoking
    -Eat a balanced diet that’s low in sodium and high in fruits and vegetables.


    A stroke occurs when an artery in the brain is blocked or leaks. Within minutes of a stroke, oxygen-deprived brain cells will begin to die. A stroke causes sudden numbness and confusion, as well as difficulty walking and seeing.

    Strokes can cause long-term disability if left untreated, and are among the leading causes of such disability. However, they are less likely to result in disabilities when treated within three hours.

    Risk factors for stroke include being female; smoking; high blood pressure; and family history of stroke.

    Preventive care, medications and lifestyle changes can reduce some of these risk factors.

    Strokes are more likely to occur if you smoke excessively, so avoid it.

    High blood pressure can be controlled with medications or surgery as a stroke prevention method.

    Overall, your risk of a stroke can be reduced by maintaining good health habits, including regular exercise and a balanced diet.


    In chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), breathing becomes difficult over time.

    COPD includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. In 2004, about 64 million people around the world were living with COPD.

    Risk factors for COPD include family history, with the AATD gene being linked to COPD; history of respiratory infections as a child; smoking or secondhand smoke exposure; and lung irritants like chemical fumes.

    Medications can slow the progression of COPD, but it can’t be cured. Stopping smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke and other lung irritants are the best ways to prevent COPD.


    You can get a lower respiratory tract infection due to the flu, pneumonia, tuberculosis or bronchitis.

    Lower respiratory tract infections are usually a result of viruses, but bacteria can also cause them.

    Symptoms of such an infection include coughing, breathlessness, wheezing and tightness in the chest. Breathing failure and death can result from untreated lower respiratory tract infections.

    Risk factors for lower respiratory tract infections include a weak immune system; crowded childcare settings, which mainly affects infants; asthma; HIV (human immunodeficiency virus); influenza; and poor air quality or frequent exposure to lung irritants.

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