Many diseases have harassed human beings through the history, sometimes turning into terrifying epidemics, such as plague. The latest medical research has helped to find vaccines and efficient drugs to prevent or cure most popular infections.
However, the lack of health care provision and poor sanitation conditions in many regions of the world, stressful life in densely populated and polluted urban areas, promiscuous sexual behavior and many other reasons keep cultivating numerous diseases and infections that kill millions of people every year. So what are the deadliest diseases responsible for the biggest number of fatalities today?
Influenza, commonly known as flu, is a highly contagious illness, affecting both lower and upper respiratory tracts. It is caused by viruses, normally appears during winter months and has a wide range of symptoms including fever, nasal congestion, cough, running nose, muscle pain, fatigue, headache and more. It can be similar to common cold on early stages, but requires a more complex treatment. Flu can have serious complications which results in about 300,000 to 500,000 fatalities annually. However, there are numerous vaccines reducing the chances of contracting the virus and doctors recommend taking them before the beginning of winter season.
Malaria is one of the most common deadly diseases, mainly endemic in Sub-Saharan Africa. Caused by a parasite and transmitted by infected mosquitoes, malaria kills 600,000 to 900,000 people every year. Symptoms show up 8 to 25 days after contracting and are similar to flu signs, including fever, shivering, headache, vomiting or even coma. If not given proper medications, the patient may experience serious complications followed by death.
Many people in Africa do not have access to healthcare centers, which makes malaria one of the deadliest diseases. Although there is no universal vaccine against malaria, there are drugs reducing the chances of contracting it. When traveling to endemic regions, make sure to use anti-mosquito nets while going to bed and repellents during day time.
HIV is one of the deadliest viruses and the leader in death toll among sexually transmitted diseases. Approximately 1.5 million people die annually from AIDS, the disease caused by human immunodeficiency virus, with over 70% of fatalities happening in Africa. The virus damages the immune system to the point that the body cannot resist even relatively harmless infections and death follows. The virus is transmitted through blood and other body fluids, such as vaginal and rectal fluids, pre-semen and semen fluid as well as breast milk. Sexual contacts and sharing needles while taking drugs are the main ways of contracting the virus.
Gay couples and anybody who practices unprotected anal sex are particularly exposed to the virus. No HIV cure has been found yet, however, it is not difficult to reduce the chances of contracting the virus to the minimum following several simple guidelines. Use condoms while having sex with someone you are not sure about, limit the number of sexual contacts and if you take drugs, make sure to dispose of needles after single use. This will help you avoid HIV/AIDS and save your life.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD causes about 3 million deaths worldwide annually which makes it one of the most dangerous diseases. To put it simple, lungs do not get enough air, which results in cough, breath shortness and mucus discharge. It is also common among people having chronic bronchitis.
The main cause of COPD is inhaling polluted air, tobacco being the main reason. About 80% of the patients with COPD are current or past smokers. Secondhand smoking also makes you susceptible to the disease. Air pollution, including smoke from cooking fires and urban pollution, is the second prominent cause of developing COPD. In order to reduce the chances of developing the disease it is recommended to quit smoking, train lungs by exercising and preferably live in the area with clean air.
Pneumonia and bronchitis
Pneumonia and bronchitis are the lower respiratory diseases that take over 4 million lives annually. Caused by viruses and bacteria, pneumonia affects lungs and can be accompanied by cough, chest pain, breathing difficulties and fever. A person can be cured with antibiotics or hospitalized in severe cases. Pneumonia is particularly dangerous for children and elderly people and can cause immediate death. X-Ray, mucus analysis and stethoscope are normally used to diagnose the disease.
Stroke, also known as cerebrovascular insult or brain attack, accounts for over 6 million deaths annually. Insufficient blood delivery kills brain cells resulting in movement, speaking, understanding, vision problems and other brain issues. In many cases the stroke causes immediate death, while most survivors die in the space of several years after the first incident. High blood pressure, smoking, obesity, high cholesterol level, lack of exercise and stress are the main risk factors, increasing your chances of suffering a stroke at some point. Although most of the strokes happen to elderly people, it is up to everybody to conduct healthy life, exercise, eat wise and limit the stress to reduce the chances of having brain attack.
Ischemic heart disease
It probably isn’t what you first think of when asked about most dangerous diseases, but the fact is the ischemic heart disease, also known as coronary or atherosclerotic, kills over an incredible 8 million people worldwide annually. The blood vessels become narrowed and obstruct the free flow of blood. Chest pain, breath shortness and, eventually, heart attacks are the common symptoms of the disease.
Unlike many infectious diseases that are more typical for developing countries due to poor healthcare and sanitation conditions, the heart disease is endemic in economically developed countries, with over 600,000 annual fatalities in the United States alone. And it is not surprising knowing the risk factors for developing the disease. Stress, obesity, elevated cholesterol level, smoking, lack of exercise, as well as family history are the main contributors. Even if there is no vaccine or direct medicine to cure the heart disease, you can effectively reduce the chance of suffering from heart disease by sticking to healthier way of life, diet and limiting stress.