Asthma, diabetes, stroke, cancer, chronic obstructed pulmonary disease and cystic fibrosis are examples of non-infectious diseases, which are commonly known as non-communicable diseases or NCDs. While viral infections, such as the flu, measles and HIV, typically spread from person to person, NCDs aren't contagious and can't be contracted from bacteria. In most cases, NCDs are inherited genetically or develop in response to specific environmental conditions.
NCDs account for more than 36 million deaths worldwide each year, and roughly 80 percent are caused by cardiovascular diseases, cancer, respiratory illnesses and diabetes, according to the World Health Organization. Approximately 80 percent of all NCD-related deaths occur in economically disadvantaged countries, where high poverty rates prevent families from receiving adequate health care and increase exposure to harmful pollutants.
NCDs afflict people of all ages, and the WHO estimates that more than 9 million deaths occur before age 60. Many NCDs are chronic and continually progress over an extended time period. Lifestyle choices, such as smoking, alcohol abuse, poor diet and physical inactivity, can trigger NCDs and add to their severity. Making behavioral changes can help people avoid or reduce risk factors for preventable NCDs. For example, fostering an active, nutritious lifestyle limits the danger of developing high blood pressure and high blood glucose, which are major risk factors for heart disease and diabetes.