Last week I talked about Why Men Don’t Live As Long as Women.
This week, I’d like to shift gears and talk about the 10 Most Deadly Diseases in the World (at least according to the World Health Organization).
After seeing their report, I can identify.
For several years, I’ve been practicing Functional Medicine and the list I’m about to discuss is hands down full of people that I work with every single day.
Fortunately for them, they’re reversing their chronic disease and making the right steps in getting their health problems under control.
Still, there are hundreds of thousands to even millions of people who are unknowingly living with these conditions. But this is why they’re called silent killers.
As human beings, we are susceptible to hundreds, if not thousands, of diseases throughout our lives.
Yet some diseases are far deadlier than others. Here’s the top 10 according to the foremost international health authority…
11. The XY Chromosome
Haha. Get it?
Men have an XY chromosome, and in my opinion are a leading cause of death simply because we are more aggressive, seemingly make stupid health choices (again, refer to my previous article), and by sheer gender-specific homicide difference twice as likely to kill our female counterparts.
So if we’re considering the cause of death by all accounts, men rank pretty high.
10. Cirrhosis and Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)
Accounting for 2.1% of all deaths worldwide, cirrhosis is caused by chronic damage to the liver from kidney disease, hepatitis, or chronic alcoholism.
Risk factors include chronic alcohol abuse (more than 2 drinks per day), nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and chronic viral hepatitis.
The complications of cirrhosis cause 1 million deaths per year throughout the world, and mortality rates have increased from 905,000 in 2000 to 1.2 million in 2015.
Over seventy million Americans may have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.  The disease begins with the accumulation of fat within the cells of the liver, but can progress to inflammation, the development of scar tissue, and in some cases death from liver failure or cancer. [2, 3, 4]
Simple accumulation of fat within the liver generally proceeds without producing any overt symptoms, but it is not necessarily harmless. The liver regulates blood glucose and blood cholesterol levels, plays a critical role in burning fat for fuel, helps eliminate excess nitrogen, contributes to the metabolism of endocrine hormones, stores vitamin A, protects against infections, and detoxifies drugs and environmental toxins.
It’s very common for me to identify fatty liver in people who otherwise assume they’re healthy. Worse is the fact that many of these people had an annual check up with their doctors and nothing was even mentioned.
Tuberculosis accounted for 2.4% of deaths worldwide in 2015.
But luckily, the prevalence of this disease – caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis – is decreasing as is its mortality rate, from 2.3 million in 2000 to 1.3 million in 2015.
Tuberculosis, however, remains one of the primary causes of death in people with HIV (35%).
Risk factors for tuberculosis include low body weight, regular use of corticosteroid or immunosuppressive drugs, diabetes, HIV infection, and living in close proximity to those with tuberculosis.
8. Diarrheal disease
Dehydration caused by diarrheal disease resulted in 1.4 million deaths in 2015, but its prevalence is decreasing, having dropped from 2.2 million deaths in 2000 to 1.4 million in 2015.
Unfortunately, diarrheal disease is the second leading cause of death in children under the age of 5 years, and a primary cause of malnutrition in this age group.
In the United States, approximately 179 million cases of acute diarrhea occur each year, and most of those cases are entirely preventable.
Risk factors include living in areas with poor sanitary conditions, malnourishment, a weakened immune system, young age, and no access to clean water.
7. Alzheimer disease
This progressive neurologic disease accounted for 1.5 million deaths in 2015, and for 2.7% of all deaths worldwide.
Its prevalence over the past 15 years (2000-2015) has increased from 1.2 million to 1.5 million.
Risk factors include being female, over age 65 years, genetic predisposition, an unhealthy lifestyle, previous head trauma, and family history.
Current studies suggest that diet and more specifically digestive health, may play a large role in reducing the risk of Alzheimer disease, especially one that is heart-healthy, low in saturated fats, and high in monounsaturated fats from fish, nuts, and olive oil.
6. Diabesity (Diabetes & Obesity)
The prevalence of diabetes-related death has increased from 1.0 million to 1.6 million from 2000 to 2015.
In 2015, diabetes-related illnesses accounted 2.8% of all deaths throughout the world.
In the United States today, someone dies from diabetes-related causes every 10 seconds.
Diabetes and cardiovascular disease have now outpaced infectious disease as the primary cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one in three people will develop diabetes in his or her lifetime.
What is particularly horrifying about this statistic is that many of those who develop diabetes will be kids. Approximately one in three new cases of diabetes mellitus in patients under age 18 is diagnosed as type 2 diabetes, and this is worse for teenage ethnic minorities.
Diabetes-related illnesses include cardiovascular disease, neuropathy, nephropathy, and retinopathy, along with a host of skin conditions and other complications.
5. Respiratory cancers
Cancers of the lungs, bronchus, larynx, and trachea comprise this group, and were responsible for 1.7 million deaths worldwide in 2015, totaling 3% of all deaths, and up from 1.2 million deaths in 2000.
Pollution and smoking (both primary and secondary) are the primary causes of respiratory cancers.
In fact, experts predict an 81% to 100% increase in respiratory cancers in developing countries due to pollution.
4. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are the two primary forms of COPD, and there is some thought to adding asthma as well, although no consensus has been reached.
COPD deaths accounted for 5.6% of all deaths worldwide, totaling 3.1 million in 2015.
Risk factors include smoking, secondhand smoke, lung irritants, family history, and a history of respiratory infections as a child.
3. Lower respiratory infections
The biggest contribution and greatest success of modern medicine is its impact on infectious disease. However, flu, pneumonia, bronchitis, and tuberculosis and lower respiratory infections continue to make up 5.7% of deaths worldwide.
Viruses are the main cause of these infections, but bacteria are implicated as well.
Risk factors include a suppressed immune system, poor air quality, frequent exposure to respiratory irritants, smoking, asthma, HIV and crowded childcare settings.
Between 2000 and 2015, the mortality from stroke increased from 5.7 million to 6.2 million.
Stroke was responsible for 6.2 million deaths in 2015, accounting for 11.1% of deaths worldwide. Stroke is also the leading cause of long-term disability. Diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, smoking, and obesity are the leading causes of stroke.
Risk factors include high blood pressure, family history of stroke, smoking (especially when combined with oral contraceptives), African American race, and female sex.
1. Coronary Artery Disease
The number one deadliest disease is CAD, responsible for 15.5% of all deaths worldwide.
And mortality rates have been increasing, with a significant jump from 6 million deaths in 2000 to 8.8 million deaths in 2015.
CAD happens when the arteries that supply blood to heart muscle become hardened and narrowed.
Over time, CAD can also weaken the heart muscle and contribute to heart failure and arrhythmias. Heart failure means the heart can’t pump blood well to the rest of the body. Arrhythmias are changes in the normal beating rhythm of the heart.
Unfortunately, cardiovascular disease is one of the most misdiagnosed and mistreated conditions in medicine.
We’ve learned a tremendous amount about what causes heart disease over the past decade, but the medical establishment is still operating on outdated science from forty to fifty years ago.
It is now well established that eating cholesterol has no discernible impact on blood cholesterol levels and even if it did, it wouldn’t matter because the amount of cholesterol in the blood is not the driving factor behind heart disease.
There are several theories of how heart disease develops, I believe this is the most likely scenario (given all the data we currently have):
- LDL (bad guys) particles penetrate the artery wall and enter the sub-endothelial space (the space just underneath the lining of the artery).
- Some of the LDL particles are retained in the sub-endothelial space.
- Immune cells initiate an inflammatory response against the sterols that are carried in the LDL particles, including an interaction between the LDL particle and proteins called proteoglycans. (The proteoglycans are like “cement” keeping the LDL particles and their cholesterol cargo inside the artery wall.)
- More LDL particles enter the artery wall and continue to be retained.
- The LDL particles in the artery wall become subject to oxidative forces like free radicals and begin to oxidize.
- Oxidized LDL particles provoke an immune response directly mediated by white blood cells called T-cells, which leads to further retention of LDL particles as well as destruction of the artery wall.
- Eventually the lumen (interior space) of the artery narrows, a fibrous cap develops, and plaque forms.
- When those plaques become unstable and dislodge, they obstruct blood flow to the portion of the heart muscle supplied by that coronary artery, and a heart attack occurs.
What Causes LDL-P to Go Up?
- Metabolic Syndrome (insulin and leptin resistance)
- Genetic Predispositions
- Poor Thyroid Function
- Infections (gut infections, H. pylori, viral infections such as EBV, cyomegalovirus, SIBO, etc)
- Intestinal Permeability (leaky gut)
- Environmental Toxins (mercury, lead, arsenic, bisphenol A, etc)