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The Deadliest Diseases in Humans

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What defines a Disease?

There are four main types of diseases: infectious diseases, deficiency diseases, hereditary diseases, and physiological diseases.

The disease may be acute, chronic, malignant, or benign. Of these terms, chronic and acute have to do with the duration of disease, malignant and benign with its potentiality for causing death.

An acute disease process usually begins abruptly and is over soon. It usually requires immediate surgical treatment. The term chronic refers to a process that often begins very gradually and then persists over a long period.

The terms benign and malignant, most often used to describe tumors, can be used in a more general sense. Benign diseases are generally uncomplicated and a good outcome is usual. Malignancy implies a course that, if left untreated, will result in fatal illness or death. Cancer is the general term for malignant tumors.

Origins of Human Disease

We’re still trying to eradicate diseases that have plagued humans for centuries.

Malaria, for example, has been traced back to 2700 BC in China. Many believe that South Africa, the cradle of humankind, is the root of human disease pathogens.

However, we still have enormous gaps in knowledge when it comes to disease and human evolution. South Africa is a very rich biogeographic disease region and it’s likely that we can find the key to the original state of human disease in prehistoric populations who inhabited the region.

The Deadliest Diseases in Humans

Biggest Diseases Today

Coronary artery disease

The world’s deadliest disease is coronary artery disease (CAD). CAD occurs when the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart become too narrowed and create issues in the body. If left untreated, it can lead to heart failure and arrhythmias.

Although it’s still the leading cause of death, mortality rates have declined in many countries. This may be due to better public health education, and more general access to healthcare. However, in many developing nations, mortality rates of CAD are significantly on the rise.

Risk factors include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Genetic history
  • Overweight


You can prevent CAD with medications and by sustaining good heart health. Some steps you can take to decrease the risk include:

  • Regular exercise
  • Reduce alcohol
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Eat a healthy diet, low in sodium
  • Avoid smoking


A stroke occurs when an artery in your brain is blocked or leaks. This causes the oxygen-deprived brain cells to begin dying within minutes. During a stroke, you feel sudden numbness and confusion or have trouble walking, and speaking. If left untreated, a stroke can cause long-term disability. People who receive treatment within 3 hours of having a stroke are less likely to have long-lasting disabilities.

Risk factors include:

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Being female
  • Family history


Stroke prevention methods may include regulatory high blood pressure with medications. You should also sustain a healthy lifestyle with exercise and a healthy diet that’s low in sodium. Avoid smoking, and drink only in moderation.

Lower respiratory infections

A lower respiratory infection is an infection in your airways and lungs. It can be due to: the flu, pneumonia, bronchitis, and tuberculosis. Viruses and bacteria usually cause lower respiratory infections. Coughing is the main symptom of a lower respiratory infection.

You may also feel breathlessness, wheezing, and a tight feeling in your chest. Untreated lower respiratory infections can lead to breathing failure and in extreme cases; death.

Risk factors include:

  • Common Flu
  • Smoking
  • Asthma
  • Poor air quality
  • HIV


One of the best preventative measures you can take against lower respiratory infections is to get the flu shot every year. People at high risk of pneumonia can also get a vaccine. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, especially before touching your face and before eating.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

COPD, or Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a long-term, progressive lung disease that makes breathing difficult. Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are types of COPD.

Risk factors include:

  • Smoking
  • Lung irritants like chemical fumes
  • Family history
  • History of respiratory infections


There’s no cure for COPD yet, but its development can be slowed with proper treatment. The best way to prevent it is to not smoke and avoid secondhand smoke when possible. If you experience any symptoms, getting treatment immediately increases your outlook.

Trachea, bronchus, and lung cancers

Respiratory cancers include cancers of the trachea, larynx, bronchus, and lungs. The main causes are smoking, secondhand smoke, air pollutants, and environmental toxins. It’s estimated that respiratory cancer accounts for about 4 million deaths annually. In developing countries, researchers project 81- to a 100-percent increase in respiratory cancers due to pollution. Solid fuel emissions account for 17 percent of lung cancer deaths in men and 22 percent in women.

Risk factors:

  • Smoking
  • Tobacco use.
  • Family history and
  • Environmental factors


Aside from avoiding smoking, it isn’t known if there’s anything else that can be done to prevent lung cancers. Research into prevention and treatment is vital.

Diabetes mellitus

Diabetes is a group of diseases that affect insulin production and use. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas can’t produce insulin. The cause isn’t known. In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin. Type 2 diabetes can be caused by many problems, including poor diet, lack of exercise, and being overweight. People in low-income countries are more likely to die of complications from diabetes.

Risk factors include:

  • Excess weight
  • High blood pressure
  • Poor diet
  • Aging
  • Too little exercise


While diabetes isn’t always preventable, you can control the severity of symptoms by exercising regularly and following a proper diet. Adding more fiber to your diet and cutting back on sugary processed foods can help control your blood sugar.

Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease that destroys memory and interrupts normal mental functions. These include thinking, reasoning, and typical behavior. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia — 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases are in fact Alzheimer’s. The disease starts off by causing mild memory problems, difficulty recalling information, and slips in recollection. Over time, however, the disease progresses and you may not have any memory of large periods of time.

Risk factors include:

  • Old age
  • Family history of the disease
  • Down syndrome
  • Unhealthy lifestyle
  • Being female
  • Head trauma


There’s not currently a way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Researches aren’t clear why some people develop it and others don’t.  So, as they work to understand this, they’re also working to find preventive techniques.

One thing that may be helpful in reducing your risk of the disease is a heart-healthy diet. A diet that’s high in fruits and vegetables, low in saturated fats, and high in good fats may protect your brain from Alzheimer’s disease.

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