7 Of The Most Significant Health Problems Affecting Our World Today
Medically reviewed by C. Fookes, BPharm. Last updated on May 8, 2018.
The World-Wide Rise Of Obesity And Extreme Obesity
Increasing obesity rates are not just limited to traditionally wealthy nations like the U.S. or U.K. Obesity rates have soared in certain sectors of the Middle East and North Africa, particularly in oil-rich nations, even though significant proportions of those populations still live below the poverty line.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports more than 1.9 billion adults are overweight (BMI greater than 25 but less than 30) and 600 million are obese (BMI greater than or equal to 30).
Experts put the explosion in obesity rates in the last decade down to an increase in caloric intake, rapid urbanization and the rise of new technology that promotes sedentary lifestyles. The impact is felt particularly hard in populations where exercise is not a defining part of the culture.
High Blood Pressure: The World's Most Significant Killer
High blood pressure (hypertension) is the number one risk factor for death worldwide, associated with over 7.5 million deaths annually, or 12.8% of all deaths. Hypertension is actually more of a problem in the developing world, affecting an estimated 640 million people, compared to 330 million people in the developed world. Rates of high blood pressure have jumped dramatically in the past fifteen years. By 2025, experts estimate 1.56 billion adults will be living with high blood pressure.
High blood pressure impacts on numerous other body systems and people with high blood pressure are more likely to develop coronary heart disease, stroke, heart failure, peripheral vascular disease, kidney failure, and certain eye conditions.
Tobacco Use And Smoking: The Leading Cause of Preventable Death
Bottom-line: If you don't want to die prematurely; don't smoke.
Smoking harms nearly every organ in the body. It increases your risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, and stroke. If you smoke you are more likely to catch tuberculosis, develop certain immune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, and have erectile dysfunction.
Worldwide, more than 6 million deaths are attributable to tobacco use. By 2030, that number is expected to rise to 8 million. Countries such as Brazil, Bhutan, and New Zealand are making commendable progress in their effort to make their nation smoke-free. In the United States, 36 states have passed smoke-free laws that prohibit smoking in restaurants and bars. Hundreds of other cities and counties have also taken a stance against smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke. Speak up for your right to breathe clean, smoke-free air.
Diabetes: The Silent Stealer Of Life
Consistently high blood glucose levels are a sign of diabetes. Worldwide, approximately 9% of all adults have diabetes, and in 2012 it accounted for 1.5 million deaths. More than 80% of deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries.
Uncontrolled diabetes slowly damages nerves and blood vessels. Symptoms may go unnoticed for many years, but eventually this damage may become life-threatening. Heart disease, neuropathy (nerve damage), kidney damage, eye damage, foot problems and hearing impairment are all more common in people with diabetes.
The Rise Of The Couch Potato
Humans are born to be active. In ancient times, multi-day hunting and gathering journeys were a necessity for survival. Dancing and cultural games were a key part of celebrations and excursions to neighboring villages to visit family and friends would often take several hours. Inactivity increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, some cancers, and diabetes. Being active helps to control weight and strengthens bones. Exercise also releases natural antioxidants, boosting your immune system and allowing you to live longer. You are also less likely to become depressed, and more likely to sleep better.
The CDC reports only 49% of adults over 18 years met the Physical Activity Guidelines for aerobic physical activity and only 20.9% do the recommended amount of muscle strengthening activity as well. This means 79% of people are not doing enough.
For good health, try and be active every day. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week and do muscle-strengthening activities on at least 2 days a week that work all your major muscle groups - such as your abdomen, arms, back, chest, legs and shoulders.
The Explosion Of New Psychoactive Substances
Humans have been using psychoactive substances for many years. Priests drank concoctions made from Amanita muscaria mushrooms during religious ceremonies, and opium was used by healers for medicinal purposes. Nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol still rank as the most extensively consumed psychoactive substances in the world.
What is troubling in the "New World" is the speed at which new psychoactive substances are being made. These drugs are designed to evade drug laws or deliver a more potent "high" and are untested and readily available. Short-term harms include paranoia, psychosis, agitation, and seizures. Up to December 2017, more than 800 substances have been reported to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Early Warning Advisory; of which 36% were stimulants, 32% synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists and 16% classic hallucinogens.
Worryingly, many psychoactive substances have been linked with terrorist activities, because not only do they enhance a person's athletic abilities, they also take away their ability to reason or think rationally. A dangerous combination of effects!
Breathing Can Be Dangerous For Your Health
Unhealthy air is estimated to be responsible for over 200,000 deaths annually in the United States. Road transportation emissions are the most significant contributor, followed closely by power generation.
Bad air also sends millions of people to hospital each year, triggering asthma episodes and worsening other respiratory diseases. In addition, pollution contributes to heart disease, causes cancer, detrimentally affects the way children's lungs develop and speeds up global warming.
In 2018, the American Lung Association issued their "State of the Air 2018" report. From 2014-2016, ozone pollution worsened significantly compared to the previous report. California suffers the most health impacts attributed to air pollution, mostly as a result of road transportation.
You can help support cleaner, healthier air and oppose measures to block or delay the cleanup of air pollution by sending a message to Congress and to the White House to protect the Clean Air Act.
Finished: 7 Of The Most Significant Health Problems Affecting Our World Today
- Overweight and Obesity Statistics. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics/Pages/overweight-obesity-statistics.aspx
- Obesity and overweight. World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs311/en/
- Raised blood pressure. Situation and Threats. 2017. Global Health Observatory (GHO) data. http://www.who.int/gho/ncd/risk_factors/blood_pressure_prevalence_text/en/
- The world's most common cause of death. World Heart Federation. https://www.world-heart-federation.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/WCC2016_CVDs_infographic.pdf
- Diabetes. World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs312/en/
- Lewis, SF et al. Regular Physical Activity: Forgotten Benefits. The American Journal of Medicine 2016; 129(2):137-8
- Crocq M-A. Historical and cultural aspects of man’s relationship with addictive drugs. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience. 2007;9(4):355-361
- What are NPS? UNODC Early Warning Advisory on New Psychoactive Substances 2018. https://www.unodc.org/LSS/Page/NPS
- Most Polluted Cities. American Lung Association. http://www.lung.org/our-initiatives/healthy-air/sota/city-rankings/most-polluted-cities.html
- State of the Air 2018. American Lung Association. http://www.lung.org/our-initiatives/healthy-air/sota/
Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.