Top 7 Deadliest Diseases/Critical Illnesses in 2021

The top causes of death in India and globally in order of a total number of lives lost can be segmented into three broad sections - Cardiovascular illnesses (stroke, heart attacks), Respiratory Infections (lower respiratory infections & chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases), and Neonatal Conditions, neonatal sepsis and infections, and also preterm birth-related complications.

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    The causes of death from these diseases can be put together into three categories: communicable diseases, non-communicable diseases, and injuries.

    While Heart diseases remain the number 1 killer; dementia and diabetes enter the top 10.

    According to the WHO’s 2019 Global Health reports, non-communicable diseases now account for 7 of the world’s top 10 diseases.

    As of today, COVID-19 (highly communicable disease) has tragically claimed millions of lives in India and worldwide and shows no signs of ebbing yet. Those who have pre-existing medical conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and respiratory conditions continue to face more complications and fatal consequences due to SARS CoV-2.

    A sign of relief is that nowadays health insurance plans cover most of these diseases for their treatment. But as they say ‘Prevention is always better than Cure’. Let’s find out what adds to this list and how you can take precautions.

    List of Top 7 Critical Diseases in India

    From heart ailments to COVID-19 you can check out some of these deadliest diseases that remain a cause of concern in 2021-

    1. Cardiovascular Illnesses

    Cardiovascular diseases are a range of conditions that affect your heart. They are one of the leading causes of death in India. Check out the symptoms, causes, and preventive measures as below-


    • Shortness of breath
    • Sudden pain in chest and discomfort
    • Pain or numbness in your arms, and legs
    • Pain in the upper abdomen, chest, etc.

    Causes/Risk Factors:

    • Family history of Cardiovascular diseases
    • Poor diet
    • Poor and inactive lifestyle
    • Tobacco intake
    • High Cholesterol or BP
    • Long sitting or inactive lifestyle
    • Being overweight

    Preventive Measures

    • Exercise regularly
    • Get a lipid profile test done to check your good cholesterol levels, bad cholesterol, and triglycerides
    • Be physically active and keep a watch on your weight
    • Control your blood pressure
    • Quit smoking
    • Eat healthy food like walnuts, oats, fish, and other fiber-rich and omega 3 rich foods
    • Restrict usage of oils with trans fats and packaged products
    • A fruit-rich diet always helps

    2. Respiratory Diseases

    Respiratory infections such as asthma, acute bronchitis, tuberculosis, etc. remain the biggest cause of concern and a leading cause of death in India.


    • Runny nose
    • Nasal congestion
    • Fever
    • Weakness
    • Sneezing
    • Cough
    • Shortness of breath
    • Sore throat


    • Dust
    • Smoking
    • Air pollution
    • Viral infection
    • Excessive exposure to smoke or toxins
    • Low immunity
    • Congenital

    Preventive Measures

    • Avoid going to polluted areas
    • Maintain respiratory hygiene
    • Quit smoking
    • Exercise regularly 
    • Stay active
    • Wear a surgical mask wherever required

    3. Diabetes Mellitus

    One in six people have diabetes in India, which is the second highest in the world. Type-1 diabetes is a condition where enough insulin is not produced by the Pancreas. Whereas, Type 2 diabetes is a condition in which insulin is not used effectively. Diabetes can lead to critical illnesses like kidney failure, black fungus in COVID-19 patients, blindness, etc.


    • Unexplained weight loss
    • Extreme hunger
    • Fatigue
    • Frequent urination
    • Increased thirst
    • Irritability


    • Unhealthy diet
    • Not exercising regularly
    • High Blood pressure/Stress
    • Obesity
    • Unhealthy food intake
    • Fast foods and excess sugar intake


    • Regular Exercise
    • Quit the sedentary lifestyle
    • Quit smoking
    • Maintain good nutrition
    • Reduce carbohydrates and add more fiber to your diet 

    Check out health insurance plans for diabetes

    4. Malignant and Other Tumors

    Malignant tumors are cancerous and develop when cells grow without any control. It can grow to other parts of the body and spread as well making it life-threatening. The tumors are generally detected via MRIs and CT Scans.


    In the early stages, malignant tumors may not show any symptoms. The first symptom is usually a painless lump.


    • Genetics
    • Pathogen
    • Ionizing radiation
    • Exposure to chemicals or toxic compounds

    Preventive Measures

    • Eat healthy foods
    • Exercise regularly
    • Maintain a healthy body weight
    • Quit tobacco
    • Get regular immunization 

    Check out cancer health insurance plans

    5. Alzheimer’s disease (dementias)

    Alzheimer’s disease is a brain condition in which the death of the brain cells causes memory loss. Nearly 60-80% of dementia is Alzheimer’s. As the disease progresses it results in the following symptoms-


    • Amnesia, dementia
    • Mental Decline
    • Forgetfulness
    • Disorientation
    • Difficulty in thinking and understanding
    • Personality Changes
    • Jumbled Speech
    • Inability to do simple calculations


    • Old age (more than 65 years)
    • Family history/Genetic
    • Unhealthy lifestyle
    • Previous head trauma
    • Depression for a longer period


    • Maintaining cardiovascular health
    • Have a heart-healthy diet
    • Restricting fat intake
    • No smoking/drinking

    6. Diarrheal Diseases

    Diarrhea is caused due to upset stomach or liver functioning that can lead to loss or watery stools. It can lead to dehydration and also reduces the water and salt levels of the body, thus making it weak. The condition should be controlled within 3-5 days. Mentioned below are the symptoms, causes, and how preventive measures from this disease.


    • Abdominal pain, cramps
    • Loose stool
    • Bloating
    • Mucus/Blood in the stool
    • Nausea
    • Frequent bowel movements


    • No access to clean water
    • Poor sanitization
    • Malnourishment
    • Weak immune system

    Preventive Measures

    • Quit alcohol
    • Wash hands regularly
    • Follow good hygiene
    • Avoid the use of steroids and Aspirin, and steroids

    7. COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

    COVID-19 (SARS CoV-2) is a new coronavirus infection that affects people of different age groups in different ways. The disease spreads with the transmission of respiratory droplets when an infected person breathes, coughs, talks or sneezes. If inhaled the other persona can catch the infection. Check out the symptoms of COVID-19, its causes, and preventive measures that you can take.


    • Headache
    • Fever
    • Sore Throat
    • Cough
    • Pneumonia
    • Weakness/Fatigue


    • Airborne Transmission of the virus
    • Coming in contact with a COVID positive person
    • Touching eyes, face, and nose with infected hands
    • Not wearing a mask and not maintaining social distancing and catching the virus from an infected person


    • Wear double mask
    • Face shield when visiting medical facilities
    • Maintaining respiratory hygiene, oral and hand hygiene
    • Social Distancing
    • Use of hand sanitizer and soaps to kill the infection in the hands
    • Keeping surroundings clean
    • And boosting immunity with right foods, exercising, and Yoga

    Check out health insurance plans for coronavirus 

    Why do we need to know about these Fatal Diseases?

    The reason why world-renowned organizations like WHO and CDC and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India (MoHFW) keep data of these diseases is to improve the longevity of the people. It helps in measuring the quality of healthcare and where the health systems need more medical innovations, and resources the same can be provided in the affected regions.

    For example, the mortality rate in a State or a country can help divert focus towards activities and resources such as transportation, medical infrastructure, food and agriculture, and also the environment.

    Like COVID-19 has put more emphasis on building medical infrastructure and even social interactions. While the pandemic continues to stay and vaccinations being rolled out, we still need to follow all the precautions and also take care of ourselves and our loved ones to keep other deadliest diseases at bay.


    Fatalities from certain diseases have increased, while some have reduced in their severity. Most of the diseases in the above list are treatable and preventable. With the advancement in the field of medical science, treatment for all of them is available in India. In the time to come, we may witness a reduction in death rates from these diseases.

    If you follow a good approach and healthy lifestyle you can lower these risks and adapt to a healthy lifestyle and routine exercise. By making small changes in your daily habits like eating right, limiting smoking and drinking you can reduce your vulnerability. For viral infections and bacterial diseases, proper hand hygiene is quite useful in reducing the risk.

    Written By: PolicyBazaar - Updated: 29 July 2021
    Disclaimer: Policybazaar does not endorse, rate or recommend any particular insurer or insurance product offered by an insurer.

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