Chronic Disease Risk Factors

What are the Primary Risk Factors?

According to the World Health Report 2010, the major risk factors include:

  • tobacco use
  • the harmful use of alcohol
  • raised blood pressure (or hypertension)
  • physical inactivity
  • raised cholesterol
  • overweight/obesity
  • unhealthy diet
  • raised blood glucose

In individuals, we can classify the risks factors as follows:

  • Background risk factors, such as age, sex, level of education and genetic composition;
  • Behavioural risk factors, such as tobacco use, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity; and
  • Intermediate risk factors, such as elevated blood lipids, diabetes, high blood pressure and overweight/obesity.

In communities, the main factors that can impact health include:

  • Social and economic conditions, such as poverty, employment and family composition;
  • Environment, such as climate or air pollution;
  • Culture, such as practices, norms and values; and
  • Urbanization, which influences housing, access to products and services.

The following graph depicts the relationship between risk factors, conditions and common disease end-points:

Chronic diseases share common risk factors and conditions
Chronic diseases share common risk factors and conditions, Text equivalent.

This image shows how chronic diseases share common risk factors and conditions. Non-modifiable risk factors, behavioural risk factors, and cultural or environmental risk factors feed into a person's likelihood of developing intermediate conditions such as high blood pressure, elevated blood lipids, overweight or obesity, or pre-diabetes. These intermediate conditions in turn can lead to certain disease end-points, such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, arthritis, chronic respiratory diseases, or several cancer types.

Chronic diseases share common risk factors and conditions. While some risk factors, such as our age, sex, and our genetic make-up, cannot be changed, many behavioural risk factors can be modified, as well as a number of intermediate biological factors including high blood pressure, being overweight or obese, elevated blood lipids, and pre-diabetes. Societal, economic, and physical conditions influence and shape behaviour and indirectly affect other biological factors. The recognition of these common risk factors and conditions is the conceptual basis for an integrated approach to chronic disease.

More Chronic Disease Risk Factors

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