While we have made great strides in health, chronic diseases—such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes— remain the leading cause of death worldwide. In the United States, these diseases account for 7 of every 10 deaths and affect the quality of life of 90 million Americans. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), chronic disease is responsible for 60 percent of all deaths worldwide, and 80 percent of those deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.
Although chronic diseases are among the most common and costly health problems, they are also among the most preventable. The major risk factors for chronic disease are an unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and tobacco use. If these risk factors were eliminated, at least 80 percent of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes would be prevented, and 40 percent of cancer would be prevented, according to the WHO.