Top chronic diseases in SA

Do you know what the top chronic diseases are in SA? Diabetes is one of them.

What are chronic diseases?

A chronic diseases are defined broadly as conditions that last one year or more and require ongoing medical attention or limit activities of daily living or both. They are long-term illnesses caused by a combination of genetic, physiological, environmental, and behavioural factors

Chronic diseases, also known as non-communicable diseases, are the leading cause of death and disability worldwide, accounting for nearly 60% of all deaths and 43% of the global disease burden.

Although chronic diseases are frequently associated with older age groups, evidence suggests that thousands of South Africans are dying of chronic diseases before the age of 70.

Top chronic diseases in SA 

Stroke and heart disease

The sheer number of heart disease or stroke fatalities is a growing concern in SA. According to the Heart & Stroke Foundation, 215 people die from heart disease or strokes daily. Every hour, five people have heart attacks, and 10 people have strokes. Because there is a lack of awareness about cardiovascular disease, many people go undiagnosed and untreated until it is too late.


One in every three adults (13 million) in South Africa has impaired fasting glucose, putting them at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is the country’s second deadliest disease, according to Statistics South Africa’s 2021 report on mortality and causes of death.

It has claimed more lives than HIV, hypertension, and other forms of heart disease combined. It’s a leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke, and amputation of lower limbs.


Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis in South Africa, with a prevalence rate of 55.1% in urban areas and between 29.5% and 82.7% in adults over 65 years of age in rural areas.

As many patients are unsure how to manage their symptoms, arthritis coexists with other chronic conditions. This disease is surprisingly common among children, affecting one to four out of every 1000.


Cancer care is expected to cost $240 billion (R4160 billion) by 2030, according to the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Cancer Institute estimates, due to healthcare inflation over the previous decades.

Despite declining cancer rates, the CDC predicts that cancer will remain one of the leading causes of death in SA. It’s estimated that nearly 110 000 new cancer cases will be diagnosed in SA by 2020, with over 56 000 cancer-related deaths accounting for one-quarter of all premature non-communicable disease-related mortality.

The most effective cancer prevention measures continue to be early screenings, raising awareness about preventative techniques, and developing strategic partnerships.


Obesity statistics in SA are concerning, with approximately 31% of men and 68% of women obese. Being overweight and obesity can lead to various lifestyle diseases, including diabetes and heart disease.

Obesity is a major issue in adults and children, with more than 13% of South African children aged 6-14 years classified as overweight or obese.

Education, promoting access to healthier foods, and providing preventive care to paediatric patients can help maintain a healthy weight.

Alzheimer’s disease 

According to the most recent World Alzheimer’s Report, SA has 4.4 million people over the age of 60 living with the disease. Around 187,000 of these people have dementia.

Alzheimer’s disease isn’t a normal part of ageing. Although most people with Alzheimer’s are 65 and older, people younger than 65 can also develop the disease. It’s the most common cause of dementia that worsens over time. In most cases, the symptoms develop gradually and become severe enough to interfere with daily activities.


More than 500 000 people in SA have epilepsy. Seizures caused by epilepsy can sometimes result in death. People with epilepsy may also have poor mental health or other impairments that are difficult to detect.


Asthma affects more than 20% of children and 10-15% of adults in SA. It’s not uncommon for those suffering from the illness to be hospitalised during an attack, which can significantly reduce their quality of life.

High blood pressure

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, affects more than one in every three adults in SA. Because there are rarely any symptoms or visible signs that blood pressure is high, it’s referred to as a silent killer.

As a result, more than half of people with high blood pressure are unaware of their condition. Symptoms such as headaches, visual disturbances, nose bleeds, nausea, vomiting, facial flushing, and sleepiness may sometimes occur, typically with extremely high blood pressure. It would be best if you didn’t wait for symptoms to appear. High blood pressure becomes more common with age, but anyone, regardless of age, gender, fitness level, or lifestyle, can develop it.


In SA, the overall HIV prevalence rate is estimated to be around 13.7%. In 2021, the total number of people living with HIV was expected to be approximately 8.2 million. HIV infection affects an estimated 19.5% of adults aged 15 to 49 years.


In South Africa, tuberculosis is a significant public health concern. Every year, approximately 450,000 people contract the disease, with 270,000 also infected with HIV.

TB kills approximately 89,000 people per year, or 10 people every hour. Effective treatments are available, and the country has made significant progress in combating the disease, but much more is required to bring it under control.

This article is attributed to Affinity Health.

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