CARDIOVASCULAR diseases (CVD) have consistently ranked as the No. 1 cause of death in Northern Mindanao, according to the Department of Health (DOH).

Dr. Andresa C. Beñas, DOH-Northern Mindanao medical specialist III, said CVD topped the list among the Top 10 leading causes of death in the region since 2006.

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"In 2006 alone, at least 4,373 persons in the region died of CVD," Dr. Beñas said during a media update on Tuesday at Philtown Hotel, this city.

Aside from CVD, the other diseases included in the Top 10 are pneumonia, cancer, accidents, tuberculosis, diabetes mellitus, kidney disease, sepsis, peptic ulcer disease and liver cirrhosis.

Dr. Beñas said CVD such as heart disease and stroke, which is included as among the chronic diseases, is now a global epidemic claiming 35 million lives every year.

Aside from CVD, the other chronic diseases are cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes.

Dr. Beñas said around 80 percent of deaths due to chronic diseases occur in low and middle-income countries where most of the world's population live.

"Men and women are affected almost equally by this and a quarter of all chronic disease deaths occur in people under 60 years old," she said.

Among the risk factors to chronic diseases are age, sex, family medical history, environment due to pollution, sun exposure and lifestyle such as tobacco use, alcohol and diet.

Because of this, she said the World Health Organization (WHO) has proposed a goal to reduce the death toll from chronic diseases by two percent every year until 2015.

However, Dr. Beñas said the goal has not been achieved for about two decades as cases of deaths due to chronic diseases kept on increasing.

But even with this, she said the DOH is continuing its campaign on promoting health lifestyle especially in February, which is known as "Heart Month," through the department's Healthy Lifestyle To The Max program.

The program, which was launched on Feb. 16, 2009, promotes healthy lifestyle such as regular exercise, no to smoking, taking on a healthy diet, stress management and watching the weight.

Dr. Beñas said singing is one way of managing stress and self-breast examination for women is a way of detecting early signs of breast cancer.

She also emphasized correct diet through the food pyramid guide, which focuses more on wheats and breads and less on fatty food. (Terry D.C. Betonio)