The trend of diseases and death rates today shifted from infectious diseases to non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Back in the day, the leading cause of death in Indonesia was infectious diseases like tuberculosis, liver diseases, pneumonia, diarrhea, typhoid fever, malaria, and so on. However, from the year 1995 to 2001 up until 2007, we can see a dramatic decline in the death rate of infectious diseases. On the other hand, the death rate from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) has increased significantly. The cause of death by NCDs are mostly from stroke, hypertension, ischemic heart disease, and diabetes. 

Why has it shifted?

We all know how infectious diseases can spread, whether it’s because of not washing your hands often or properly, poor cooking sanitation, lack of environmental hygiene, and many more. Nowadays, people are more aware of sanitation practices than before. 

Central for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reviewed studies about how by washing hands alone, it can decrease “the number of people who get sick with diarrhea by 23-40%” and “diarrheal illness in people with weakened immune systems by 58%”. A cleaner lifestyle habit has been adopted by many people today. This is one of the possible explanations as to why the death rate of infectious diseases has decreased in the past few years. 

Then why does death rates from NCDs keep increasing? 

One explanation is because there’s a shift in our lifestyle from how our ancestors live their life! Many of our ancestors work on farms, and eat more natural plant-based foods and do not eat highly processed and fast foods. While today, many of us are sitting in an office job for 8 hours a day and do not exercise regularly, and many eat highly processed foods and junk food that are making us sick. That’s why we see a continuous growth of the death rate from strokes, hypertension, heart diseases, and diabetes every year. 

Do not be part of the statistic!

Everybody will die one day. But, will I die suffering from non-communicable diseases like the majority of people? The good news is that we don’t have to! Here is what you can do. First, eat a 100% whole food plant-based diet, or most of what you eat comes from plants! We can see this pattern from the Okinawan in Japan, who once were the longest living people on earth. When the meat intake increased, and the consumption of “pulses and green and yellow vegetables” decreased, the number of death rates from ischemic heart disease and cerebrovascular diseases (stroke) increased. (1)

Secondly, move regularly. Exercise has been one of the best things you can do to prevent yourself from getting non-communicable diseases. World Health Organization “reports that low physical activity causes 27% of diabetes and 20% of ischemic heart disease.” (2) So, increase your physical activity from now on. Although the cause of death has shifted from infectious diseases to non-communicable diseases, take care of yourself by eating a whole food plant-based diet and exercise regularly, so you will not be part of the statistics!