Chronic Diseases

Chronic medical conditions — including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and depression — cause more than half of all deaths worldwide.

These long-term diseases affect people of all ages, both rich and poor, in every ethnic group. Many chronic diseases have genetic components, which raise disease risk in certain people or populations. The environment can also contribute to risk, and so can lifestyle choices, including your diet, physical activity, and whether or not you smoke.

NIH’s long-term efforts to understand, treat, and prevent chronic diseases are helping to reduce the global burden of these conditions. To the right are just a few of the dozens of chronic diseases that NIH-funded research has helped to alleviate.

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Two active seniors nordic walking outdoors.

Cardiovascular Disease

Only 6 decades ago, we didn’t know what caused cardiovascular disease, and many Americans died of heart attacks in their 50s or 60s.

Lung cancer cell division. Colored scanning electron micrograph of a lung cancer cell during cell division.


NIH-funded research has inspired a revolution in how we think about cancer. Today, we are in a new era where cancer therapy is more proactive, targeted, personalized, and less toxic.

Researcher with brain imaging data.


Everyone occasionally feels depressed, but for some these feelings do not go away within a couple of weeks. Until recently, people with serious, long-lasting depression had few options.

Doctor taking a blood sample from a patient's finger


In the 1950s, about 1 in 5 people died within 20 years after being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, formerly known as juvenile diabetes.

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This page last reviewed on December 13, 2016