These are the 7 most common chronic diseases in Puerto Ricans

Typically, the conditions present a high mortality rate in the population.

In Puerto Rico, heart diseases are the most prevalent and constitute the main cause of mortality in the population. Photo: Shutterstock.

The chronic diseases they are of long duration and have a slow progression. According to the World Health Organization, WHO, these conditions kill 41 million people each year, which is equivalent to 71% of deaths that occur in the world.

Its origin may be due to the combination of genetic, physiological, environmental and behavioral factors. Currently, the most common diseases worldwide are cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attacks and strokes, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, and diabetes.

In Puerto Rico the panorama is similar, since according to the most recent report of the Health Departmentheart diseases are the most prevalent and constitute the main cause of mortality on the Island, followed by cancer, diabetes mellitus, Alzheimer’s, cerebrovascular problems, asthma and arthritis.

The prevalence of these conditions may vary according to gender and age groups, however, according to data from the Health Departmentfrom 2013 to the present, the diseases mentioned above continue to be the most common in the Puerto Rican population.

Heart disease

American Heart Association indicates that in Puerto Ricoheart disease is the leading cause of death, and has several associated risk conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and harmful lifestyles, which can be prevented or controlled.

For Dr. Antonio Orraca, member of the board of directors of the Puerto Rican Society of Cardiology, heart problems include valvular conditions, the most frequent being aortic stenosis, which occurs when the heart’s aortic valve narrows.

“In addition to aging, there are other long-term conditions that alter the structure of the heart and consequently affect the valves, some of them are: hypertension, diabetes, obesity and alcohol consumption,” he told the Journal of Medicine and Public Health. .

For the year 2018, it was estimated that around five thousand Puerto Ricans died annually as a result of heart disease, surpassing the incidences of cancer and other conditions, according to the Puerto Rican Statistics Institute. Puerto Ricoand the average has been maintained in recent years, affecting both mens What women.

As a consequence of these types of conditions, a total of 154 mens and 126 women of every 100,000 inhabitants on the Island dies, mostly residents of the municipalities of Ponce, Mayagüez, Fajardo, Cabo Rojo, Rincón, Vieques and Culebra.

Historical statistics from 2014 reported that, in general terms, the prevalence of heart attacks was higher in mens of ages 65 and older, however, an increase has been observed in the 55-64 age group.

Cancer (malignant tumors)

The most common types of cancer are prostate, breast, colorectal, lung and thyroid cancer, according to hematologist-oncologist Verónica Vestal Vargas, from the Comprehensive Cancer Center of the University of Puerto Rico.

According to statistics from the Central Cancer Registry, the average age of cancer diagnosis is 66 years and the group with the highest prevalence is 65 to 79 years, followed by 50 to 64 years. In children, the incidence is 1%.

In addition, it indicates that the most common types of cancer in women They are breast cancer with 28.9%, being the most diagnosed in this group, followed by colon and rectal cancer with 11.2% and thyroid cancer with a prevalence of 11%.

In the menslung and bronchial cancer stands at 5.6%, prostate cancer is the most diagnosed in menswith 37.7%, and colon and rectal cancer, with 12%.

It is difficult to determine the reasons why a person develops cancer. However, for Dr. Roberto Santiago, radiation oncologist, there are factors that increase the risk of developing cancer throughout life; these are some:

  • Obesity

  • High-fat, low-fiber diets

  • Excessive alcohol and tobacco use

  • The human papilloma virus (HPV)

Mellitus diabetes

about diabetes, Health Department reported that 2 out of every 13 adults in Puerto Rico They live with the condition. During 2020, it was observed that the prevalence of diabetes increases at older ages, with the most affected group being 65 years of age or older (38.0%).

Also, during the year 2020 it was reported that at least 32 million people suffered from diabetes in Latin America and the Caribbean; and it was revealed that the countries with the highest prevalence were Mexico, Haiti and Puerto Rico and lower in Colombia, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Peru and Uruguay.

In this regard, Dr. Leticia Hernández, president of the Puerto Rican Society of Endocrinology and Diabetology, emphasized that “we have an extremely high prevalence of 16% of diabetes in Puerto Rico And we can’t reduce it. In addition, patients living with the condition are at risk of multiple complications, at the cardiovascular, neurological, and renal levels, which affect their quality of life.”

For his part, Dr. Luis Ruiz, an endocrinologist, stated that “diabetes is the third cause of death in Puerto Rico“.


This condition encompasses a group of symptoms characterized by memory loss, language problems, mood swings, and deficits in thinking and reasoning that interfere with activities of daily living. It is the most common form of dementia and affects more than 6 million people in the United States.

Currently, it is estimated at Puerto Rico about 60 thousand people suffer from this condition and, unfortunately, it ranks fourth in one of the most common causes of death in the country.

55% of patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are over 85 years old, and about 65% of these people are womenaccording to figures published by the Health Department of Puerto Rico.


About 80% of strokes are preventable, however, the figures for this condition continue to be very alarming worldwide, since every 6 seconds a person dies in the world due to this disease.

The death rate in Puerto Rico fluctuates between 12.9 to 50.3 per 100,000 inhabitants and presents a similar prevalence in mens Y womenaccording to the Report of Chronic diseases of Health Department.

According to the Mayo Clinic portal, stroke prevention strategies are the same as heart disease prevention strategies.

In general, recommendations for a healthy lifestyle include: controlling high blood pressure (hypertension), reducing cholesterol and saturated fat, quitting smoking, managing diabetes, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and treat obstructive sleep apnea.


In the Puerto Rican population A higher incidence of asthma has been detected, since according to studies about 430,000 people suffer from this condition. In addition, it should be noted that the cases recorded on the island have suggested that this pathology develops more severely in patients.

Historically, asthma has had a similar prevalence in mens Y womenHowever, it frequently occurs at an early age. The report of Health Department indicates that in the age distribution, the groups that showed a decrease in the prevalence of asthma were between 18 to 24 with a decrease of 3.2% and the group of 55 to 64 years with a decrease of 1.1%, for the year 2014.


The most prevalent rheumatic condition in Puerto Rico is osteoarthritis, about it, Dr. Oscar Soto Raíces, president of the FER Rheumatic Diseases Foundation, indicated that “osteoarthritis is the type of arthritis that we all, at some point, can suffer from, because it is the consequence of usual wear and tear of the joints over time; it is associated with age.

Rheumatic diseases as a set of conditions that encompass more than 200 types of conditions and that, for the most part, affect the musculoskeletal system.

The second most common type of arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis. It is a chronic, autoimmune, inflammatory and systemic condition that can affect children and older adults, but is more common in middle-aged people.

“It is the type of arthritis where inflammation in the joint can lead to rapid tissue destruction, therefore, that joint can be damaged, cause deformity, which implies loss of movement and can translate into disability,” he explained. Dr Soto.

The statistics were taken from the reports of chronic diseases and morbidity of Health Department of Puerto Rico.

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