Top 10 causes of death in Malaysia

From Ischaemic heart disease to Alzheimer’s to diabetes, here is the list of the ten most causes of death among Malaysians.

The following statistics on the Top 10 causes of death in Malaysia are courtesy of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation and can be found at

Ischaemic heart disease

We call it a heart attack. But here’s the real deal. You know how our body needs oxygen to function? The heart’s job is to pump the blood around the body to the other organs via blood vessels.

But you see, the heart needs oxygen too and it gets it through a group of blood vessels called the coronary arteries.

If these blood vessels get stuck, there will be a reduced supply of blood to the heart and if the blockage is big enough, the heart muscles will start to die.

This is called ischaemia. Dead heart muscles equals dead person.

Lower respiratory tract infection (LRTI)

The respiratory tract is the path that the air your body breathes passes through. This goes through your nose and ends up in the lungs.

In between, you have the mouth, throat, voice box and windpipe that branches into smaller windpipes, that in turn branches into small balloons in the lungs.

You can get an infection at any point in the tract and in fact, when you get a cold, it’s usually the upper part that is infected. This explains the phlegm and the runny nose.

The most commonly known lower respiratory tract infection affecting the lungs is pneumonia.

Cerebrovascular disease

“Cerebro” refers to the brain and “vascular” refers to blood vessels. What sort of problems do the blood vessels in your brain run into?

If you guessed a stroke, you’re right! You can get a stroke either from clots forming in the vessels or if the vessels start bleeding. Either way your brain misses out on the all important oxygen and that is not good.

Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a condition normally associated with memory problems but in reality, is more than that.

It is an irreversible disease that affects the functioning of the brain and since we human beings need our brains for everything, a person with Alzheimer’s will be affected in many ways.

One can become forgetful and will have trouble carrying out day to day tasks like bathing oneself and cooking. This in turn increases the risk of infection and malnutrition.

It can also affect some physical aspects of life such as maintaining one’s balance when walking. People who are unsteady on their feet run the risk of falling and breaking their hip bones or fracturing their skulls.

Road injuries

There’s a reason why Petronas keeps running commercials urging you to stop for a break when you’re tired while driving.

Despite many campaigns on road safety every year, it is sad to see it rank so high at number five as among the top causes of death in Malaysia.

Abide by the speed limits, signal when switching lanes and don’t hog the emergency lanes. Drive safe.


It stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In layman’s terms, it is a long term disease of the lungs which causes breathlessness due to poor airflow.

This condition mainly affects smokers but other risk factors include air pollution and occupational exposures.

This disease unfortunately has no cure but keeping yourself away from these risk factors are a good idea.

Lung cancer

When cells in your lungs decide to go rogue and reproduce uncontrollably, you develop lung cancer. Symptoms include chest pains, breathlessness and a bloody cough.

Like COPD, smoking greatly increases your risk of getting lung cancer or any cancer for that matter.

So, save yourself a few bucks and ditch the habit. You can always ask a doctor for advice on how to stop smoking if you need help. Don’t suffer alone.


Everyone knows diabetes because Malaysians are notoriously sweet-toothed. Teh tarik, cendol durian, kuih-muih by the roadside – how can we be blamed?

But in all seriousness, diabetes is the result of our pancreas getting too tired of processing so much sugar due to our uncontrolled consumption of it.

Diabetes affects all the organs in your body from your eyeballs to your toes. You can go blind and lose a foot. So, the next time you reach for that extra packet of sweets, remember this fact.

Chronic kidney disease

This is a long term condition which affects the functioning of your kidneys. Your kidneys gets rid of toxic waste from your body, controls the amount of fluid in your body, makes sure the acidity of your body is just right and produces some hormones.

Basically, it is essential to your survival and if it doesn’t work well, you won’t feel well.

And what increases the risk of getting chronic kidney disease? Diabetes!

Colorectal cancer

This cancer affects the lower half of our digestive system. Be aware if you notice a change in your bowel habits, blood in your stool and unexplained weight loss.

Unhealthy lifestyle habits such as insufficient consumption of fruit and vegetables, not exercising, smoking and alcohol intake all increase your risk of getting colorectal cancer.





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