Top 10 Deadliest Critical Illnesses in the UAE in 2024

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A decade ago, in 2009 the top cause of deaths in UAE was road accidents. Another survey was conducted in 2019 by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation UAE. It suggests that the first place is now held by ischemic heart disease – one of the top critical illnesses in UAE. Critical illnesses in UAE are some of the top reasons to add to the death toll in the country and this is why health insurance in UAE offers a separate specialised cover for them. Let us cover the top 10 deadliest diseases on the critical illness list of the UAE and expand our knowledge on the subject.

Top 10 Deadliest Critical Illnesses in UAE

1. Ischemic Heart Disease

Popularly referred to as coronary heart disease, ischemic heart disease is number one on the deadly critical illness list of the country. It is a condition where one part of the heart does not get enough supply of blood. This results in pain and discomfort in the chest area. Both exertion and excitement can cause this condition and pain. Ischemic heart disease is the number one cause of death in the UAE as per the data from surveys led in the year 2019.

The fatality rate for death due to ischemic heart disease has increased over 130% in the past 10 years making the deadliest of all critical illnesses in the UAE. It covered by the most critical illness plans in health insurance UAE. This condition develops when cholesterol increases in the body start getting accumulated on the walls of major arteries of the heart. These arteries are in charge of maintaining the supply of blood to the heart and when they are blocked or semi-blocked, this supply is hindered.


  • Chest pain, generally towards the left side of the chest
  • Pressure on the chest
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Clammy skin and palms
  • Frequent nausea
  • Neck and jaw pains
  • Pain in left arm or shoulder


Plaque is the main cause of ischemic heart disease. It is formed when cholesterol in the body is high. The plaque on the walls of arteries takes some time to gather up so, the symptoms may also develop slowly. Apart from the plaque on artery walls, illnesses that increases oxygen requirement in the body, blood clots, and artery spasms are also some of the top causes of ischemic heart disease.

Potential factors that increase risk:

  • Family history related to heart diseases
  • Diabetes
  • Extremely high blood cholesterol and triglycerides
  • Tobacco usage in any form
  • Very less or negligible physical activity
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure


  • If you are diabetic with a family history of heart diseases, keep it in check with regular insulin medication and checkups
  • Increase physical activity and get plenty of exercise in a day
  • Try and bring your blood pressure to normal and maintain it
  • Keep cholesterol under control
  • Avoid saturated fats
  • Avoid smoking and other forms of tobacco

2. Stroke

A stroke can be caused when the brain does not get the required amount of blood supply at any given point. This results in rapid death of brain cells and leads to brain damage or death, if not treated in time. Strokes are classified as medical emergencies and need immediate attention from medical experts. If actions are taken in time, brain damage disability can be limited to the minimum with negligible after-effects. The deadliness of strokes increases by almost 105% in the past decade giving it the second spot on the critical illness list of the UAE. It is covered under critical illnesses plans of health insurance in the UAE.


Stroke symptoms are a far cry from being subtle. You can easily and quickly spot a stroke if any of these symptoms appear:

  • Troubled or inability of speaking and comprehending what other people are saying
  • Numbness in limbs or paralysis
  • Trouble in seeing from one or both of the eyes
  • Headaches – sudden and severe
  • Vomiting, nausea, dizziness and unconsciousness combined with the headaches
  • Loss of balance or problems in walking properly

Quick reaction is the key to save a person from having a stroke. Ask them to smile and note if they have trouble doing it. Ask them to raise one or both hands, walk in a straight line or coordinate a few moves. You can also ask them to speak a certain phrase or sentence.


  • Blockage in main brain arteries – causes an ischemic stroke
  • Leak in a blood vessel or bursting – causes a hemorrhagic stroke  

Potential factors that increase risk:

  • Consistently high blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Heavy drinking and tobacco use
  • Present cardiovascular diseases
  • Family history related to strokes


  • Keep your blood pressure in control – eat less salt, take medication if the doctor prescribes so
  • Control cholesterol level – lesser saturated fats in food intake can help
  • Quitting drinking and smoking
  • Keep diabetes under control – keep regular tabs on your blood sugar levels
  • Get plenty of exercise and achieve a healthy weight
  • Balanced diet intake

3. Chronic Kidney Disease

Holding third place in the deadliest critical illness list of the UAE, Chronic kidney disease or chronic kidney failure is a condition where one or both the kidneys stop functioning properly and shut down. Kidneys are responsible to filter out toxins and other harmful waste material from the body. This filtered out toxic waste is then passed out via urine. When a kidney fails, all these toxins remain in the body and start to clutter up which is life-threatening, to say the least. The advance stage chronic kidney disease can only be treated by artificial dialysis or a transplant. Kidney disease patients are covered by health insurance in UAE under the most critical illness plans.


  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia or troubles in sleeping
  • Constant fatigue or feeling of weakness
  • Low or loss of appetite
  • Decreased sharpness
  • Twitching muscles and cramps
  • Swelling in feet and ankles
  • Very persistent itching
  • Chest pains
  • Shortness of breath
  • Constant high blood pressure


  • Diabetes – generally type 1 and type 2
  • Inflamed tubules of the kidney
  • Polycystic kidney disease
  • Inflamed filtering units of the kidney
  • High blood pressure
  • Obstruction of the urinary tract due to any reason
  • Kidney infection
  • Vesicoureteral reflux – when the urine turns back up and move to the kidneys
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Smoking and obesity
  • Family history of the disease
  • Enlarged or shrunk kidney (any abnormality in the structure)
  • Old age


  • Always take the prescribed dosage for medicines – too many drugs increase the load on kidneys.
  • Get plenty of exercises
  • Take a balanced diet
  • Drink water as per the prescribed amount for your body weight and height
  • Avoid smoking
  • Keep track of conditions that can cause kidney failure. Seek medical help immediately to control them.
  • Maintain healthy blood pressure.
  • Keep track of the development of diabetes. Monitor your blood sugar level regularly and take measures if you are diabetic.

4. Diabetes

Diabetes holds fourth place on the top deadliest critical illness list of the UAE. People suffering from diabetes develop a resistance towards insulin which causes their blood sugar level to rise to abnormal levels. Insulin is a hormone in our bodies secreted by the pancreas that is responsible to carry the sugar from the blood and transfer it to cells for storage. Low production, no production or resistance to insulin results in a person becoming diabetes. Diabetes is covered under critical illness health insurance in UAE. There are two main kinds of diabetes:

  • Type 1 diabetes: A genetic condition where the cells responsible for insulin production in the pancreas are attacked by your immune system and destroyed. This results in low or no production of insulin in the body and hence develops diabetes.
  • Type 2 diabetes: Here, the body grows resistant to the insulin produced by the pancreas and results in high sugar levels in the blood.

Diabetes can lead to several deadly critical illnesses such as cardiovascular diseases, nerve damage, kidney failure, hearing impairment, Alzheimer's disease etc.


  • Excessive hunger and thirst
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Increment in the frequency of urination as compared to your normal rate
  • Blurred vision
  • Fatigue and low energy levels
  • Slow-healing wounds and sores
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Yeast infections
  • Tingling pain or numbness in the limbs
  • Increased irritability
  • Sweetness in breath odour
  • Nausea
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Skin infection or patches of dark skin
  • Dry or itchy skin


The causes of type 1 diabetes are still a mystery to the world. There is still no telling why the immune system attacks the cells in your own body. Causes of type 2 diabetes may include the following:

  • Overweight or obesity
  • Accumulation of excessive fat on and near the belly
  • Hormonal changes during pregnancy
  • Family history (Type 1 and Type 2 both)
  • Too little physical activity
  • High blood pressure
  • Old age
  • High cholesterol levels


  • Include healthy foods in your diet – low fat and high protein and fibre
  • Get more exercise and stay active throughout the day
  • Maintain a healthy weight for your height
  • Keep up with the doctor’s advice during pregnancy

5. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

COPD or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is one of the top deadliest critical illnesses in the UAE. COPD is a type of inflammatory disease that results in restriction of the airflow to the lungs and results in trouble of breathing from low to severe levels. People who are suffering from the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are also at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and lung cancers. Chronic bronchitis and Emphysema are two of the main conditions that people develop when they suffer from COPD. Chronic bronchitis results in inflammation and blockage in the bronchial tubes that are responsible to carry air from the alveoli to the lungs. Emphysema is a result of the destruction of alveoli due to excessive smoking or exposure to harmful gasses. COPD is generally covered by comprehensive health insurance in UAE.


  • Shortness of breath – normally or when physically active
  • Whizzing sounds when breathing
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Chronic cough with mucus – clear, white, greenish or yellowish
  • Respiratory infections
  • Low energy levels
  • Sudden weight-loss- unintended
  • Swelled ankles and feet


  • Tobacco consumption via vaping and smoking
  • Exposure to dangerous fumes and gases
  • Alpha-1-antitrypsin (AAt) deficiency – a protein that is made in the liver to protect the lungs. A genetic disorder can slow down or stop the production of this protein.
  • Pre-existing asthmatic conditions
  • Exposure to chemical and dust


  • Quit smoking
  • Using protective gear and equipment when working near harmful fumes and gases
  • Get vaccinated for pneumonia
  • Wear masks in more dust-prone areas

6. Hypertensive Heart Diseases

A set of heart conditions that are caused by high blood pressure are known as hypertensive heart diseases. These conditions can be of several types and are classified as critical illnesses. Some of these conditions can include thickening of the heart muscles, narrowing of the arteries or blockage (coronary heart disease), heart failure, etc. Hypertension or high blood pressure itself comes under basic cover of health insurance in UAE.

Following are the two main types of hypertensive heart diseases explained:

  • Narrowing of the blood vessels: High blood pressure effectively results in the thickening of the blood vessels and main arteries. These are responsible to pump blood into the heart and the rest of the body. The condition is better known as coronary heart disease (CHD) and results in slowed or stopped blood flow to the heart. This may result in a heart attack or heart failure.
  • Heart Enlargement or thickening: The heart has a set of muscles that help in pumping blood in the body. Since blood pressure makes it harder for the heart to pump blood in the body, the heart muscles increase in size due to constant work. The enlarged heart condition is referred to as left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH).

Both these conditions can cause the other. So, if you have LVH, you are at risk of CHD as well and vice versa.


  • Extreme chest pain
  • Tightness of the chest muscles or a feeling of pressure
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Back pain or pain in neck, arms or shoulder (left mostly)
  • Swelled legs and ankles
  • Lost appetite
  • Cough
  • Bloating


  • High blood pressure
  • Excessive cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Low physical activity levels
  • Smoking and other forms of tobacco intake
  • High saturated fat intake


  • Keep blood pressure in check
  • Take a healthy and balanced diet
  • Avoid trans and saturated fats
  • Get exercise daily and keep yourself moving
  • Avoid tobacco use and alcohol

7. Pancreatic Cancer

The seventh deadliest disease on the critical illness list of the UAE, pancreatic cancer is caused when a cancerous tumour develops in the cells of the pancreas. The most common place for these cancerous cells to develop is the lining on the duct that carries the digestive enzymes from the pancreas to the stomach. What makes pancreatic cancer so lethal is the fact that it is seldom diagnosed in the early treatable stages. Even the symptoms appear when cancer has already spread too much or to other organs. Medically necessary treatment for pancreatic cancer is covered by health insurance in UAE.


Look out for these early signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer

  • Severe abdominal pain and jolts that seem to travel to the back
  • Lost appetite
  • Unintended excessive weight loss
  • Jaundice-like symptoms – yellowness in the eyes
  • Light coloured stool
  • Darker-coloured urine
  • Itchy and patchy skin
  • A sudden diagnosis of diabetes or suddenly uncontrollable existing one
  • Constance fatigue
  • Blood clots


Sudden mutation in the DNA of the cells is the main reason for pancreatic cancer. The reason for this or any other kind of mutation that causes cancerous tumours to form is still undetermined. Although, it could be a genetic push. Some factors that add to the risk of developing pancreatic cancer are as follows:

  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Inflammation in the pancreas
  • Family history of cancer – pancreatic or other
  • Obesity
  • Old age


There aren’t a lot of things to completely prevent pancreatic cancer since it is a result of DNA mutation in cells. But you can do the following to lower the risk significantly:

  • Avoid smoking and other forms of tobacco use
  • Do not expose yourself to harmful chemicals
  • Avoid alcohol intake
  • Keep your weight in check and maintain a healthy body fat ratio
  • Get plenty of exercises
  • Eat a clean and balanced diet

8. Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Causes of Dementia

This is a neurological disease or disorder in which the brain gradually shrinks and the brain cells begin to die in the process. Since Alzheimer’s disease causes atrophy (shrinking of the brain), it also leads to dementia. Dementia is a state of mind when the affected person’s ability to think declines and their social skills, behaviour, etc. are also adversely affected. Alzheimer’s disease is one of the top critical diseases in the UAE. Its worst form can even make a person forgetful of their closest family members, the most recent events and even the self at times. This results in a complete inability to do anything. Alzheimer’s disease is covered by health insurance in UAE when turned into irreversible dementia that starts to affect daily life and operations. It is often categorised as a permanent disability for health insurance UAE plans.


  • Confusion and memory loss – such as repeating things, forgetting people, forgetting familiar places and ways, misplacing things regularly, experiencing trouble in expressing thoughts and things.
  • Thinking and concentrating – people lose reasoning ability for the simplest of things. Numbers, finances and multitasking are especially difficult with Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Losing the ability to make decisions
  • Depression
  • Social withdrawal
  • Irritability and aggressiveness
  • Constant delusions
  • Insomnia or change in sleeping patterns
  • Distrust in people


The actual cause of Alzheimer’s disease is still uncertain for researchers and doctors. It is however believed that the main causes include changes in DNA of brain cells, lifestyle factors and environmental factors around the patient. Whatever is the reason, it triggers a slow but sure inability of the brain to function normally. This initiates a toxic chain of reactions which leads to brain cell destruction and later Alzheimer’s disease. Factors that can increase the risk of having Alzheimer’s disease are:

  • Old age
  • Down Syndrome
  • Family history of the disease
  • Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)
  • Past head trauma
  • Air pollution in the living area
  • Heart health and affecting lifestyle choices
  • Sleep patterns and habits
  • Alcohol consumption


There are no sure-shot preventions since the causes are still undetermined but people can introduce these things in their lives to make sure Alzheimer’s disease stays at bay:

  • Adapting to a better and healthier lifestyle
  • Avoid excessive alcohol consumption
  • Keep up with the treatment for any heart condition
  • Avoid smoking
  • Keep a tab on diabetes and blood sugar levels

9. Lower Respiratory Tract Infections

LRTI or lower respiratory tract infections are a group of infections that takes home either in the lungs or below the voice box. These infections can include pneumonia, tuberculosis, bronchitis, bronchiolitis and other respiratory diseases. These infections harm the airways and obstruct the oxygen supply to the body. This can result in low blood oxygen levels. Lower respiratory tract infections are more severe than the common upper respiratory tract infections such as tonsils, sinuses, etc. Critical illnesses plan of health insurance in the UAE often cover the cost of hospitalisation and other services in case of medically necessary treatment for LRTIs.


  • Running nose
  • Sore throat
  • Dry cough
  • Congestion
  • Headache – mild or severe at times
  • Fever
  • Sever cough (in severe LRTI infection cases)
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Wheezing sounds
  • Lack of oxygen – bluish shade of skin
  • Pain in chest or tightness


  • Viruses
  • Bacteria
  • Smoking
  • Fungal infections
  • Exposure to dust
  • Exposure to harmful chemicals, gases, vapour and fumes
  • Air pollution in the area
  • Common allergens


  • Frequently washing hands and sanitising
  • Avoid touching the face very frequently, especially with dirty hands
  • Wearing a mask around already infected people
  • Disinfecting surfaces
  • Getting vaccinated for respiratory viruses and pneumonia
  • Regular flu shots
  • Avoid smoking

10. Respiratory Cancers

As evident, respiratory cancers are cancerous tumours located in the respiratory cavity of the body, mostly the lungs. There are several kinds of lung and respiratory cancers and all of them are categorized as deadly critical illnesses. There are two basic kinds of lung cancers – small cell lung cancers and non-small cell cancer. The first one is common among smokers and the latter one can be caused by several reasons. There are several further categories as well, for example, large cell carcinoma, carcinoma or adenocarcinoma. Most plans in health insurance UAE cover respiratory cancer treatments.


  • A sudden new cough that seems untreatable
  • Coughed up blood
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sharp chest pain
  • Unintentional excessive weight loss
  • Pain in bones
  • Headache


Most lung cancers are caused by tobacco smoking or even exposure to second-hand smoke, also known as passive smoking. The initial damage caused to the lung lining is repaired by the body by constant exposure to cancer-causing substances present in tobacco results in permanent mutation in the DNA of the cells and growth of cancerous tumours.

Other possible causes include:

  • Radiation therapy
  • Exposure to carcinogens
  • Family history of the disease


  • Avoid smoking completely
  • Take precautions when working in places filled with carcinogens
  • Stay away from second-hand smoke
  • Conduct radon tests at homes
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Take up routine exercising and workouts


Critical illnesses get their categorisation for being some of the most life-threatening diseases to affect people. While it may be difficult to go through them and overcome the hurdles, health insurance in UAE offers optimum financial fall-back options and support when you need it. Some of these illnesses are covered in critical illness insurance plans available with providers while others are covered in basic ones. Regardless of the type of plans, proper understanding of the disease, preventive measures and proper health insurance UAE plan can go miles when it comes to handling critical illnesses. But, when all is said and done, prevention is still better than any cure, whether covered by health insurance in UAE or not.

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