Ukraine is the second largest country in Europe, bordered by Russia, Belarus, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Moldova, the Sea of Azov, and the Black Sea. Home to seven World Heritage Sites, and also the presumed geographical center of the European continent, Ukraine has the eighth highest population in Europe, with approximately 43.7 million people. About 70 percent of the population lives in urban areas, including major metropolitan centers such as Kharkiv, Odessa, Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk, and the capital, Kyiv. The majority of the population is ethnically Ukrainian, but other groups include Russian, Belarusian, Moldovan, Crimean Tata, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Romanian, Polish, and Jewish. The country is majority Christian, with two-thirds identifying as Orthodox. Languages spoken include Ukrainian, the official language, and Russian.
Ukraine became independent from the Soviet Union in 1991. Since the early 1990s, the country has experienced volatile growth but also had a significant economic downturn in 2009. Russia’s occupation of Crimea, and conflict in the eastern end of Ukraine, have contributed to Ukraine’s economic struggles. It is considered to be the poorest country in Europe, with high rates of poverty and corruption. Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of grain, with other major crops including potatoes, sugar beets, and sunflower oil.
The Ukrainian population suffers from heavy alcohol consumption, one of the highest per capita rates in the world. As a result, cirrhosis is a top cause of death. Other leading causes of death include ischemic heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, Alzheimer's disease, cardiomyopathy, colorectal cancer, COPD, and stomach cancer. The risk factors that contribute to the most deaths and disabilities include high blood pressure, dietary risks, high LDL, high body-mass index, alcohol and tobacco use, high fasting plasma glucose, air pollution, kidney dysfunction, and non-optimal temperature.
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