Friday, 23 May 2008

Lifestyle diseases to beat viral threat


May 23, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, May 22: Bacteria, viruses, germs and worms will play a low profile in the next two decades as lifestyle diseases overtake infectious and communicable diseases.
The global burden of disease is fast shifting from infectious diseases to non-communicable diseases, with chronic conditions such as heart disease and stroke now being the chief causes of death globally, including India.
While the World Health Organisation warns that shifting health trends will push lifestyle diseases up the chart, health experts in India point out that the trend has already started in the country with the number of heart diseases and diabetes going up considerably.
According to a WHO report, leading infectious diseases like diarrhoea, HIV, tuberculosis, neonatal infections and malaria will become less important causes of death world-wide over the next 20 years. The WHO has arrived at this projection based on data on 73 health indicators.
Senior interventionist cardiologist Dr DK Barua says the chief causes of death are non-communicable diseases like heart attack, diabetes and hypertension. "The incidence of non-infectious diseases has gone up considerably. We are on the ascending stage now and 20 years from now, India could over take China in diabetic cases," he says.
The WHO statistics show risk factors like smoking and alcohol consumption will push the number of non-communicable diseases including maternal mortality, which is currently as high as 450 per lakh live births in India and other developing countries.
King George Hospital superintendent Dr T Ravi Raju supports WHO data saying India will become a leading county in terms of number of cases of diabetes and heart and kidney ailments. The average life span of an Indian was 37 years before Independence and now it has gone up to 65. "Continents were wiped due to cholera, malaria, tetanus and other communicable diseases but India could control them. Polio, cholera and small pox has been eradicated from the country. Before they could get heart and other non-infectious diseases, Indians were dying of communicable diseases. In heart diseases, the cases in India are nine times higher than that of Japan and six times more than that of US," he says.
Health experts say that the change in pattern of diseases is not necessarily due to the change in lifestyle or stress but Indians are genetically more prone to heart diseases than those living in any other developing country. About 15 per
cent of Indians are suffering from diabetes and in another 20 years, the percentage could go up to 20 per cent.

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