Friday, 28 October 2011

Are Indian soldiers healthy? ICMR study finds it otherwise

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: How healthy are the Indian soldiers? A
considerable number of apparently healthy and active young military
personnel suffer from prehypertension, a predisposing factor for
increased risk of high blood pressure and heart diseases.

According to a study by scientists from the city-based National
Institute of Nutrtion and Station Health Organisation, and Integrated
Headquarters, New Delhi, as many as 767 participants (130 officers and 637 from other
ranks) were studied. The blood pressure, serum triglycerides and serum cholesterol
(total, HDL and LDL) were assessed along with anthropometric
measurements such as height, weight, waist-hip ratio in apparently
healthy military personnel.

Prehypertension was defined as systolic blood pressure (SBP) 120-139
mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) 80-89 mm Hg.

The overall prevalence of prehypertension was high (about 80 per
cent). The prevalence of other risk factors such as overweight (BMI>23
kg/m2), serum total cholesterol > 200 mg/dl, serum LDL cholesterol >
130 mg/dl, serum HDL cholesterol <40 mg/dl, serum triglyceride > 150
mg/dl in the total group was 30, 22, 22, 67, and 14 per cent,
respectively.

Most of the personnel undertook moderate or heavy exercise. A
significantly higher proportion of individuals with prehypertension
had clinical and behavioural risk factors such as overweight,
dyslipidaemia and adverse dietary practices like saturated fat and
added salt intake.

The high prevalence of prehypertension and its association with
overweight and dyslipidaemia in this young, physically active military
population indicates an urgent need for targeted interventions to
reduce the cardiovascular risk.

These studies demonstrated that individuals with blood pressure >120/80
mmHg, but <140/90 mmHg, had an increased risk of hypertension,
cardiovascular disease and early death from cardiovascular causes.

Although military personnel are in general healthy, physically active
and health conscious, psychosocial factors such as job related stress
may increase the risk of prehypertension and cardiovascular disease.
Ongoing nutrition transition with progressive shift to a westernized
diet may further accentuate the risk.

Of a total of 70 units in South India having a population of more than
300 each, 16 units were selected by random sampling. From the list of
personnel in each unit, 50 participants were chosen in the two rank
categories of officers (higher socio-economic stratum) and other ranks
(lower socio-economic stratum) according to their proportion
(officers: other ranks 1:5) in the total population.

Personnel known to be having ischaemic heart disease, hypertension,
obesity and diabetes were excluded from the study.

Overall prevalence of prehypertension was about 80 per cent. Almost 67
per cent of the total group had HDL cholesterol levels < 40 mg/dl
though the prevalence of raised total and LDL cholesterol and serum
triglycerides were within a range of 14-22 per cent.

Adverse dietary habits were observed in a large number of participants
with about two thirds of the personnel taking butter or ghee daily and
about 40 per cent reported using added salt or pickle regularly.

The study indicates a high prevalence of prehypertension in an
apparently healthy military population which is a cause for concern as
these individuals are at high risk of developing hypertension and
cardiovascular disease in later life.

"Our the study provides important information on the high burden of
cardiovascular risk factors such as prehypertension, overweight and
dyslipidaemia, in an apparently healthy and physically active young
military adults," researchers said.

Lifestyle modifications such as reducing intake of saturated fats and
salt in diet and reducing smoking can achieve a downward shift in the
overall blood pressure, thus reducing the risk of hypertension and
cardiovascular disease, they added.

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