Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Indians will have to slim down a bit if they want to keep away cardiovascular diseases

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad:  Indians will have to slim down a bit if they want to keep away cardiovascular diseases including heart attacks.

An average Indian with a body mass index or BMI of just 23 suffers from heart diseases, while those living in the West enter the "danger zone" only if their BMI is above 25. Health experts now suggest that the "overweight" BMI limit for Indians and those living in South East Asia should be reduced by two points, from 25 to 23. In other words, nearly a quarter of Indians will overnight become "overweight" once the BMI is redefined for the country.

At present a person with a BMI up to 25 is considered as of "optimal weight" and above 25 is described as "overweight". In line with the World Health Organisation's suggestion, medical scientists recommend that a different BMI parameter should be worked out for Indians, fixing a healthy BMI of 23 as the upper limit.

The need for revision of BMI for Indians came to the fore after a study by a group of medical and health researchers from Madras Medical College, Chennai, JJM Medical College, Devangere,  and Chennai Medical College Hospital & Research Centre, Trichy, showed that people with a BMI less than 23 had cardiac problems including myocardial infarction.

A total of 949 patients including 257 post menopausal women and 611 age and sex matched healthy controls were included in the study. The team comprised Dr Ramachandran Meenakshisundaram, Dr Dipti Agarwal, Dr Chinnaswamy Rajendiran and Dr Ponniah Thirumalaikolundusubramanian.

Stating that India is currently in the middle of myocardial infarction epidemic that was initially observed among immigrant Indians, Dr Ramachandran pointed out higher prevalence of risk factors and myocardial infarction were seen in patients even with BMI less than 23. "These observations clearly support the recent WHO initiatives and its debates, to revise the normal limits of BMI. Hence, it would be advisable to redefine the BMI of  23  as overweight and BMI of 25 as obese for South East Asians," he said.
Though Indians are prone to heart diseases, obesity as defined by BMI of 30 is less prevalent in South Asians, which is also considered as an important risk factor for CAD.

The team suggested screening measures for risk factors of myocardial infarction may be initiated for people with BMI of 21. It suggested that all post-menopausal women may be advised to start their screening measures immediately after menopause. "Recognition and adoption of BMI cut-offs represent a major step forward in redefining the risk stratification among Indians," he added

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