61% die due to NCDs, lifestyle, says report

Over 61% of all deaths in India can be attributed to lifestyle changes or non-communicable diseases, a report said.

The report, prepared by the Centre for Science and Environment, has red-flagged environmental risk factors that are linked to seven major diseases affecting millions of Indians.

Take the case of cancer, for example.

More than 1.73 million new cancer cases are likely to be recorded each year by 2020. While air pollution, tobacco, alcohol and diet change are the known triggers, up to 20% of cancer cases can be linked to environmental exposures of toxins, the report stated.

It underscores the significance of tackling the environmental risk factors in order to curb non-communicable diseases (NCD) responsible for more than 61% of the deaths in India.

The seven diseases or disorders, highlighted in the report, are obesity, cancer, cardiovascular disease, respiratory troubles (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder), mental health, hormonal imbalance and food allergies.

"India has 2% of the world's land mass, but 21% of the diseases mass. In the past two decades, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, mental illness and depression have become common. A host of organs, including heart and kidney, are affected by air pollution, besides the lungs.

"Toxins in the air also cause infertility and insulin resistance," Sanjeev Bagai, vice chairperson, Manipal Hospitals, said at a function, where the report was released.

The World Health Organisation identified four risk factors for non-communicable or lifestyle diseases - alcohol, tobacco, poor diet and lack of physical activity. The global body argued that by investing just $1-3 per person per year, countries can dramatically reduce illnesses and death from NCDs.

"We believe the cost is going to be much higher. The risk factors have multiple targets and can cause diseases, which are not generally linked to them. For example, exposure to pesticides is known to cause cancer, but new data is emerging to link it to diabetes," said Sunita Narain, director general, CSE.

An increase in life span is coming at a big price. In the 1970s, prevalence of diabetes was 3 to 4%, but the figures are staggering now.

It is all about processed food, and changing eating patterns is the biggest challenge, said Ambrish Mithal, head of the endocrinology division, Medanta Heart Institute, Gurugram.

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