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Lifestyle diseases: India in danger zone

If young people who should work are not fit for work and are debilitated by serious ailments, that will amount to a national disaster.
Last Updated : 14 June 2023, 20:38 IST

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The findings of a study on the incidence of lifestyle diseases in India, published last week in the medical journal The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, should cause serious concern over the health status of large sections of people. The decade-long study, backed by the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) has reported that more than a tenth of the people in the country have diabetes, 35 per cent have hypertension and 28 per cent have high cholesterol levels. The prevalence of these conditions is more in urban areas, but they are spreading fast in rural areas also. Both rural and urban populations are equally prone to pre-diabetes. While these are traditionally called non-communicable diseases (NCDs), their spread may even be compared to the spread of infectious diseases. The National Health Mission has actually found that there is a transition happening in the health sector, with NCDs surpassing the burden of communicable diseases.

The details of the study are cause for greater worry. About 11.4 per cent of the population above 20 years suffer from diabetes. Other studies have found that close to 20 per cent of diabetics are below the age of 45 and nearly 45 per cent below 60 years. More than 60 per cent of pre-diabetic people end up having the disease. The poor awareness about lifestyle diseases adds to the problem. The lack of awareness is more in rural areas. Only half of the diabetics in the 15-50 age group are aware of their condition. It has also been found that even among those who were aware of their health condition, the majority could not bring it under control. Diabetes is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attack, stroke, and lower-limb amputation. It aggravates all other ailments of a person.

This is a serious situation for a country which has an overwhelmingly young population. If young people who should work are not fit for work and are debilitated by serious ailments, that will amount to a national disaster. Governments, health administrators, and more than them, the people themselves, should take the findings seriously and take preventive and remedial measures to deal with the problem. The pre-diabetic condition can be reversed with the right diet and lifestyle changes. Even diabetic conditions can be controlled and even reversed with proper care and treatment. It may be necessary to address the situation on a war footing. Counselling and treatment facilities are poor in most parts of the country. These need to be improved so that everyone who needs them has access to them. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated that lifestyle diseases could cost India $6 trillion by 2030. The country is already in the danger zone.

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Published 14 June 2023, 18:08 IST

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