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India’s City Dwellers at Greater Risk Than Americans for Heart Disease

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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india city heart disease risk

Image courtesy of iStockphoto/JeremyRichards

Diabetes, heart disease, stroke and other afflictions that once primarily plagued wealthier, western countries are now accelerating in poorer nations.

A new study reveals that risk factors for heart disease in Indian cities are now more prevalent than they are in the U.S. or Western Europe per capita. And with a population of more than 1.1 billion, India’s health is a major global concern.

Cardiovascular disease is still the leading killer in the U.S., but it has been on steady decline for decades. In India and other countries, such as China and Brazil, this and other diseases linked to an unhealthier lifestyle, are on the rise.

“India has the dubious distinction of being known as the coronary and diabetes capital of the world,” Prakash Deedwania, of the University of California, San Francisco and co-author of the report, said in a prepared statement.

For the study, the researchers assessed the health of 6,198 adults who lived in 11 cities in various parts of India. Across the country about 79 percent of men and 83 percent of women didn’t get much exercise, and 41 percent of men and 45 percent of women were overweight or obese, the team found. And high-fat, low-fruit-and-vegetable diets were common. All of these trends put people at higher odds for developing—and dying from—cardiovascular disease. The findings were presented April 20 in Dubai at the World Congress of Cardiology.

People in the study seemed largely unaware of their risks for heart disease. Only about half of the approximately 2,000 subjects who had high blood pressure already knew about their condition, and only about a quarter of them had their blood pressure under control, the researchers found.

The region where the subjects lived did not seem to change their risk by much. However, those who lived in more highly developed cities were more likely to have metabolic risk factors, whereas those in less developed cities were more likely to have more lifestyle-based risk factors, according to a related study also presented at the meeting.

These results should “prompt the government to develop public health strategies that will change lifestyles,” Deedwania said.

To best combat heart disease in India, Rajeev Gupta, of Fortis Escorts Hospital in Jaipur, also noted in a prepared statement, that there needs to be a comprehensive approach, which will require “improvements in basic amenities, healthcare facilities and, perhaps most importantly, education that will enable people to take responsibility for their own actions.”

Katherine Harmon Courage About the Author: Katherine Harmon Courage is a freelance writer and contributing editor for Scientific American. Her book Octopus! The Most Mysterious Creature In the Sea is out now from Penguin/Current. Follow on Twitter @KHCourage.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. vinodsehgal1957@yahoo.com 7:21 am 04/22/2012

    To Katherine Hermon

    A study of mere 6198 adults in a country with a population of over 1.2 billion, with a very high level of diverse Socio-economic background, eating habits and educational level? Do you find the validity of this study adequetely co-related to generalize the findings? Was degree of diversity taken into consideration while undertaking study

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  2. 2. trafficproducts 11:23 pm 04/23/2012

    I personally think that this is closely related to our personal eating habits, and more:http://www.ytfoam.com

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  3. 3. dadster 4:13 pm 04/24/2012

    The opening lines of this scantly researched article( if what is written qualifies as research at all),are, “Diabetes, heart disease, stroke and other afflictions that once primarily plagued wealthier, western countries are now accelerating in poorer nations”.Yes we all know that these above mentioned diseases (along with the predatory pharma corporations),follow money . The costly medicines and other procedures peddled as management of these diseases had its run in the western nations whose markets were skimmed ( rather skinned ) by the pharmaceutical corporations.Now money supply there have dried up . Money is in the east now . So,the corporations have started following money hoisting their flag etched with the names of these diseases and commenced playing their game of keeping people in the eastern nations in a “state of fear” ,by using their trusted lackeys the ever obliging media.It surprises no one how the pharma became suddenly interested in the health and welfare of Indians , a newly found interest, which was never shown in all these past years . There is no prize for guessing . Relax corporations , please leave the Indians to themselves .The Indians have proved themselves to be more capable than western nations, (where you were selling your wares at extortionist profit rates till now, for their ‘health”) ,in minding their own affairs and looking after themselves without your attention or condescending indulgence. Thank you very much .Please keep yourselves away and your fleecing strategies and tactics to rob Indians. Indian politicians ,be warned .The pharma corporations through their obliging Government, will bribe you or even arm-twist you to speak their language.Don’t fall for their mega millions which they will make normal Indians pay back to them, if you succumb .Indian Gov is supposed to protect the interests of the 99% (of the Indians), who vote them into power and not of the foreign and Indian predatory corporations .Take care .Be aware,be mature and responsible and beware!

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  4. 4. Raghuvanshi1 1:22 am 04/25/2012

    Over population and extreme poverty are reason people are migrating in mega cities.and living in congested and stuffy space. health facilities are very poor.In mega cities struggle of living extremely great exertion Indian city dwellers are living in hell so they are at great risk not only heart disease but diabetes,higher blood pressure, cancer,Malaria, HIV and T.B

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  5. 5. bucketofsquid 12:53 pm 04/26/2012

    Nature does have a way of reducing population pressure when people won’t do it themselves. It does seem strange to see an image of bustling thin people in an article about overweight people not getting exercise.

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  6. 6. BALARAM 7:34 am 09/10/2012

    It is very strange to hear the author writing -[
    Cardiovascular disease is still the leading killer in the U.S., but it has been on steady decline for decades. In India and other countries, such as China and Brazil, this and other diseases linked to an unhealthier lifestyle, are on the rise.]- that the cardiovascular disease has been on steady decline in the US for decades.
    As far as my knowledge goes Statins do not prevent or reverse heart disease. On the contrary they have several side effects. Statins damage the liver and are also known to cause diabetes. FDA has made it cumpulsory to put this warning on the label.

    The people in India have started following the western medicine thinking that they are more beneficial. This is the main reason why there is increase in incidence of diabetes and heart disease.
    In India we have excellent treatment procedure for heart disease like Panchakarma, but the Indian Government does not encourage traditional treatment and healing procedures.Blind faith in western medicine is the root cause of increase of cases of chronic diseases in India

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