If the potentials of a younger population of India is to be realised, the people should be free from any kind of diseases. The nature of disease incidence has changed in India over decades. A few decades ago, infectious diseases affected and killed millions of people in India. But increasing medical improvements and health facilities have led to improvements in the people’s living standards as it has considerably reduced infections and death. With improvements in the standards of living due to rapid economic growth, industrialisation and urbanisation, and the consequent change in lifestyle and dietary choices, there is now greater risk of non-communicable diseases or lifestyle diseases. These diseases significantly affect people of all age groups. Lifestyle diseases include conditions such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, artheritis and even cancer. 21st century rapid and unhealthy lifestyle is responsible for the occurence of lifestyle diseases. This includes tobacco use, alcohol, fast food diet, insufficient physical activity, extended office working hours, lack of proper sleep etc.
Extent of Lifestyle Diseases in India
India has undergone a major epidemiological transition in consonance with socio-economic development. The share of non-communicable lifestyle diseases has increased in India from 37.6 to 61.8%. The major lifestyle diseases in India are heart disease, pulmonary disease and stroke. It is estimated that more than 1.78 million cases of cancer are likely to be added each year by the year 2022. Every 12th person in India is suffering from diabetes. India ranks second in the list of countries having diabetes patients. Children are suffering from asthma, strokes, heart diseases etc.
The following are the major lifestyle diseases of India
The number of overweight and obese people in India have doubled between 2005 and 2015. Among the individuals aged between 15-50 years, 21% of women and 18.6% of men have been found overweight. The presence of obesity is mainly due to obesogenic chemicals such as MSG, Bisphenol etc. Marketing of processed foods need to be regulated. Presently, lower taxes on unhealthy foods, inadequate health labelling and lower physical activity among the people has led to higher incidence of obesity.
More than 12% of country’s adult population suffers from some kind of mental illness. Atleast 150 million people in the country are in active need of medical intervention due to mental illnesses. The main reasons for higher incidence of mental illness are changing diets, lack of social support, stress, fatigue and sometimes intake of large amount of sugar has also been linked to mental diseases.
More than 1.73 million cases of cancer are likely to be recorded each year in India. Commonly used household items including chemicals and cosmetics containing cancer causing compounds are responsible for cancers. Many cases of cancer have been linked to environmental exposure of toxins. The main triggers responsible for cancer are tobacco, alcohol, air pollution and diets rich in meat and low in vegetables. These are relatively unaddressed as compared to other diseases.
Cardiovascular diseases are responsible for a large number of deaths in India each year. In urban areas, young and middle aged people are at risk of cardiovascular diseases. The main cause of heart diseases is lack of physical activity. Green spaces are ausent in many areas. Pedestrian and cycling tracks are not adequate. Depression has been found to be a risk factor causing cardiovascular diseases. Heart rhythm is also affected due to changes in central nervous system and other hormonal changes.
Food allergies are caused by various packed and unpacked food in India. Almost 25-40 million people suffer from food allergies in India. Food products are not adequately labelled and there are no adequate information about allergy causing substances on food items. Also, genetically modified foods (GMF) are not labelled adequately in India. There needs to be mechanisms to ensure that allergy causing foods are labelled so that allergic reactions can be prevented.
One-twelfth of India’s population is diabetic. Hyperthyrodism cases are also on the rise in India. Data is not available yet for several hormonal disorders. Hormonal disorders can occur due to exposure to toxins, air pollution and foods rich in fats, sugar and salt. There is poor understanding of hormonal disorders in India. There are currently no policies that reduce consumption of processed foods, increase physical activity among people of all ages and reduce exposure to certain chemicals changing the hormonal balance.
Asthama and COPD are the main respiratory diseases affecting people in India. Global warming, air pollution from vehicles smoking tobacco and pollution from industry as well as global warming increases the risk of contracting respiratory illnesses. Global warming has extended the duration of pollens in the air and altered the timing, production and distribution of aeroallergens in the environment. There has been increased airway inflammation that increases frequency of respiratory allergy.
Causes of Lifestyle Diseases
The causes of lifestyle diseases can be categorised into three broad categories
Modifiable Risk Factors
Behavioural risk factors such as excessive use of alcohol, bad food habits, eating and smoking tobacco, physical inactivity, prolonged wrong body posture and disturbed biological clock has increased the likelihood of contracting non-communicable lifestyle diseases. Stress related to work, modern occupational desk jobs is seen as a potential risk factors associated with lifestyle diseases.
Excessive use of sodium and sugars in the diet has resulted in increased rate of death due to lifestyle diseases. Use of tobacco and alcohol are also causing rising incidences of deaths among the vulnerable population.
Non-modifiable Risk Factors
It leads to major changes in the ability of the body to keep away diseases. Age, race, gender and genetic makeup are major factors that affect the immunity of a person. Different races have different genetic makeup. Males and females are affected separately due to differences in physical and mental setups. As the age increases, people tend to be less immune to various diseases. Increasing physical activity reduces chances of contracting lifestyle diseases.
Metabolic Risk Factors
Metabolic risk factors include increasing blood pressure, obesity, increasing blood glucose levels and increasing levels of fat. These factors aggravate the harmful effects of lifestyle diseases as people become more vulnerable to lifestyle diseases. Slow metabolism because of these risk factors weakens the ability of the body to fight against regular disease incidence or seasonal diseases that occur due to change in the environment and conditions.
How to keep India healthy and free from lifestyle diseases?
Access to low quality and poor in nutrition fast food, affordable sugary foods, lack of physical activity has increased the growth of lifestyle diseases. Hence, there needs to be healthy lifestyle approach and policies should be created which keeps lifestyle diseases under control. There needs to be focus on the following aspects to keep India free from lifestyle diseases
Improving Food Habits
There should be strict regulation of low quality fast food. A national policy can be formulated that promotes lower intake of sugars and salty foods. People should be motivated to consume less fat rich food instead of foods that have more fats.
Regular exercising and physical activity should be promoted among the people so that the incidence of lifestyle diseases can be reduced. Regular exercise keeps the metabolism fast and prevents occurence of diseases as it improves immunity.
There should be regular mental and social support to mental patients so that no individual feel dejected and depressed. Lack of mental and socio-economic support aggravate lifestyle disease incidence among the vulnerable population. Regular mental health services should be provided to mental health patient
Avoiding Tobacco and Alcohol Use
Avoiding smoking and alcohol use is an important step in preventing non-communicable lifestyle disease. Alcohol, smoking and eating tobacco also increases the likelihood of contracting of lifestyle diseases.
People should be made more aware about healthy lifestyle and good food habits. Intervention should be made at the schools and college levels to make students aware about the changing lifestyle and increasing physical activities.
Lifestyle diseases can be prevented easily with minimal interventions. Regular exercise, eating green leafy vegetables, good food habits etc. can be simple preventive techniques to fight against the lifestyle diseases.
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