Jan 7, 2007

Economic Prosperity and Cardiovascular Disease

Growth in IT related jobs is bringing about several health related risks. These risks are multiplied by increased acceptance of Junk Foods and Drinks in the society.

While deaths from heart attacks have declined more than 50 per cent since the 1960s in many industrialize countries, 80 per cent of global cardiovascular diseases related deaths now occur in low and middle-income nations, which covers most countries in Asia.

In India in the past five decades, rates of coronary disease among urban populations have risen from 4 per cent to 11 per cent. In urban China, the death rate from coronary disease rose by 53.4 per cent from 1988 to 1996. A report released last week by the Earth Institute at Columbia University warned that without sustained effort on individual and national levels, the coming heart-disease epidemic will exact a devastating price on the region's physical and economic health.

Indians have by far the worst problems when it comes to heart disease. Nearly 50 per cent of Cardio Vascular Disease-related deaths in India occur below the age of 70, compared with just 22 per cent in the West. This trend is particularly alarming because of its potential impact on one of Asia's fastest-growing economies. In 2000, for example, India lost more than five times as many years of economically productive life to cardiovascular disease than did the U.S., where most of those killed by heart disease are above retirement age.

Studies indicate that Indians have elevated levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, while also suffering from a deficiency in HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol, which helps clear fatty buildups from blood vessels). In addition, Indians tend to gain weight in the abdominal region (Waist: hip ratio >1.0 in men, >0.9 in women) and are at greater risk of heart disease. Environmental factor like low birth weight, malnutrition also possibly predisposes Indians to increased risk of diabetes and heart attacks in adulthood.

Statistics suggest that Indians seem more naturally vulnerable to heart disease than other ethnic groups. Lancet 2000 study showed that, even after adjusting for all known risk factors; Indians in Canada appeared to have a higher rate of heart disease than Europeans or Chinese living there. Some doctors think that this vulnerability can be explained by the "thrifty-gene" theory, which holds that Indians adapted over many generations to the region's frequent famines. Now with a very recent overabundance of food, their bodies are having difficulty making a metabolic U-turn and the result is high insulin intolerance, with accompanying raised levels of diabetes and obesity.