V. Sajeev Kumar

Kochi, June 26

The prevalence of heart diseases and diabetes is on the increase in Kerala when compared to that in other parts of the country, according to medical experts.

A comparison of Kerala's health profile with some other States revealed that the prevalence of diabetes in the State is 7.7 per cent, while it is one per cent in Rajasthan, 2.3 per cent in Tamil Nadu, and 3.4 per cent in Delhi. The prevalence of heart attack in the State is 6.4 per cent and for Punjab it is three per cent.

About 30.5 per cent of the population in Kerala is hypertensive (suffering high blood pressure), while comparable figures for Rajasthan is 21 per cent, Haryana 17.4 per cent, Tamil Nadu 21.6 per cent and Punjab 5.1 per cent.

An examination pattern of death in Kerala showed that nearly half of the deaths in community (49.6 per cent) are due to heart diseases, while accidents and infections together contribute to less than 20 per cent.

Presenting a paper at a seminar, Dr Rijo Mathew, Director of Amma Scans, Kochi cited that the peak incidence of heart attacks among Keralites occurs in people 34-45 old and the reasons for this increased prevalence are sedentary lifestyles, diet rich in saturated fasts, and total absence of physical activity.

He also said that the prevalence of diabetes among the 35-plus population in the State ranges from 21 per cent in rural areas to 28 per cent in urban areas.

The occurrence of high blood pressure in the same age group is 34-43 per cent and the percentage of people with overweight ranges from 38-54 per cent.

Considering the increase in the number of heart-related diseases in the State, Dr Mathew stressed the need to set up screening clinics for hypertension, diabetes, etc., in Government hospitals and conduct education programmes in this regard.

Currently, most of the screening is done in private hospitals and clinics and the Government health care centres needs to give priority for these chronic epidemics.

He wanted media and NGOs to play a leading role in highlighting the gravity of the situation and initiate steps to educate on lifestyle intervention, regular physical activity, tobacco abstinence, diet selection, etc.

An average south Indian diet contains 12 gm of salt, whereas requirement is only four gm.

Hypertensive and diabetic diets, low on salt, sugar and oils, need to be promoted at community levels and hotels need to be made aware of this to provide separate menu, he said, adding that yoga and walking need to be promoted as part of the awareness programmes.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated June 27, 2006)
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