Heart disease accounted for 28.1 percent of all deaths in India in 2016, making this statement far from implausible. The condition is India’s most prominent cause of death and has been growing in tandem with a rapid shift in lifestyles brought about through India’s rapid industrialisation, increased migration to cities and economic growth.
Much of the country is now adopting a lifestyle much more closely related to that of Western nations than that of rural India, creating a disparity in the health issues faced depending on geographic region. In the cities, sedentary lifestyles and occupation — coupled with a diet in which high-calorie, low-nutrient foods are common — are creating a situation in which noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease and cancer are common thanks to a proliferation of risk factors such as obesity.
According to a press release issued by senior cardiologists Dr N Ganesan, Dr RM Krishnan, Dr Sampath Kumar, Dr Selvamani and Dr S Kumar, cardiovascular disease now accounts for 31 percent of deaths globally. This demonstrates the issue is not unique to India, and is a challenge present at a global level.
The doctors attribute many of the deaths related to heart disease to preventable factors such as those mentioned previously. In addition, alcohol and tobacco use feature prominently as risk factors — ones that could, potentially, be entirely removed.
The overall rise in heart disease has resulted in an increase from 2.57 crore patients in 1990 to 5.45 crore patients in 2016. The doctors noted the highest rises were observed in states such as Kerala, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, among others. The current burden on the healthcare system is extreme — and posed to increase further in the coming years. In addition, NCDs are associated with high levels of out-of-pocket spending on healthcare (i.e. by the patients themselves).
Early detection could play a major role in alleviating the considerable mortality rate associated with the condition. According to Dr Sandeep Seth, professor of cardiology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), fifty percent of those diagnosed with heart failure at late stages die within a year. “Patients often don’t adhere to the drug regimen and lifestyle changes needed to halt the progression of the disease,” he said. “This leads to high mortality.”
If mortality related to heart disease is to be addressed a system must be put in place to encourage the public to reduce preventable risk factors. In addition, screening for those deemed to be at risk must be made more accessible. Only through a combination approach addressing these issues is the problem likely to be managed and potentially overcome.