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New Delhi: Prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in India is 116 per 1,000 population, with hypertension, digestive diseases and diabetes leading the burden, a survey report by trade association Assocham showed on Friday.

The report also found that more than two-thirds of individuals suffering from NCDs are in the most productive-life age groups -- between 26 and 59 years. This is an alarming trend and points to the grim reality that the burden of NCDs on India is long-lasting given that 65% of the country’s population is below 35 years of age.

NCDs increase after 18 years and show a quantum leap when an individual crosses the age of 35 years, it added.

The primary healthcare survey report -- Non-Communicable Diseases in India-- covered 2,33,672 people and 673 public health offices in 21 states and was prepared by Thought Arbitrage Research Institute.

It identified hypertension, digestive disease, and diabetes as the top three NCDs followed by respiratory diseases, brain/neurological disorders, heart diseases/CVD, kidney disorders, and cancer in the order of prevalence.

“Diabetes has risen exponentially in India from 2% in the 1970s in urban areas to between 10-20% in 2020. The cases of diabetes are even higher in metros at 35-40%. This spike is linked to urbanization led by economic development and has been more prevalent in urban areas as compared to rural areas," Dr Ambrish Mittal, Chairman and Head, Endocrinology and Diabetes Department, Max Healthcare (Pan Max), said.

Patterns emerging from Covid management across the country indicate that people with co-morbidities of NCDs have a higher mortality rate than those who do not. This has grave implications for the country not only because of mortality and years of healthy lives lost but also because of India’s health infrastructure.

“Amid Covid pandemic, people suffering from uncontrolled diabetes and comorbidities had poorer outcomes when exposed to the virus. These people had to stay in ICU, depend on steroids, and suffered higher mortality. This pandemic is not just about viruses but also about reducing the number of vulnerable people as the amount of medical service required will be much more if we have a large diabetic population with comorbidities," said Mittal.

The report identified air pollution as the most prevalent risk factor among the surveyed population. It was trailed by low physical activity and diet imbalance.

Interestingly, chewing tobacco and tobacco consumption were found not to play any significant role in the occurrence of NCD, and alcohol consumption was found to have an even smaller impact on the prevalence of NCD. Together these intoxications, deeply connected to modern-day lifestyle, were found to have a much lesser impact on the occurrence of NCDs.

“The cases of stroke have grown 4 times in the last 30 years. This can be attributed to changes in the lifestyle and the demography of our country. It is worth noting that the life expectancy of our population has increased from 47 years in the 1970s to 70 years today. This means that we have a large aging population that is vulnerable to neurological diseases, dementia, stroke, etc," Dr Rajinder K. Dhamija, Head of Neurology Department, Lady Hardinge Medical College New Delhi said.

The survey also found that the population of northern, central, and western regions of the country has prevalence lower than the national average while prevalence is quite high in lesser developed regions of India including eastern and north-east regions. Odisha was found to have the highest prevalence of NCDs (272 per 1000 population) while Gujarat registered the lowest prevalence (60 per 1000). Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and West Bengal were other states where NCD prevalence was higher than the national average.

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