5 Facts About Heart Disease in India
The rates of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and respiratory diseases are increasing at alarming rates in developing countries around the world. However, heart disease in India has had a particularly high impact on the nation’s population. This increase requires attention and action to reduce the strain of heart disease on the Indian population.

5 Facts About Heart Disease in India

  1. Rising rates of cardiovascular disease have rapidly increased in India. The number of cases within the country has more than doubled from 1990 to 2016. In comparison, heart disease in the United States decreased by 41% in the same time period. Death as a result of cardiovascular disease has increased by 34 percent in the country in the past 26 years alone. In 2016, 28.1 percent of all deaths were caused by heart disease and a total of 62.5 million years of life were lost to premature death. Heart disease in India accounts for nearly 60% of the global impact of cardiac health even though India accounts for less than 20 percent of the global population.
  2. The burden of heart disease, while high throughout India, varies greatly from state to state. Punjab has the highest burden of disease, with 17.5 percent of the population afflicted, while Mizoram has the lowest burden, a full 9 times lower than Punjab. These immense disparities between Indian states are dependent upon the level of development and regional lifestyle differences. Understanding prevalent risk factors in different regions allows for more effective interventions. Specifically tailored programs are needed, rather than viewing India as a monolith.
  3. Rates of heart disease are far higher in the urban Indian populations when compared to rural communities. Urban areas record between 400 or 500 cases in every 100,000 people, while rural populations record 100 cases per 100,000 people. Risk factors for heart disease include a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, central obesity, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes and metabolic syndrome. All of these factors are abundant in urban populations and limited in rural populations, thus accounting for the discrepancy.
  4. On average, heart disease in India affects people 8 to 10 years earlier than other parts of the world, specifically heart attacks. This huge discrepancy can be explained by increased rates of tobacco consumption, the prevalence of diabetes and genetic predisposition for premature heart disease. A common genetic determinant of heart disease in Indians is familial hypercholesterolemia, a lipid disorder. Although this disorder is treatable with lifestyle changes and pharmaceuticals, it is often undiagnosed. This causes an increased likelihood of heart disease. Furthermore, stress levels in young Indians have been on the rise due to hectic lifestyles and increased career demands. Mental stress compounded with genetic predisposition and environmental factors like diet, sleep, and exercise has resulted in higher rates of heart disease in India’s younger population.
  5. The India Heart Association is committed to increasing awareness of the severity of heart disease in India. This organization is nongovernmental and launched by individuals who have been personally affected by heart disease. The organization’s major goals include increasing awareness of heart disease in India through online campaigns and grassroots activities. The organization has been appointed to the Thoracic and Cardiovascular Instrumentation Subcommittee of the Bureau of Indian Standards by the Indian government. Efforts are multi-faceted, operating through partnerships with local governments, hospitals, and programming with donors. Organizations like this one are making effective strides in addressing the burden of heart disease in India.

As heart disease in India is on the rise, it is important to understand the impact on global health. Non-communicable diseases have an undeniable effect on development. The World Health Organization stated, “Poverty is closely linked with NCDs, and the rapid rise in NCDs is predicted to impede poverty reduction initiatives in low-income countries.” In an effort to reduce global poverty, attention should move to heart disease in India, and further, to non-communicable diseases in developing countries globally.

Treya Parikh
Photo: Flickr