Study finds spike in cardiovascular disease in India

By Kyla Cathey

Cardiovascular disease is taking a growing toll on India, especially among young adults and rural populations, a new national study has found.

Ischemic heart disease, which develops as arteries in the heart grow narrow, has increased rapidly among Indians from 30 to 69, with rural areas outpacing cities between 2000 to 2015, the researchers discovered. In northeastern India, rates of premature stroke deaths also rose to about three times the national average – though much of the country saw a decrease.

Dr. Prabhat Jha, who runs the Centre for Global Health Research at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, led the first-of-its-kind study of Indian health.

“The finding that cardiac disease rose nationally in India and that stroke rose in some states was surprising,” Jha said. “This study also unearthed an important fact for prevention of death due to cardiovascular disease. Most deaths were among people with previously known cardiac disease, and at least half were not taking any regular medications.”

Up until this study, most scientific research into cardiovascular disease in India has taken the form of small, local studies or modeling based on imprecise research. But cardiovascular disease is one of the major causes of death globally, especially ischemic heart disease and stroke.

The researchers launched the study of India’s cardiovascular disease and death rates as part of the Million Death Study, a global effort to examine causes of premature death.

Census takers with special medical training traveled throughout India, asking people about family members’ deaths and conducting “verbal autopsies” to determine the most likely causes.

“Making progress in fighting the leading cause of death in India is necessary for making progress at the global level,” Jha said. “We demonstrated the unexpected patterns of heart attack and stroke deaths. Both conditions need research and action if the world is going to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of reducing cardiovascular mortality by 2030.”

The study has been published in The Lancet Global Health.


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