21 May 2010
By Pushpa Narayan
Midway through their journey into urbanisation, suburbs and small towns are finding themselves in precarious health.
Results of a cohort study presented at an international conference recently shows that a higher number of people living in semi–urban areas have diabetes and hypertension when compared to those in cities.
Healthcare experts are concerned that a greater number of people in these areas now run the risk of cardiac arrests, renal failures and strokes.
Says Dr S Thanikachalam, lead investigator of the study and cardiology head at Sri Ramachandra University, who presented the results at an international conference in the city recently: "We found that nearly 22.2% of people in semi–urban areas have diabetes compared to 17.5% in urban and 14.5% in rural areas. Similarly, the number of people with hypertension was 26.4% in suburban areas compared to 17.3% in urban and 17.9% in the rural population."
The number of people with prediabetic and pre–hypertensive conditions was also found to be higher in semi–urban areas. Here is the logic: Suburbs and small towns have moved away from the routine physical exertions of villagers and neither do they have the awareness and wherewithal for an organised exercise regime like gymnasia.
The study, funded by the department of Science and Technology screened 6,000 people in Chennai, Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram. "We found 43.3% of people with abnormal glucose metabolism, 75.3% with abnormal lipid profiles and 52% with high blood pressure. Though only a person with blood pressure higher than 140/90 is considered hypertensive, people with 135/85 also require intervention. So, at least 50% of our population would require intervention in one form or another," says Dr Thanikachalam.
State health secretary V K Subburaj says the government is seized of the matter. "We have programmes like door–to–door screening of people. We have been working out new awareness and prevention strategies," he said.
Another disturbing trend the study revealed was that nearly 80% of the people had shown signs of physiological distress, including anxiety, stress or depression. "It was due to various factors including loss of a family member, financial problems or even other emotional issues. We have adequate studies that prove how lack of good mental health can trigger a series of non–communicable diseases. We think it is necessary to have a series of problems including counselling for such people," he said.
THE SUGAR CHECK
- Normal fasting blood glucose is below –– 100 mg/dl and normal blood sugar two hours after prescribed food is below 140 mg/dl
- Pre–diabetes have blood glucose level between 100 and 125 mg/dl and normal sugar two hours after prescribed food is 140–149 mg/dl
- Diabetics have –– 126 mg/dl or above, a person has diabetes and normal sugar two hours after prescribed food is above is 150 mg/dl
- Before people develop type 2 diabetes, they almost always have a stage called pre–diabetes. This is the stage when the blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.
- Pre–diabetics are likely to develop diabetes. But such people can delay or prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes through lifestyle changes.
- Studies have shown that people with prediabetes can prevent or delay the development of diabetes through changes to their lifestyle that include weight loss and regular exercise.
- People above 45 or older should check for pre–diabetes. For those in normal range tests should be repeated once every 3 years. For those with pre–diabetes diabetes should be checked every year.
- People with prediabetes don't often recognise symptoms. In most people there is unusual thirst, a frequent desire to urinate, blurred vision, or fatigue
- Percentage of people with high blood sugar, according to the cohort study
- Urban 17.5
- Semi–urban 22.2
- Rural 14.5
- Percentage ofpeople suffering from hypertension
- Urban 17.3
- Semi–urban 26.4
- Rural 17.9