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Times of India
30 September 2010
By Viju B
Mumbai, India

In Civic Hosps Too Heart Diseases Account For Maximum No. Of Deaths
It’s not tuberculosis but heart attack that has emerged as the number one killer, claiming 97,677 lives since 2001. TB is not far behind with 84,614 deaths followed by cancer. What’s worrying though is that these figures account for only 20 civic run hospitals in the city including KEM, Nair and Sion Hospitals. Heart attack’s deadly trajectory can be traced back to 2002, where for the first time 9,043 people died of the disease–that year, TB claimed 8,983 lives. Since then, the number of people succumbing to heart attacks has been steadily increasing, peaking in 2006 with 12,606 deaths.

Heart Attack’s Deadly Arc Ignores Class Distinctions
It’s worth noting that non-communicable diseases such as cancer and heart ailments are on the rise. "But this does not mean that infectious diseases are losing their grip on the city. It’s just that other diseases are rising faster," said a city doctor. Deaths due to non-communicable diseases such as cancer has nearly doubled from 3,135 to 6,187 in the period between 2001 and 2009. The death toll for heart attacks also increased from 8,158 to 10,694 in the same period.

Senior civic officials said that while there is a definite increase in awareness about infectious disease, there is little awareness on how one’s lifestyle–lack of physical activity and an unhealthy diet–can trigger a heart attack. "There is little awareness on heart-related diseases.

For instance, few realize that poor oral hygiene can be the cause of coronary disease," said Dr Pavan Kumar, consultant cardiologist at Lilavati Hospital. He added that malnourishment can also trigger a heart attack, which could explain why this disease is rising among the poor.

"Lack of adequate B-12 and folic acid can trigger heart ailments. There is also a lot of social stress among younger age groups and we have seen that the younger generation in the age group of 30- 35 can also fall prey to the disease," Kumar said.

According to activists, and doctors also agree, there is an urgent need for the government to stress the importance of leading a physically active life. RTI activist Chetan Kothari, who filed a query on this issue, said that around 34% of the total deaths that occurred in the civic run hospitals were due to heart attacks. "The government should earmark mandatory open spaces like parks for housing complexes that come up in the suburbs," said Kothari.

Dr Brian Pinto, cardiologist affiliated to Holy Cross Hospital, concurred: "There is not enough open space in terms gardens, swimming pools and playgrounds." And it doesn't help that the average Mumbaikar is too tired after a long commute and even longer work hours, to take time off to learn a sport or join a gym.

Pinto added that smoking and eating "unhealthy foods" have also increased the risk of coronary diseases. "In most countries, governments actively promote healthy living. Here, there is no such initiative on the part of the government. It’s high time that the state come up with policies such as free health camps where a person’s cholesterol level–a good indicator of the health of one’s heart–can be monitored," he said.

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