Kerala sees alarming rise in heart attack deaths

By Sanu George, IANS

Thiruvananthapuram : There has been a sharp increase in the number of people in Kerala dying of heart attacks – a huge 43 percent of all the deaths in the state are due to cardio-vascular diseases, says an ongoing study by an NGO here.

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The study by Health Action by People (HAP), which began in 2003, surveyed seven villages comprising 34,000 families in Varkala, about 50 km from here.

“Of the total annual deaths in Kerala, which is put at 200,000, 43 percent is on account of cardiovascular diseases,” eminent public health expert and HAP chairman C.R. Soman told IANS on the eve of World Heart Day Sunday.

“Of these, heart attacks alone account for about 50,000 deaths, strokes claim around 22,000 lives and other heart diseases account for the remaining,” he said.

The percentage is far above the national average. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), cardio-vascular diseases account for 28 percent of all the deaths in the country.

“WHO figures say that while 36 percent of India’s population die due to infectious diseases, in Kerala it is less than five percent,” Soman pointed out.

The health expert attributed the alarming increase in cardio-vascular diseases in Kerala to the sedentary lifestyle of the people.

“We give the least importance to any sort of physical activity and to compound the woes, consumption of saturated fats is also high among us,” Soman noted.

He added that the trend revealed by the study was not surprising since 22 percent of the population above 20 years of age are diabetic, while 36 percent are hypertension patients and 66 percent have a cholesterol level above 200 mg.

“This picture will get worse if preventive steps like giving up smoking are not implemented, in addition to proper control of diabetes and blood pressure,” Soman added.