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During the 1800s, cholera attributed to 15 million deaths in India. Between 1900 and 2000, the maximum deaths in India resulted from diseases such as plague, cholera, typhoid, malaria, and tuberculosis. These diseases are infectious diseases(also called communicable diseases), caused by bacteria. A recent survey in 2010 reports cardiovascular disease is India’s number 1 killer.

The findings are part of the Million Death Study that is following the lives and deaths of 1.1 million households throughout India until 2014. This seminal study, aims to gather information on the causes of death across urban and rural India.

Top ten causes of mortality in India. Image source: http://www.indiatoday.in

The preliminary findings indicate that ‘lifestyle’ diseases have overtaken ‘communicable’ diseases in India’s mortality numbers. This shift in trend should not come as a surprise to us. Scientists have found that South Asians are genetically prone to heart disease. 1 in 25 Indians carry a mutated gene that causes heart failure. Add to it the stressful jobs, poor eating habits, and sedentary lifestyle. Though one may assume these factors to exist only in cities, with ‘urbanization’ of rural India, the rural population is also facing similar problems.

The affluent in our society have access to medical facilities, and information to take precautions, whereas for the poor, these are unaffordable luxuries. The government intends to review the results of this study and help improve the health care conditions in India.

In related news, Government of India launched the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases and Stroke (NPCDCS). The programme  with an estimated expenditure of Rs.1,230.90 crore ($275 million) will be implemented in 100 districts across 15 states and union territories through mass education and by promoting healthy lifestyle.

“Under the programme, it is expected to screen more than 70 million adults above 30 years of age for diabetes and hypertension, early diagnosis of non-communicable diseases and treatment,” the home minister Mr. Chidambaram said.

Meanwhile, we should be aware of the issues and improve our lifestyle and food habits.