Dr. N Subramanian
New Delhi, Janaury 14-Non communicable diseases (NCDs) which have been rising continuously, account for over 38 million deaths globally (68% of all deaths).
60% of all deaths in India are due to a few non-communicable diseases resulting in over 5.8 million potentially preventable deaths. Of these, cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases, cancers and diabetes together account for approximately 82% of the death due to non-communicable diseases.
While NCDs affect people of all age groups and regions, it is a matter of concern that nearly 80% of the NCD related deaths and disability occur in lower income countries and affecting working group at a younger age.
It is also a matter of concern that the above diseases along with mental illness will cost the Governments a massive sum of 47 trillion U$ in the next twenty years and these costs will only continue to rise.
Experts like Prof. Klaus Schwab also strongly believe that this amount could be productively utilized for education and other developments.
Hereditary and environmental factors along with lifestyle and behavior are the major risk factors in contributing to these diseases. While the hereditary factors may not always be preventable, the other factors can certainly be addressed to reduce the risk to life and disability.
Behavioral factors which have a significant impact include consumption of tobacco, alcohol, physical inactivity and unhealthy diets. Increased body weight and obesity, increased consumption of fat and salt will adversely impact blood pressure and diabetes resulting in higher incidence of these diseases.
Elevated blood sugars and blood lipids are also described as metabolic risk factors. A recent study also indicated that physical inactivity is rampant in urban populations, making this an important area to focus on.
Influencing lifestyle and behavior changes can be challenging. It is therefore important to recognize the risk factors at an early stage and introduce the remedial measures.
Preventive health checks which have evolved in the last two decades, have a significant role in identifying those at risk and those with early disease which may not have been diagnosed earlier.
Advances in specific laboratory tests, inputs from data analytics and artificial intelligence will significantly enhance our ability to predict the future potential of these illnesses in individuals.
The introduction of structured preventive health checks has made it possible for most of us to comprehensively understand our health status, enabling us thereby to make necessary changes.
The rising prevalence of cancers is again a matter of concern. While some cancers like the lung cancer can be prevented by specific interventions, several others may not be preventable. However, early diagnosis and staging by specific investigations will help to treat these at an early stage ensuring good long term outcomes. In addition to establishing the diagnosis, specific tests could also guide the doctor in selecting the most appropriate treatment.
Screening tests may also be conducted on members of the patient’s family who may be at the higher risk of developing the same disease.
With the increasing availability of artificial intelligence and its application to analyze data, we may soon be able to predict the risk of any given disease in every individual. Till then it is of paramount importance to encourage regular preventive check-ups.
(The writer is Director Medical Services & Senior Consultant-Urology, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals)