10 lifestyle diseases that are common in India
June 18, 2022

You don’t catch an illness only from bacteria or a virus. The way you live your life, the habits you have, and the things you do play a major role in determining the kind of ailments you might contract. Which brings us to lifestyle diseases. Wondering how common they are in India?

Well, did you know that the prevalence of lifestyle diseases varies from city to city across the country? Pune has the lowest prevalence while Lucknow fares poorly, with a whopping 45.10% of its population showing up with at least one lifestyle disease, as per the India Fit report 2022. With these alarming numbers, Lucknow gets the dubious distinction of topping the largest percentage of lifestyle diseases list.

Now, reeling under the COVID pandemic, we may be lulled into thinking that only infectious diseases can harm us. However, statistics tell us otherwise. According to WHO, non -communicable diseases or NCDs, of which lifestyle diseases are a part, claim 41 million lives annually, which is over 70% of all deaths across the globe. Of these, over 15 million deaths occur among people in the age band of 30 to 69 years. In India, NCDs claim 6 million lives.

Clearly, non-infectious diseases are a greater cause for concern than what we assume. With the pandemic turning our lives upside down, making work tougher to manage and eroding the work life balance drastically, the spotlight needs to be on lifestyle diseases that can cause immense damage insidiously. Read on to know more about them.

What are lifestyle diseases?

Diseases that crop up because of the way you lead your life are called lifestyle diseases. Since these diseases are linked to the way of life and not passed on by infected people, they are also called non-communicable diseases or NCDs.

Earlier, these diseases were considered ‘Western diseases’ and it was believed that only the affluent could get them. However, we can see now that even the common man is quite susceptible to these, thanks to the poor lifestyle habits we have adopted today.

Different types of lifestyle diseases may be caused by different lifestyle factors. For example, someone who leads a sedentary life may be at great risk of heart diseases. Someone who has an outdoor job and is on the move all day may curtail this risk, but their smoking habit may put them at a higher risk of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD.

Some lifestyle diseases examples are:

  • Heart disease
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Stroke
  • Respiratory ailments
  • Obesity
  • Type 2 diabetes

Lifestyle diseases in India

  1. Topping the lifestyle diseases list in India is According to experts, this disease is rising exponentially across the country, especially in urban areas. From a controlled 2% during the 70s, it went on to affect more than 15% in the year 2020. In metropolitan cities, the numbers are even more alarming, with 35 to 40% of the residents suffering from diabetes.
  2. Obesity is another prevalent lifestyle disease that can affect even children. Between the years 1955 and 2015, the number of obese people in India was found to double. Studies showed that the disease was more common among women. As sedentary lifestyle has become a norm rather than an exception, we can only expect obesity to increase in proportion too.
  3. Hypertension appears to be common especially in the Eastern and Northern parts of India. In case of this disease, males seem to be at a greater risk, and so do the residents of urban areas when compared to rural residents. Stress contributes to this disease quite significantly.
  4. COPD is more prevalent among women, with women in the age range of 36 to 50 being at greatest risk, about 1.3 times more than their male peers. This is another disease that may arise from exposure to pollution.
  5. Arteriosclerosis, where the arterial blood vessel walls thicken, is another common lifestyle disease in India. This disease is often found in conjunction with diabetes, high blood pressure and disproportionate weight.
  6. Heart diseases that arise from damage to heart muscle or blood vessels also affect a good number of Indians. These problems can be linked to a lack of activity, smoking, high cholesterol and diabetes too. Reports show that 26% of deaths in the country can be attributed to this cause.
  7. One of the diseases that is not often thought of as a lifestyle disease is cancer. However, many cosmetics and household products may be carcinogenic and constant exposure to these can increase the risk of cancer. In 20% of the cases, the disease can be traced back to exposure to toxins in the environment.
  8. Mental health diseases have been on the rise especially during and post COVID. Lack of social interactions, being cooped up indoors for months at end, drastic changes in life, loss of near and dear ones- the list is endless when we think of why these ailments are increasing across India.
  9. Cirrhosis of the liver is a common complaint among those who drink excessively. With social gatherings becoming the norm at workplaces and alcohol consumption being viewed as a sign of sophistication, this ailment has been on the rise among Indians too.
  10. Another fallout of the online life we have been leading for several months now is the prevalence of ear infections among both young and old. Exposure to loud sound, be it music or talking or any other sounds via headphone for an extremely long duration can result in ear infections that cause permanent damage to your hearing ability.

While these are the most common lifestyle diseases, there are plenty more that can be seen in specific lines of work. For example, orthopaedic complaints are common in those who need to work at their desk for hours without break. However, while the list of lifestyle diseases may not be exhaustive, there are a few common causative factors that may lead to one or others.

Causes of lifestyle diseases

These diseases are typically the result of certain habits a person has developed, certain restrictions and limitations they have owing to their lifestyle or some kind of exposure or lack of it that their lifestyle necessitates. To simplify, we can categorise causes into:

  • Smoking, drinking, drugs
  • Exposure to pollutants at work or home
  • Lack of physical activity, restricted movement for prolonged hours
  • Habits that cause direct damage to the body (earphones, poor seating)
  • Poor or unhealthy eating habits (plenty of processed food, little or no nutritive value in diet, lack of hydration)
  • High stress levels
  • Poor and/or little sleep

Prevention of lifestyle diseases

The good news here is that it is possible to break the dangerous connection between lifestyle and diseases simply by making changes in the former. To keep lifestyle diseases away, these are the four key points to remember and follow:

  • Track and maintain healthy weight
  • Focus on nutritious food
  • Stay active both mentally and physically
  • Avoid smoking, drinking, drugs
  • Go for regular preventive screening

The foundation for a healthy lifestyle is laid in the early years. Youngsters must learn the importance of all these in order to choose and adopt a healthy lifestyle at an early stage to avoid these diseases later in life.

Experts point out the importance of preventive screenings to ward off lifestyle related diseases as well. It is common knowledge that regular health check-ups and preventive screenings can help identify even major diseases like cancer at early stages. At this stage, the disease can be addressed effectively and treated with non-invasive methods that have better outcomes. A visit to your doctor at periodic intervals and opting for screening tests – both these play a key role in good health. Equally important is to get the screening done at a reputed healthcare services provider like NURA where world class technology comes together with the best-in-class medical professionals to deliver precise and accurate test results in the minimum time.