NCDs - A Universal Scourge
In 2008, out of 5.7 crore deaths throughout the world, 3.6 crore or 63% occurred due to non-communicable diseases. 80% of the burden of such diseases is borne by low and middle income countries. In India, NCDs account for 53% of all deaths. Although NCDs can be prevented by controlling major risk factors like tobacco use, alcohol consumption or obesity, young and apparently fit people may become victims of cancers or heart disease, the latest examples being the 30 year-old well known cricketer Yuvraj Singh and a 27 year-old not-so-well-known footballer Venkatesh. Early detection and as a corollary preventive health screening is therefore an undeniable desideratum.
Many Faces of Death
A non-communicable disease or NCD is any illness that is not infectious. The most common ones include heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, respiratory diseases, and cataracts. The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that there is a shifting in the global burden of diseases from infectious disease to non-communicable disease. In 2008, out of 5.7 crore deaths throughout the world, 3.6 crore or 63% occurred due to non-communicable diseases. Even though chronic conditions like heart disease, stroke, cancer or type II diabetes is killing more, as indicated by WHO’s world health statistics 2008 and 80% of the burden of such diseases is borne by low and middle income countries, most of it can be prevented by controlling five major risk factors, viz., tobacco use, alcohol consumption, overweight/obesity, raised blood pressure and raised cholesterol. Also deaths caused by NCDs is largely preventable if the disease is detected at an early stage through regular, preventive screening.
WHO also indicates that India ranks very high among the nations affected by the rising wave of premature deaths caused by NCDs. The latest statistics reveal that NCDs account for 53% of all deaths. Of all NCD deaths, 38% males and 32.1% females die below the age of 60. Heart related diseases or cardio-vascular diseases account for 24% of all deaths caused by NCDs. The total number of NCD deaths in the year 2008 was estimated at 52,41,400 out of which 29,67,600 were males and 22,73,800 were females.
Importance of Prevention
It is an established fact as well as a general belief that people who maintain high levels of fitness are at a lesser risk of being affected by NCDs compared to those who are unfit and lead an unhealthy lifestyle. While it is mostly true, even sportsmen and athletes can fall prey to heart diseases or cancers. A most fitting example that comes to one’s mind is the case of the swashbuckling cricketer Yuvraj Singh. By this time it has become a general notion that Yuvraj is not suffering from lung cancer but a rare form of the disease called germ cell seminoma. The cancerous growth however has taken place at the centre of his chest between the lungs. Since that part is called mediastinum, the cancer is better labelled as mediastinal seminoma.
Speaking about germ cells, they are a group of cells that give rise to reproductive cells – sperm cells in men and ovarian eggs in women. The germ cells originate near the gut of an embryo and migrate towards the reproductive system (namely gonads – testis in male and ovary in female.) During the foetal development the germ cells migrating towards the reproductive organs may fail to reach the destination. Depending on where the germ cells end up a cancer may develop in the abdomen, pelvis, mediastinum or brain. Germ cells may also take the form of a cancerous tumour in the reproductive organ as was the case with the world renowned cyclist Lance Armstrong. Germ cell seminoma is a well-documented disease in India and completely curable if detected at Stage I, through a chest X-ray, CT scan or MRI scan.
Another recent example of young sportsmen becoming victims of NCDs was the untimely death of Venkatesh, a 27-year-old footballer from Bangalore as a result of a cardiac arrest. Apart from the fact that local football tournaments have poor medical facilities, what is disturbing is young and apparently healthy people are being affected by heart disease. The reasons may be many, ranging from genetic predisposition to physical injury. But the case for preventive screening is hardly deniable.
Every healthy individual should have an annual Non-Communicable diseases(NCDs) checkup, Get Non-communicable diseases checkup done today at special checkup centres in Pune, Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Nagpur, Nashik, Goa, Solapur, Bhilai, Vapi, Jalgaon, Belgaum & More cities
- The World Health Report 2002
- World Health Statistics 2008 – WHO
- Global Status Report on Non-communicable Diseases 2010 – WHO