New York, Aug 16 (IANS) Increase in cases of high blood pressure and obesity in China has contributed to a rising epidemic of heart diseases which has turned out to be the leading cause of death in the country, particularly among the youth and rural residents, finds a study.
The findings showed that high blood pressure, which alone was responsible for roughly 40 per cent of heart attacks or stroke in 2011, has jumped dramatically in China over the past three decades.
In 1979, its prevalence in the population was 7.7 per cent and by 2010 it became 33.5 per cent.
In 2011 high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high blood glucose accounted for, respectively, 3.1, 1.4, and 0.9 million new cases of heart attack or stroke.
Of 6.8 million Chinese above the age of 35 who died in 2011, about 3 million of the deaths -- 44 per cent -- were related to heart disease.
Further, the increasing body mass index (BMI), decreasing physical activity, a high prevalence of smoking, and unhealthy diet have contributed to the growing burden of heart diseases in China.
Major changes in Chinese society -- including a dramatic shift from a traditional to a more 'western' diet and lifestyle and rapid urbanisation and industrialisation -- have given rise to high cholesterol, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes.
This may have further contributed to the jump in heart attack and stroke, the researchers said.
"We described trends from 1991 to 2011 in dietary and other lifestyle risk factors for heart diseases in China and projected how these trends might play out from 2011 to 2031," said lead author Yanping Li, research scientist at Harvard University.
"The continued rise in high blood pressure, an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, increase in obesity, and worsening dietary trends will add millions of new cases of heart attacks and stroke over the next two decades," Li added.
While decreased physical activity was associated with a 0.7 million increase in heart disease cases, increase in BMI led to a 0.6 million increase, the study revealed.
In 2011, tobacco use was associated with 1.3 million heart disease-related cases -- roughly a third of the heart disease burden in men.
In addition, high sodium intake -- which averaged 5.4g/day in 2011 -- was estimated to be responsible for one fifth of heart disease cases in China.
For the study, the team analysed data collected over a 20-year period, from 1991-2011, from 26,000 people living in nine Chinese provinces.
"China is facing a rising epidemic of cardiovascular disease and it shows no sign of abating," said Frank Hu, Professor at Harvard University.
"It's imperative to continue to monitor the problem, which has serious social and economic consequences. Prevention of chronic diseases through promoting healthy diet and lifestyle should be elevated to a national public policy priority," Hu noted in the paper published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.