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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - More and more, young urban adults in India are developing obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes, suggesting that rising rates of cardiovascular disease could appear in the future, an Indian study said.
Among 1,100 young adults from New Delhi, all three conditions became steadily more common over the 7 years of the study, according to findings published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
"Given the rapid socioeconomic and demographic transitions in India, I was not surprised at the high incidence rate," said Dorairaj Prabhakaran, a cardiologist at the Center for Chronic Disease Control in New Delhi, who worked on the study.
Though Western-style diets are often blamed for feeding obesity and its associated health problems, such eating habits aren't that common in India.
"Many popular Indian foods are unhealthy, as they are rich in sugar and saturated fat," Prabhakaran added.
At the outset of the study, when the average participant was 29 years old, about 50 percent had waistlines that fit the criteria for abdominal obesity. Seven years later, that was true of 70 percent.
Rates of high blood pressure rose from 11 percent to 34 percent among men, and from 5 to 15 percent among women. Diabetes rose from 5 to 12 percent among men, and from 3.5 percent to 7 percent among women.
These "remarkable changes" in such a short time suggest that these young adults could face high rates of heart disease and stroke in the future, the researchers warned.
India, with its population of 1 billion-plus, was estimated to account for 60 percent of the world's heart disease cases in 2010. A separate recent study found that people in India and other South Asian countries suffer their first myocardial infarction at age 53 on average, 6 years earlier than the rest of the world.
Heart disease and its risk factors put a huge financial burden on the Indian people and healthcare system, with the annual cost of treating diabetes consuming anywhere from 5 to 34 percent of personal income in India.
More sobering, while the study looked only at young adults in New Delhi, Prabhakaran said that heart risk factors in rural areas of southern India have also risen quickly over the last decade, nearing levels seen in urban areas.
"Reducing cardiovascular disease and its risk factors requires a policy response," Prabhakaran added.
"Particularly tobacco control, making fruits and vegetables available locally and affordable, and an enabling environment to improve physical activity."
Reporting by Amy Norton at Reuters Health; editing by Elaine Lies