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Changing lifestyle giving rise to obesity among rural folks

Archana Phull | Shimla |

Call it the fallout of changing lifestyle or unhealthy food habits, the percentage of obese men and women has doubled up even in the mountain state of Himachal Pradesh over the last 10 years and is higher than the national average.

Surprisingly, the incidence of obesity among hill women, who work harder from hearth to the field, is more than men.

The National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-4 (2015-16) for adults between 15 to 49 years of age, released earlier this week, shows that overweight and obese men in the hill state have increased to 22 per cent from 10.6 per cent in NFHS-3 (2005-06). The percentage of over weight and obese women in the state has gone up to 28.6 from 13.5 over ten years.

The urban women and men are getting obese in higher numbers at 38.4 per cent and 27.6 per cent.

A silver lining, however, is that in ten years, the per centage of men and women, whose Body Mass Index is below normal has substantially reduced in HP. Now, 18 per cent men are below normal against the figure of 29.7 per cent ten years back. The per centage of such women have come down from 29.9 to 16.9.

In another indicator linked to lifestyle, the alcohol consumers have shown a significant shift from 29.5 per cent to 39.7 in HP, with the trend catching up more in rural areas. Compared with this, however, the tobacco users in the hill state have almost remained the same over the last ten years, despite much intervention by the state government. Against 40 per cent tobacco users in 2005-06, the state now has 40.5 per cent among men and for women, it has reduced from 1.2 to 0.5 per cent.

While HP has won praise at the national level for good health indicators, the medical experts find that the rise in obese population is a serious cause of concern. “Obesity is a risk factor for hypertension, diabetes, cardio-vascular diseases, strokes and arthritis etc. The tobacco and alcohol use compound problems. If the trend of obesity is on the rise in the hill state, that too in the age group of 15-49 years, which is the most productive age group, it needs intervention,” said a health expert.

He said that while the National Health Mission is now focused on non-communicable diseases from the point of view of treatment, the state needs to have an inter-sectoral approach for prevention to create awareness on healthy lifestyle, right from schools.

The consequence is already visible. The percentage of men and women having hypertension in the hill state is high, 17 in men and 9.4 in women, compared with 10.3 per cent in men and 6.7 per cent in women at the national level.