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  1. 1. Non Communicable Diseases: Preventable through knowledge and attitudes According to it’s ability or inability in transferring to another person the ailments are divided into two groups as, communicable and non communicable diseases. Communicable diseases , caused by organisms such as bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi are contagious or transferable to others but non communicable diseases are not transmitted to others from the affected person. Non communicable diseases (NCDs) are considered as the leading cause of deaths world wide. It represents 60% of all deaths globally. The burden is more on low and middle income countries as 80% of deaths due to NCDs are shared by them. The proportion of people suffering from NCDs is rapidly increasing in the South East Asia region. Cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and cancers are among the more prevalent non communicable diseases in this region,with their major modifiable risk factors of unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and tobacco use. These risk factors, namely alcohol use, obesity, hypertension, tobacco use , physical inactivity and dyslipidaemias or an abnormal amount of lipids such as cholesterol or fat in the blood are also commonly seen in our country. The mortality rates relevant to NCDs in Sri Lanka are higher than middle and high income countries of the world. While traumatic injuries represent the first place in the list of leading causes of hospitalization, ischemic heart disease has taken over the responsibility for the highest number of hospital deaths. According to the annual health statistics , 620,377 persons were hospitalized due to traumatic injuries and 4,125 hospital deaths were due to ischemic heart disease in 2006. It has been mentioned that 50% of hospital deaths due to traumatic injuries are caused by accidents of motor vehicles in our country. The reported number of 30,420 road traffic accidents has lead to 2157 deaths in 2008. The prevalence of NCDs in Sri Lanka is also linking to the population aging. As the life expectancy has gone up to 76.4 years for the females and 71.7 years for the males and the total fertility rate or total births in a family has declined to 2.6 , the proportion of elderly population is increasing rapidly. It was estimated that the proportion of people in 60 years or more will double from 12.1% to 24.4% from 2010 to 2040.
  2. 2. The mortality rates due to cardiovascular diseases in Sri Lanka are almost double when compared to developed countries. Asthma has become another more problematic NCD as mortality rates have been doubled from 2,000 to 4,000 from 1991 to 2003. It accounts for 4% of all deaths currently. Hypertension or high blood pressure is a major risk factor for cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases including stroke. The current prevalence of the hypertension in the country is 13% in males and 14% in females. The prevalence of the diabetes also appears to be increasing gradually. It was estimated that around 1.5 million adult population has type 2 diabetes with 10.3% prevalence. The prevailing risk is further increased as only half of these patients know about their hidden illness. The lack of basic knowledge about the illness and negligence has lead to this situation. The prevalence of the cancers is also increasing in the country. According to the health statistics, the rate has been increased from 37.6 to 70.6 in 100,000 population from 1985 to 2005. It should be emphasized that the majority of the NCDs are preventable. All must have basic knowledge on the prevailing risk factors relevant to the NCDs and the need of early detection of diseases through timely screening. Therefore it is necessary to educate the public on these issues without further delaying. Fetal under nutrition has been recognized as a long term risk factor in the development of ischemic heart disease, stroke, hypertension and diabetes later in the life. Fetal nutrition is solely dependent on nutritional status of the mother. Maternal under nutrition is still considered as a prevailing issue in the country. It should be given a priority in correcting these root causes for the NCDs in the future. The prevalence of smoking in Sri Lanka is slightly lower than the other countries in South East Asian region but still higher than the developed countries. Tobacco smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease, chronic respiratory disease and cancers. Current prevalence of smoking in the country is estimated as 32% in males and 2% in females. Physical inactivity is another important factor to be addressed in reducing the NCD burden , in the country. It is a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. There is a need for interventions in counteracting this problem at home and work places. A moderate physical activity is advised , preferably for 30 minutes in a day. It could be achieved even with three 10 minutes sessions in a day if there is a difficulty in investing the time to engage in these activities. Brisk walking would be ideal for this type of physical activity. Alcohol consumption is well known risk factor for liver disease, cancers and diseases of the cardiovascular and central nervous systems. Alcohol consumption and heavy drinking could be commonly seen in poorer and less educated people in the country. This
  3. 3. unhealthy habit has created a vicious cycle in loosing money and health . A correct awareness must be built among these people, considering their sociocultural and educational status in preventing this hazard Obesity is another risk factor for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, dyslipidaemia, hypertension, bone and joint disorders and and some cancers. It was found that 20.3% of males and 36.5% of females ,aged 30 to 65 years in the country are obese as their body mass index ( BMI) is more than 25 kg per square meter. It has been shown in health statistics that the obesity levels in the country have being increasing during the period of past 20 years. Everyone has a responsibility in keeping qualitative healthy life, themselves. The lifestyle changes may be necessary to maintain physical, psychological and social wellbeing while living in this rapidly changing world. The mixture of sound knowledge and healthy attitudes will be the best therapy in relieving the burden of NCDs. Dr. SHANTHA HETTIARACHCHI

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