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All About The Top 5 Chronic Diseases in India

India has always been a land of plenty, plenty of wealth, culture, history, population and now diseases. Developed countries face a lot of diseases and spend a good part of their annual budget on providing health care to their citizens, it seems that developing countries are following the footsteps of their developed counterparts as far as diseases go. In the past 10 years, India has become the third country in the world with the most number of cancer patients. It is rather sad that today, most of us either know someone or know of someone who suffers from one or more chronic diseases like diabetes or hypertension or cancer or other stress-induced reproductive health complications. This International Health Day we take a look at the rising trends of top 5 chronic diseases in India.

All About The Top 5 Chronic Diseases in India

Chronic Diseases: A Brief Introduction

We may have often wondered what does one mean when they say that they are suffering from a chronic disease. To be explained in simple terms chronic diseases are long-term illnesses which generally end up limiting the patient’s autonomy. Chronic diseases take a longer period of time to develop and cause any serious harm to the body. Chronic diseases weaken the immune system as well other bodily functions of an individual. Some chronic diseases are curable, although the treatment is equally long and painful. Other chronic diseases are incurable and modern medicine focuses on managing their symptoms and slowing their progress to allow the patient a little more time to live. Common chronic diseases are Alzheimer’s, Arthritis, Heart diseases, Renal Failure and so on.

Of all the chronic diseases present in India, there 5 diseases which have a larger presence and more recorded instances, and these diseases are:

  1. Breast Cancer
  2. Prostate Cancer
  3. Diabetes
  4. Heart Diseases
  5. PolyCystic Ovary Diseases/ PolyCystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOD/PCOS)

1) Breast Cancer:

Breast cancer is the development or formation of a malignant tumor in the breast(s), although this is the most common chronic disease in women, it is also seen in men although that number is very small. If caught early breast cancer is easy to cure. A cancerous tumor can develop in any part of the breast including the milk-producing glands or the ducts through which milk is passed. Depending on their pattern of expansion there are different types of breast cancer, broadly divided into three types namely invasive, non-invasive and mixed.

Breast Cancer

Types of Breast Cancer:

Types of breast cancer depend on the individual’s response to the type of treatment she is being subjected to, her response determines whether cancer has spread beyond just the breasts or is contained within the breast.

1. Invasive Breast Cancer:

As the term suggests, this kind of breast cancer tends to expand from its point of origin and invade other nearby by body parts. These cancerous cells are dangerous as they cover a larger area of the patient’s body and thus require more rigorous treatment. Despite being cured, patients suffering from invasive breast cancer are at a risk of developing cancer again, especially if some cells were missed out by the radiation therapy.

2. Non-Invasive Breast Cancer:

Non-invasive breast cancer is malignant tumors contained in the gland or part of the breast they developed in. Treatment of such tumors is comparatively easy and precise. A removal surgery ensures that all the mass is removed at once, radiation therapy post-operation can also be extremely specific and targeted, ensuring the prevention of a relapse in most cases.

3. Mixed Breast Cancer:

The type of cancer a person is suffering from is determined on the basis of their response to the treatment they have been subjected to. However, there are instances where an individual shows symptoms of both invasive and non-invasive breast cancer, this type is called mixed cancer.

Symptoms and Causes of Breast Cancer:

There are no causes for the development of cancer, although there are several identified risk factors, no one knows why a person develops any kind of cancer. It is a known fact that cancer cells develop because of DNA mutation but no one has been able to identify exactly what triggers these DNA mutations.

Risk Factors Which May Cause Breast Cancer

Symptoms of Breast Cancer

1. Alcohol Abuse1. Visible/Invisible Lumps on the Breast
2. Benign Untreated Tumors2. Inverted Nipples
3. Family History3. Discharge from the Nipple
4. Medical History:If a woman has had cancer in one breast,
she is at a higher risk of developing one in the other breast.
4. Change in the Shape of the Breasts
5. Age and Menopause5. Change in Colour of the Breast
6. Late Pregnancy and/or Short Duration of Breastfeeding6. Change in the Texture of the Skin of the Breast
7. Regular Use of Oral Contraceptive for a Long Period of Time7. Crusting Around the Nipples

Breast Cancer: Data At a Glance:

Over the last few years, breast cancer has risen from being the second highest cancer among women, the first being pelvic cancer to being the most common chronic disease among women. A research conducted in 2007, concluded that nearly 1,00,000 women suffered from breast cancer every year, of which 50% women belonged to the pre-menopausal population.

In a span of merely 10 years, India today the 3rd largest population of female cancer patients and this number has been steadily rising at 5% per year or almost 1-1.4 million registered cases per year. It is shocking to note that the national breast cancer mortality rate is 1.7 times higher than maternal mortality rate in India.

A projection for the near future states that these numbers will increase to around 190-260 breast cancer patients per 1,00,000 women by 2025 with the age of breast cancer patients ranging from less than 35 years to more than 53 years.

Related Read: 10 Symptoms Women Should Not Ignore

2) Prostate Cancer:

Prostate CancerProstate Cancer is a type of cancer which is typical to men as it develops in the prostate gland, found in a man’s body. The prostate gland is a walnut-shaped structure which covers the urethra and is positioned before the rectum. This gland is responsible for secreting the seminal fluid which carries the sperms from a man’s body to a woman’s body and thus this gland is extremely important for the reproductive process. This cancer is primarily common among older men i.e. 65 years and above, however, in India the average age group falls between 35 years to 64 years if one considers the unique data of metro cities as well. The unique of the cancer is based on the point of its origin, even though this cancer originates in the gland it has the potential to spread to the bones. It is the second largest chronic disease among men in India.

Causes and Symptoms of Prostate Cancer:

Like all other types of cancer, the cause behind the development of prostate cancer is unclear, however, medical practitioners and researchers have compiled a list of risk factors which may lead to the development of prostate cancer in an individual.

Risk Factors That May Cause Prostate Cancer

Symptoms of Prostate Cancer

1. Obesity1. Difficulty in Urination: Hesitancy, Inconsistency, Retention
2. Family/Genetic History2. Erectile Dysfunction
3. Lifestyle and Geography3. Pain During Urination or Ejaculation
4. Age4. Blood in Urine or Semen
5. Weight Loss and Fatigue
6. Pain in the Bones

It should be noted that contrary to popular belief research has proved that smoking, repeat diagnosis of sexually transmitted diseases, and previous history of prostate inflammation disease do not cause prostate cancer.

Prostate Cancer: Data At a Glance:

Instances of Prostate Cancer have developed rapidly and alarmingly in the last ten years. The average number of patients has risen from 3.7 per 1,00,000 men in 2008 to 9-10/1,00,000 in 2016. The population percentage of cases of prostate cancer has risen from 0.14% in 2008 to 8.6% in 2016. The projections for 2030 claim that prostate cancer would rise to the inclusion of 1.7 million new cases, leading to 4,99,000 deaths.

Related Read:  7 Super Foods for a Healthy Prostate

3) Diabetes:

Diabetes is a hormonal disorder where the body isn’t able to properly use/produce a hormone called insulin which helps break glucose in our food to convert it to energy. High levels of unregulated glucose in the bloodstream can damage the kidneys, eyes, nerves, even cause cardiac arrests. Depending on the inability to use or produce insulin, diabetes has been divided into two types: Type I and Type II. There is also another condition called prediabetes, where an individual’s blood sugar levels are higher than the normal level, however, these raised levels are not enough to diagnose a patient with diabetes. However, a person at this stage is at risk of developing diabetes in due course.

Types of Diabetes:

As mentioned earlier the diagnosis of a certain type of diabetes depends on the patient’s inability to produce or properly utilize the insulin produced by the body.

1. Type I Diabetes:

This is the less common type of diabetes and is characterized by the inability of the body to produce insulin. A patient suffering from type I diabetes has to inject insulin into his/her body externally to be able to regulate the glucose levels in their bloodstreams.

2. Type II Diabetes:

The more common type of diabetes is generally characterized by the patient’s inability to properly use the insulin produced in the body. At the later stages of type II diabetes, the patient’s body loses the ability to produce insulin altogether.

Causes and Symptoms of Diabetes:

While Type I and Type II Diabetes look similar, their causes are their differentiating points. Type I diabetes is caused by an autoimmune disorder where the immune system mistakes normal body functions as hostile. Type II diabetes is caused because the body develops a resistance to insulin and therefore doesn’t respond adequately to the hormone. While the two types of diabetes have some common symptoms, they also display some unique symptoms, which help in differentiating the two. There is also the fact that people with type II diabetes, develop symptoms over a period of years while the development rate of type I diabetes is very fast in comparison to the former. It should also be noted that if detected in time, type II diabetes can be prevented, but type I diabetes cannot be prevented.

Risk Factors For Type I Diabetes

Symptoms of Type I Diabetes

1. Genetic: presence of some diabetes sensitive genes1. Weight Loss
2. Family History2. Mood Swings and Irritability
3. Age
4. Geographical Location

Risk Factors For Type II Diabetes

Symptoms of Type II Diabetes

1. Age1. Rapid Heartbeat
2. Current Close Family Member Suffering from Type II Diabetes2. Tingling of Nerves
3. Pre- Diabetes3. Confusion
4. Lack of Exercise/Obesity

Common symptoms of both types include frequent urination, constant thirst or need for water, fatigue, and improper healing of cuts and sores.

Diabetes: Data At a Glance

Diabetes along with Heart Disease is the most common chronic disease in India. Thus, it is not really surprising that by 2008 India held 21% of the world’s share of diabetic patients and that by 2017 with 70 million registered cases of diabetes, India because of the 2nd country in the world with the most number of diabetic patients. It, however, may come as a little surprise that diabetes is the underlying cause behind 50% adult deaths and that the age range of diabetic patients is the largest with patients being as young as 20 years to as old as 79 years. The projected data for 2037 states that the number of diabetic patients in India would rise to 120 million.

4) Heart Disease:

Heart disease is an umbrella term to cover nearly all the instances which affect the heart and prevent its optimal functioning. While some kind of heart diseases develop before one is born or since birth, other diseases take many years before symptoms start showing themselves. Depending on which part of the heart is affected, heart disease is divided into several types, each type has a unique cause, symptom and diagnosis procedure.

Types of Heart Disease:

If one lists down all the heart diseases identified and documented, one could probably write a book, for easy understanding and quick reference, we are limiting this typification to three of the most common types of heart disease.

1. Arrhythmia:

Arrhythmia is related to irregular, nearly all of us have felt an irregular heartbeat in the form of the fluttering of the heart. Arrhythmia is again of different types, depending on the speed of heartbeat, sudden irregular beats, fibrillation i.e. uncoordinated and irregular movement of the heart muscle. While momentary bouts of Arrhythmia may mean nothing, but frequent instances of an abnormal heartbeat can indicate to a weak heart. If left unchecked, arrhythmia could be fatal.

2. Congenital Heart Disease:

Congenital heart disease has been there since the birth of the patient. The most common type of congenital heart disease is a hole between two chambers of the heart or septal defect. Other defects include the heart causing a shortage of oxygen in the whole body, and partial or complete blockage of the chambers of the heart.

3. Coronary Artery Disease:

The most common and dangerous type of heart disease is coronary artery disease which caused by the deposition of cholesterol-containing plaque in the arteries. Coronary artery disease takes a long time in developing and has indistinguishable symptoms, resulting in the first indication of this disease being a heart attack. Since coronary artery disease is the most common and dangerous life taker in India, from hereon all discussion will be focused on coronary artery disease.

Causes and Symptoms of Coronary Artery Disease:

The most common cause of coronary artery disease is the deposits of cholesterol-containing plaque. Apart from these other causes are partial or complete blockage of one artery, which restricts or blocks the passage of blood.

Risk Factors for Coronary Artery Disease

Symptoms of Coronary Artery Disease

1. Hypertension1. Pain on Left Arm
2. High Blood Cholesterol Levels2. Chest Pain and Heaviness: This could often be confused with indigestion or heartburn
3. Obesity3. Dizziness
4. Extreme Emotional Stress4. Shortness of Breath
5. Diabetes5. Arrhythmia
6. Sleep Apnea6. Nausea/Vomiting
7. Alcohol or Tobacco Abuse7. Back Pain

Coronary Artery Disease: Data At a Glance:

In the past 20 years, incidents of coronary artery disease have risen to include around 3.5% of the total rural population of India and 9% of the total urban population. However, recent research proves that 90% of the entire Indian population is at risk of developing coronary artery disease, of this 90% at-risk population, 94% women are at risk of developing coronary artery disease. In fact, the most dangerous and silent killer of 2016 was coronary artery disease, claiming a hand in the death of 53% of all deceased individuals.

Related Read: Worried about Heart Disease? Here is How you can get Tested

5) PolyCystic Ovary Disorder/PolyCystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOD/PCOS):

PolyCystic Ovary DisorderAs the name suggests, PolyCystic ovary syndrome/disorder (PCOS from here on) is a disorder in the ovaries which has risen from being unheard of to a household name in less than 20 years. PCOS is a disease which affects the hormonal balance of a woman’s body, leading to missed periods, break out of acne on chest, back and face, and hair growth on the face and chest. Every month a woman’s body releases an egg in the ovary for maturation, the cysts are eggs that have not matured enough to either be impregnated or ejected from the body, they form a lining over the ovaries, preventing the process of the next month from taking over. Women with an acute case of PCOS have as less as 8 periods in a year. PCOS is benign and manageable, however, if left unchecked, it has the potential to cause heart diseases, diabetes, infertility even uterine cancer.

Symptoms and Causes of PCOS:

Research on PCOS has taken an earnest speed quite recently, however, despite all their attempts researchers and doctors have not been able to determine the cause of PCOS. Some argue that the most probable causes for PCOS are Genes, Type II Diabetes (Insulin Resistance) and Inflammation.

Risk Factors for PCOS

Symptoms of PCOS

1. Stress1. Hair Growth on Face, Back, Chest and Tummy
2. Lifestyle2. Skipped Periods followed by heavy bleeding when periods do happen
3. Obesity3. Acne on face, back and chest
4. Family History4. Mood Swings, Depression and/or Anxiety
5. Type II Diabetes5. Sleep Apnea

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Data at a Glance:

About 20 years ago, PCOS was unheard of ailment in Indian households. It had just started spreading rather rapidly among adult women in metro cities yet it was considered a rare disease caused by a degenerate lifestyle. In the two decades since then, PCOS has spread like wildfire, becoming one of the most common and chronic problems affecting a large number of women. Globally the spread of PCOS ranges from 2.2% to 26.7%, however, PCOS has become a recent topic of exploration and as such we have very little for the past ten years. Keeping this in an account, a 2017 report stated that 18-20% of all women in India suffer from PCOS. The figure may not seem in percentage, but population wise it means that several women between the age groups of 15 years to 44 years are suffering from this disease.


Chronic diseases do not show symptoms immediately, they take years to develop and by the time one realizes that something is wrong, it is almost always too late. Our ever busy lifestyle and the expensive health tests have pushed our health to the least of our priorities, which is why it is so important for an individual to ensure that they are undergoing regular medical screening even if it is a little heavy on the pocket. An individual must be vigilant about their health, especially if there is a family history. This International Health Day, take a pledge to put your health on the top of your priority list so that your future self, has a better life.


News on Chronic Disease:

1. Recent UN Report Reveals: Most Countries Behind Schedule for Millenial Goals for Chronic Disease

– 17th Oct 2018

In a recent report, researchers from UN  claimed that more than half the countries in the world will fail to meet the 2030 goals set for reducing deaths by chronic diseases by a third. The report stated that nearly 40-50 countries are on the right track though, and another substantial number of countries are closing the gaps by making gender-based policies. Despite these successes, there are several countries who need to rethink their policies, especially take a good look at their public health care systems. The UN has claimed that international agencies which donate money for the progress of healthcare in needy countries, along with national governing bodies are not really paying much attention to the utilization of the money. Lack of active checks have opened up gaps, delaying the concerned nation’s progress to reach the Millenial Goals 3.4 which is focused on reducing deaths due to chronic or non-communicable diseases. Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular diseases, and chronic respiratory diseases continue to claim lives of nearly 12.5 million people between the ages of 30- 70 years, with more and more deaths being premature. Of the developed nations, the United States of America is failing its rural population and is way behind in reaching the set goals. It is believed, that the problem of United States of America emerges from the lack of a robust healthcare system, inequity in access to quality healthcare, as well as the cost of healthcare that individual citizens have to bear.

China, the largest and richest Asian country, is lagging behind but it is slowly closing the gap with more and more healthcare policies for men and women. India can take these lessons home and make policies based on learnings from other nations’ failures.

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