The number of people with hypertension and diabetes has increased alarmingly in the country and health experts attribute it to poor food habit and lack of exercise.
Hypertension among people aged 35 and above went up to 40 percent in 2017 from 26 percent in 2011, according to the preliminary study of the eighth Bangladesh Demographic Health Survey (BDHS) 2017-18 unveiled yesterday.
During the same period, the number of diabetic patients of the same age group increased to 14 percent from 11.
According to the survey, some three crore people aged 18 and above were hypertensive (with blood pressure above 90 and 140) and 1.1 crore of the same age group suffer from high blood sugar.
“With economic growth, there has been major changes in people’s lifestyle and food habit. In fact, unhealthy eating habit and inactivity are the main reasons behind this,” Kanta Jamil, senior monitoring, evaluation and research adviser at the USAID, who assisted the BDHS study team, told The Daily Star.
The study also showed that more females suffer from hypertension and diabetes than males.
At least 45 percent of the women, 35 years of age and above, suffer from hypertension while the number for men is 34. In 2011, the numbers were 32 and 19 percent.
The survey, conducted on 19,500 households between September 2017 and March 2018, also predicts that the number of people of the age group with hypertension would increase to around 4.6 crore by 2040.
It also said the number of diabetic patients of the age group could increase to 1.6 crore by that year.
For the first time, the BDHS, conducted by National Institute of Population Research and Training (NIPORT), screened adults between 18 and 34 years of age for hypertension and diabetes.
At least 13 percent of them suffer from hypertension.
Alarmingly, half the women and two thirds of the men surveyed were unaware of their elevated blood pressure and three in five people were ignorant of their high blood sugar.
Of those aware of their hypertension, only 15 percent women and nine percent men were able to keep their blood pressures under control through taking medicine.
Only 13 percent of the diabetic patients were on medication.
“The high prevalence rates of hypertension and diabetes is a huge health concern because these are chronic conditions that can lead to other serious health complications. These conditions also impose lifetime financial burden,” Kanta Jamil said.
However, Khalequzzaman, associate professor of public health and informatics at BSMMU, said the picture on the ground was far worse than what the survey suggested.
“The number is huge undoubtedly. Our observation is that the situation is much grimmer. Inadequate physical exercise, carbohydrate-based food habit, junk food, a lot of salt and sugar intake, and smoking are to blame for this.”
He along with a number of health and population experts attended the study dissemination programme.
The BDHS 2017-18 also presented some other indicators, like mortality rate of children under 5 and adolescent marriage and childbearing.
Some 1.35 lakh children under five die every year and of them, 31 percent die of infections. Pneumonia is one of the major killers.
Asphyxia (medical condition resulting from deprivation of oxygen), pneumonia and serious infections, and premature birth cause three-quarters of all deaths of children under 5.
Deaths due to birth injuries, congenital abnormalities, neonatal jaundice, premature birth, diarrhoea, and malnutrition increased 20 percent, the study said.
The average age of women getting married increased to 17.3 years from 16.6 in 2011.
Among couples, contraceptive use was higher in the first six months of their marriage and it steadily declined afterwards, suggesting that for many the desire to delay first child only lasts the first year of marriage, according to the study.
It said childbearing by teens of 15 to 19 years of age dropped by 22 percent over the last two decades.
Khalequzzaman told The Daily Star, “Female education rate has increased notably. But, child marriage and adolescent childbearing have not decreased accordingly.”