Stroke is the third biggest cause of death in India and dementia is the fastest growing neurological disorder, a study of disease burden in the country has found.
Stroke caused 699,000 deaths in India in 2019, accounting for 7.4 percent of the total deaths in the country, said the study that examined the disease burden from neurological disorders across the country from 1990 to 2019. Heart diseases and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease were the two leading causes of death.
“Neurological disorders contribute 10 percent of the total disease burden in India. There is a growing burden of non-communicable neurological disorders in the country, which is mainly attributable to ageing of the population," said Prof Balram Bhargava, Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
ICMR, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation and stakeholders representing about 100 institutions came together for first of its kind study done as part of the India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative that was launched in 2015.
The contribution of non-communicable neurological disorders and injuries to the disease burden more than doubled between 1990 and 2019. Neurological disorders now constitute 10 percent of India's total disease burden but it varies substantially from state to state.
"The findings presented in this research paper are useful for health-care planning at the state level to reduce the neurological disorders burden,” Bhargava added.
High blood pressure, air pollution, dietary risks, high fasting plasma glucose and high body-mass index are among the known risk factors for neurological disorders.
In 2019, out of the total neurological disorders disease burden, 82.8 percent were related to non-communicable disorder of which stroke constituted 37.9 percent, migraine 16 percent, epilepsy 11.3 percent, cerebral palsy 5.7 percent and Alzheimer's 4.6 percent. Communicable disorders constituted 11.2 percent and injuries 6 percent.
Neurological disorders are classified into non-communicable and communicable illnesses. Communicable disorders such as encephalitis, meningitis, and tetanus are due to infections.
Non-communicable illnesses include stroke, headache disorders, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, brain and central nervous system cancer, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, motor neuron diseases, and other neurological disorders.
Traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries can also cause neurological problems.
“The rise of noncommunicable disease-related risk factors, as leading contributors to neurological disorders and resultant disability in India, is not a surprise. It reflects the demographic, socio-economic and nutrition
transitions that have steered the shift in our epidemiological profile over the past 30 years," Public Health Foundation of India president Prof K Srinath Reddy said.
Much of this burden of disease and disability is related to modifiable risk factors that can be reduced at the population level and corrected at the individual level, he said.
We need policy, health system and personal level actions to achieve healthy ageing across a long life course,” Reddy said.