Unhealthy Lifestyles Set to Trigger Health Crisis in China

by Rajashri on Oct 21 2008 1:12 PM

Medical experts have issued a dire warning that China faces a looming health crisis if efforts are not made to tackle the effects of changing diets and lifestyles due to rising standards of living.

The report published in The Lancet medical journal is the latest to warn that the worsening diets and other unhealthy habits of increasingly wealthy Chinese threaten to trigger epidemics of heart and lung disease.

It offered praise for China's efforts over the decades to curb infectious diseases - once the country's predominant health threat.

But it noted that Chinese people were becoming victims of the country's steadily rising standards of living.

"The pace and spread of behavioural changes including changing diets, decreased physical activity, high rates of male smoking and other high-risk behaviours has accelerated to an unprecedented degree," said the report in the Britain-based journal.

It said 177 million Chinese adults suffer from hypertension, which it blamed in part on high salt consumption.

Another 300 million people smoke, the vast majority of them men, and 530 million are exposed to second-hand smoke.

"If present smoking rates continue, 100 million Chinese men will die between 2000 and 2050, with many of their family members squandering life savings in desperate attempts at treatment," it warned.

It called on China's government to launch campaigns to discourage smoking and the intake of salt and fat.

Failure to do so could result in an onerous health and economic burden on the country, it said.

"The burden of chronic diseases, preventable morbidity and mortality and associated health-care costs could now increase substantially," said the report by Chinese and Western health experts.

They also noted that increasing car use and the watching of television were contributing to more sedentary lifestyles that compounded the health problems.

Such gloomy health predictions have become common in recent years as Chinese waistlines have expanded along with the nation's booming economy.

More than 25 percent of Chinese adults were now considered overweight or obese, researchers writing in the US journal Health Affairs in July warned.