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December 11, 2010

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Getting fat: a growing problem in Shanghai

SHANGHAINESE are smoking and drinking too much, eating too much of the the wrong things, not exercising enough and becoming fatter.

All are factors that put people at risk from heart disease and cancer, the top two causes of death in the city, health officials said yesterday.

Some 31 percent of local residents are overweight while 9 percent are considered obese, the Shanghai Health Bureau found in a survey of some 17,000 residents between 15 and 69. And about 38.5 percent of people had excess fat around their waists, a major risk factor.

A body mass index (BMI) of over 24 indicates overweight. Obesity starts at a BMI of 28.

These are lower thresholds than in the West.

"Local health authorities have aroused awareness to build a chronic disease prevention and control network to further promote health education and better management on those with hypertension, diabetes and early stages of cancer," said the bureau's Wang Panshi.

Shanghai introduced a 15-year chronic disease prevention and control plan in 2000.

About 23.6 percent of local adults have hypertension, 5 percentage points higher than the national level. The incidence of cancer is growing by more than 1 percent a year with about 50,000 new cases annually.

"The incidence of cancer is higher than infectious diseases in Shanghai," Wang said.

According to the survey, more than 55 percent of men are smokers, half of them on at least 20 cigarettes a day.

About 36 percent of non-smokers suffer passive smoking and 73 percent of women are exposed to second-hand smoke at home.

"It is an alarming signal, as lung cancer is the cancer with the highest mortality for both local males and females," Wang said.

About 21.6 percent of city residents are regular drinkers and 8.7 percent of them consume harmful amounts of alcohol.

The local diet is also not healthy, with 60 percent of families consuming excessive oil and 38 percent taking too much salt.

"While eating more rich things, local people prefer a static life," Wang said. "About 90 percent of local residents don't have enough physical exercise, especially the young and middle-aged. Only 17.1 percent of residents take part in leisure exercises, let alone more professional physical exercises."

"It is urgent to enhance intervention and health education among the public," said Wu Fan, director of the Shanghai Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

So far all community-based hospitals have carried out blood pressure checks on people over 35 and given primary consultation and treatment to new patients, officials said.


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