In a country where life expectancy is around 70 years, the increase in deaths from heart attacks and strokes last year was unprecedented.
In the year ending December 31, 2016, there were 4,721 new cases of heart attacks or strokes in India, a jump of more than 8,000 from the previous year.
The rate of new deaths has also gone up from 7.3 deaths per 100,000 people in the year to December 31 last year to 7.5 deaths per 1,000 population in the same period this year.
According to data released by the Health Ministry, the rate of deaths from all causes rose from 7 per 100 000 people in 2015 to 8.4 per 1 1,001 population in 2016.
The biggest increase was seen in those aged between 15 and 34, who had a 45 per cent increase in the number of heart attack deaths.
This followed a decrease in deaths of both women and men from heart attack, stroke and non-fatal heart attacks.
The number of new heart attacks, strokes and non fatal heart attacks also increased in states with low levels of air pollution.
These states included Bihar (down from 6.5 new heart attack cases in 2015), Uttar Pradesh (up from 3.7), Maharashtra (up by almost a quarter to 1.9) and Karnataka (up nearly two-fold from 1.5 cases to 2.2).
“The increase in heart attacks has been attributed to a rise in smoking in India,” said a statement by the ministry.
“However, the exact cause for this is yet to be identified.”
A government survey conducted in December showed that more than half of Indians are smoking cigarettes.
The latest figures released by India’s Health Ministry show that the number in the country of smokers grew by almost 30 per cent in 2016 from the same year last year, to 6.7 million people.
The increase in smoking prevalence in India is more than double the average increase in tobacco use.
According a report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), smoking prevalence was estimated to be about 22 per cent of the total population in India in 2016, an increase of about 50 per cent since 2001.
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said smoking rates in India have increased by almost 1.3 per cent per year from 2011 to 2016.
It said the increase was largely due to the country’s fast-growing tobacco industry.
In India, about 5 per cent, or almost one in 10, of all smokers are current smokers.
This is mostly due to availability of cigarettes, a report from the CDC said.