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Army: At the front but far from fit

They may be the country's bravehearts, but heart problems are on the rise among soldiers of the Indian Army, reports Sutirtho Patranobis.

india Updated: Mar 28, 2006 04:48 IST

An unseen enemy is on the prowl among the men on the frontlines—heart disease. They may be the country's bravehearts, supposed to be the fittest men, but heart problems are on the rise among soldiers of the Indian Army.

Exposure to combat situations and high altitudes is taking its toll apart from regular risk factors like smoking and obesity. The result—even 20-something soldiers are afflicted by heart diseases.

The problem came to light when the army drew up the clinical profile of 90 young soldiers who had been admitted with heart problems to a referral hospital. The results were revelatory. Combat stress affected 36 of them and smoking about 40 of them. Hypertension, high altitude and even obesity were the other contributing factors.

The findings of this study will be presented at the five-day Asia Pacific Military Medicine Conference, which was inaugurated by Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee in Delhi on Monday.

Another study was carried on light infantry soldiers posted in the freezing, high-altitudes of Kashmir. Sixty-five soldiers aged between 23 and 40 had suffered a stroke. The soldiers were flown to a referral hospital in Delhi and a battery of tests was carried out. The cause was life at high altitudes. The paper by army doctors says, "Young strokes particularly seen in this harsh terrain require special evaluation."

The doctors then did a separate study on 614 healthy personnel above 35 years. They were all vulnerable to heart diseases but, ironically, it was not stress but obesity that was pushing most of them to the brink.

The army has not got a clean bill of health, but at least the diagnosis is done. Now, for the treatment.

First Published: Mar 28, 2006 01:10 IST