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Urbanization of Africa Could Boost Heart Disease, Diabetes Rates

Update Date: Jul 30, 2014 11:41 AM EDT

Increasing urbanization of rural areas in sub-Saharan Africa could lead to increased cases of heart disease and diabetes, a new study has found. 

According to the study, that was carried out in Uganda, even small changes towards more urban lifestyles was associated with increased risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. 

Population of rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa is around 530 million, and rates of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases tend to be much lower there compared to urban areas. However, some of these areas are becoming increasingly urbanized. 

To study the impact of urbanization, researchers analyzed data from 7,340 people aged 13 years and above across 25 villages in Uganda. Participants of the study were allocated an 'urbanicity score' which was compared to their lifestyle risk factors like alcohol consumption fruit and vegetable consumption, body mass index and physical activity. 

 "Over half a billion people live in rural areas across sub-Saharan Africa. We need to understand how the health of these populations will change as the areas develop and become more urbanised to enable countries to plan future healthcare programmes and develop interventions to reduce this risk," said Dr Manjinder Sandhu from the Department of Public Health and Primary Care at the University of Cambridge, joint senior author of the study, in the press release. 

"Development in rural areas will provide people with much needed access to education, healthcare and improved sanitation, with very positive health benefits. But it could be a double-edged sword and come at a cost of a greater incidence of diseases such as heart disease and diabetes," added Johanna Riha, first author and a Gates Cambridge Scholar at the University of Cambridge. 

The study has been published in the journal PLOS Medicine.

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