This week, a couple of news items caught my attention. One was the demise of the ‘iron lady’ of Coimbatore, Mrs. C. Thayammal at the ripe old age of 117! She was believed to be one of the oldest people in India. She had seen six generations of her family, comprising 186 members. According to the news account, she was independent and self-sufficient until a week before her death. She was handling all the chores, including cooking and washing clothes, by herself. She lived in a joint family and avoided oily food. Except for the cataract surgery, she had never visited a hospital, but relied on home made remedies for minor ailments. Till the end she had good eye sight and hearing. What an amazing story!
Now the second news report, which states that incidence of tuberculosis is rising among young Indian professionals in the age group of 18-30 years, due to chronic stress and unhealthy eating habits causing suppression of immunity. In these patients, tuberculosis affects abdomen, bone, lymph nodes and heart, rather than the lungs. Indeed an equally amazing story!
During my growing up years, life was rather slow-paced with less materialistic comforts, nonetheless it was healthy and contented! Occasional fever or tooth ache required medical attention. Food was simple, home-made and wholesome. We children were given porridge made of different cereals and pulses every morning and evening. Minor ailments were treated by home-made medicines by the family elders. Surgeries were infrequent and people walked around a lot. Physical activity was inbuilt in our way of life. However, negative aspects of that period were prevalence of infectious diseases like tuberculosis, poor connectivity and limited communication systems.
On the contrary, present day scenario is different. Economic affluence is the defining factor. Communication has become exceptionally easy. Infrastructure and connectivity have advanced multifold. On the healthcare front, we have irradicated small pox and polio, only to be replaced by the likes of AIDS and swine flu. Majority of the jobs are sedantary in nature. Life has become fast-paced and stressful. Food habits have become irregular. Mindless consumption is the order of the day. Even children spend more time in front of the television and computer. These changes have led to the rise of non- communicable diseases.
WHO country profile (2011) indicates that non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancers, lung diseases and diabetes are responsible for 53% of deaths in India. According to World Health Orgainzation statistics (2008), 10.8 (F)-11.1(M) % of Indians have raised blood sugar, 22.6 (F)-23.1 (M) % have high blood pressure and 1.3 (M) – 2.5(F) % are obese*. As per National Health Profile-2012, published by Central Bureau of Health Intelligence, tuberculosis accounted for the maximum number of deaths due to communicable diseases. While, diabetes and heart disease are the predominant causes of morbidity due to non-communicable diseases.
According to various studies, the most rewarding professions of the day come with a price tag of health issues, such as visual problems, musculo-skeletal problems, psychological stress, and depression to mention a few.
Data indicates that the health profile of the average Indian is changing for the worse, owing to the prevalence of risk factors such as obesity, chronic stress, smoking, diabetes and hypertension. Life style changes are the urgent need of the hour and moderation is the key word.
No need to lose heart as yet. We can improve our health profile by adopting a life style that ensures,
- Good work-life balance
- Healthy eating habits
- Proper sleep hygiene
- Regular exercise
- Healthy relationship with family, friends and co-workers
- Optimum physical activity
- Stress management with yoga and meditation
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