Standard of living of the average Indian has increased substantially, simultaneously lifestyle diseases among them also are increasing day by day. Is there any connection between these two realities? Yes. Dr. Harish Kumar, Professor & HOD ,Endocrinology & Diabetes, AIMS, Kochi explains how they are related and what is to be done for leading a healthy life.
When India attained Independence over six decades ago, infectious diseases like tuberculosis, malaria, typhoid and cholera were the main causes of disease and death. Other infectious diseases like leprosy also afflicted millions of people in some parts of India during the post-Independence period. However, in the last 2-3 decades, infectious diseases are on the wane and lifestyle diseases like diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol levels, and heart attack and strokes have slowly been increasing in prevalence. Today, it is the lifestyle diseases, which are also called non-communicable diseases, which are the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in India.
What has changed in India since Independence? Food and environmental hygiene has generally improved (though we still have a long way to go) and this factor, together with healthcare accessibility and affordability and effective medications, have led to a situation where most infectious diseases have declined drastically, and some diseases like small pox have been totally eradicated. Simultaneously, the standard of living of the average Indian has increased. Increased wealth led to an increase in the consumption of fatty, calorie-rich food. More people are now able to afford luxuries like cars, fridges and washing machines. All this has lead to a situation where the average Indian is now more sedentary as physical activity has declined with increased purchasing power.
When India had attained Independence, most of our villages did not have electricity, and women had to trek long distances to fetch water for daily use. Now electricity and piped water supply are increasingly becoming available. While these developments are no doubt a great service, the downside is that our population has become less physically active. Sedentary lifestyle habits are usually picked up from home. Children now spend a lot of time in front of the television set and computer from an early age, and so they tend to learn this type of sedentary lifestyle at an early age.
(Read the full article from the September Issue of Safety Messenger Magazine 2015)