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Beware. Your lifestyle can ruin your health

mumbai Updated: May 07, 2012 01:24 IST
HT Correspondent

Which is the most common lifestyle-related ailment Mumbaiites approach doctors with?

Diabetes.

A survey among general practitioners (GP) across the city, conducted by HT in association with C fore, revealed that diabetes, hypertension, posture-related problems, obesity, sleep disorders and cholesterol, in that order, are the six lifestyle-related ailments Mumbaiites complain about the most.

In response to a detailed questionnaire, GPs, the first point of contact for any patient, revealed that most patients see these lifestyle diseases manifesting when they are between 30 and 40 years old. They said, more than half the patients seek help when merely moderate medication is needed to tide over the problem.

But there are extreme cases as well. Two months ago, Santosh Alkar, a 42-year-old diabetic from Andheri, strangled his two children to death and then killed himself. In his suicide note, he wrote that he was frustrated with his ailment and was unable to take care of his family.

Last month, Rajendra Singh Sodhi, 51, a Lokhandwala-based businessman who was suffering from diabetes and resultant gangrene, shot himself a day after his daughter’s marriage. According to city-based diabetologists, this condition, known as Diabetic Foot Syndrome, is an outcome of negligence and late intervention that has affected several diabetics in the past few years.

Alkar and Singh are two of the 60 million diabetics in India; and the daily grind in Mumbai — long work hours, sedentary lifestyles and poor eating habits — make residents of India’s business capital especially susceptible to lifestyle ailments.

Living with Diabetes in India, a Facebook group, became the largest online community to deal with a chronic disease in April, when it had two lakh members.

“While these lifestyle diseases have plagued us for many years, what is alarming is the age at which these ailments are affecting people. Earlier, most of our patients would be in the age group of 40 to 60, now it is 20 to 40 years,” said Dr Shahid Barmare, a consultant physician.

Of the 62 million Indians expected to have coronary heart disease by 2015, 23 million will be less than 40 years old. Currently, the prevalence of coronary heart disease in urban India is four times higher than in the US. “Roughly, one in two people, making it half of the city, suffers from at least one of these lifestyle diseases, if not more,” said Dr Aashish Contractor, head of the department of preventive cardiology and rehabilitation, Asian Heart Institute, Bandra-Kurla Complex. “All these diseases are linked and increase the chances of heart disease and stroke. Exercise and a correct diet can help combat these diseases.”

Lifestyle diseases are not restricted to adults. A study conducted by the National Diabetes, Obesity and Cholesterol Foundation in 2009 revealed that one in every three children in private schools in cities such as Mumbai and New Delhi is obese. The study showed that since most junk food is targeted at children, they are high-risk cases for obesity.

“When a child has a soft drink, he already exceeds his ideal sugar intake for the day,” said Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general of the foundation.

The statistics are disheartening and the prognosis is alarming, but a few simple lifestyle modifications can reverse the trend. Nita Advani, 41, is one such example. The homemaker has been dealing with high blood pressure for many years now, but has refused to take any medication. She has kept her blood pressure under control by following a good diet and doing simple exercises. “I am conscious of what I eat. I only have soups and salads for dinner. I avoid the elevator, walk to the market and am determined to stay off medication,” said Advani.

Today, and over the next four days, Hindustan Times will bring you the stories of Advani, and others like her, while discussing how you can combat lifestyle ailments. Your health, after all, is your wealth.