Neither balloon-seller Agrar Ahmed (58) nor vegetable vendor Moosa Bhagwan (68) leads a sedentary life or gorge on junk food. But both of them are being treated for lifestyle diseases at the civic-run Urban Health Centre in Malvani — Ahmed for hypertension, Bhagwan for diabetes and hypertension.
“Pata nahi mujhe maaldaro ki bimari kaise ho gayi [I don’t know how I got a disease of the rich],” said Bhagwan, who is also over-weight. Lifestyle diseases, once dubbed as ‘affluenza’ or diseases affecting the affluent, have crossed the economic divide to reach Mumbai’s slums.
At least 100 poor patients are being treated for lifestyle diseases at Malvani centre’s Chronic Out Patient Department.
“When we started in 2000, the number of patients was in single digits. Now about 20 per cent of all patients suffer from lifestyle diseases,” said Dr R.R. Shinde, head of KEM hospital’s preventive and social medicine department, which runs the centre.
Doctors say the trend can be a result of consumption of packaged food with high fat and salt content, alcoholism, smoking and reduced physical activity because of cell phones and TVs.
Stress, however, is the biggest culprit. “People are unable to cope with the pace of life. Stress is affecting all sections of society and has led to rise in lifestyle diseases,” said Dr Shinde.
“It is time the government makes lifestyle diseases an equal priority in health programmes,” said Dr Anil Boraskar, head of the Diabetes Association of India.