2016: The year of mental health awareness and a spike in lifestyle diseases

Updated on May 01, 2017 05:50 PM IST

We discuss a few ways that can speed up your fight for good health, because there is no better time than a new year to make amends and start afresh.

Mental health issues were discussed extensively this year, highlighting the need to open up and the importance of timely treatment.(Shutterstock)
Mental health issues were discussed extensively this year, highlighting the need to open up and the importance of timely treatment.(Shutterstock)
Hindustan Times | By, New Delhi

The year 2016 has given us a lot on our plates. But the idea is to resist the temptation and not go overboard, for a plate too full doesn’t do much good. With an alarming spike in lifestyle diseases, this is the one warning that researchers have been reiterating throughout this eventful year.

We definitely aren’t living the way we should be and are therefore more vulnerable to health problems than ever before. There have been telltale signals around us all this while and several studies have warned, nudged and implored us time and again to act.

According to a report published by JAMA Oncology this month, there has been a 33% rise in the number of cancer cases around the world in the last 10 years. Another study published in Global Burden of Disease Deaths in October said diabetes had increased by 50% in India during the same time.

A third study published in the international journal Paediatric Obesity in October predicted that India would have over 17 million obese children by 2025 and would stand second among the 184 countries fighting childhood obesity.

And a fourth, by Imperial College London, pegged the number of people with high blood pressure to around 1.13 billion, of which around 200 million are Indians.

The list is endless. But despite these panic-inducing statistics, 2016 has offered a little ray of hope in the many discussions around mental disorders, with celebrities sharing their experiences and raising awareness about them.

Here are a few ways that can speed up your fight for good health, because there is no better time than a new year to make amends and start afresh.

Mental health disorders

Though there are around 60 million Indians who suffer from mental problems, only 10-15% seek medical help. While generic measures such as having a national law, keeping a pet, talking about it to your family and friends, and reaching out timely for professional help can go a long way, specific mental health disorders need more effort and care.

Depression: Online therapies are coming up in a big way as a line of treatment for depression. This year, doctors from the University of Pittsburgh discovered that an online computerised cognitive behavioural therapy (CCBT) program with or without the help of Internet Support Groups (ISG) could be an effective treatment for anxiety and depression.

Alzheimer’s: First thing to know about Alzheimer’s is that memory loss is not its only symptom.

Other than everyday exercise and being with the ones you love, consuming these superfoods can also prevent your brain from ageing:

Walnuts: Researchers at New York State Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities recommend eating a handful of walnuts every day for its great anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties.

Maple syrup: A study by researchers at the University of Toronto in Canada showed that maple syrup extract decreases the misfolding and aggregation of the two most pathological hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.

Fish: Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids from fish help remove metabolites, including amyloid-beta peptides that are one of the factors that cause Alzheimer’s, found a study by University of Macau.

Lifestyle diseases

The worst thing about lifestyle diseases is that they are heavily interlinked—in most cases, one leads to another—and have a strong cause-and-effect relationship. However, this comes with an upside—working towards preventing one usually keeps the others in check.

Obesity: People who do not sleep enough may end up consuming as many as 385 extra kilocalories the next day, claim researchers from King’s College London, urging all to sleep well.

Cancer: Following a healthy lifestyle can cut cancer deaths by half, claimed a large-scale American study published in the journal JAMA Oncology in May.

Now healthy lifestyle can mean several things but the team of researchers, from Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School and the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, left no room for ambiguity.

They defined it as being a non-smoker or ex-smoker, non-alcoholic or a moderate drinker (one or less drink a day for women, two or less drinks a day for men), having a BMI between 18.5 and 27.5, and exercising moderately for at least 150 minutes or vigorously for at least 75 minutes a week.

Diabetes: According to the researchers from Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, eating home-cooked food is a foolproof way to cut diabetes risk. They added that people who consume five to seven evening meals prepared at home during a week have a 15% lower risk of Type 2 diabetes than those who consume two or fewer such meals in a week.

Heart ailments: Keeping hypertension, obesity and diabetes at bay in mid-life—between the age of 45 and 55 years—can result in an 86% lower risk of heart failure, according to researchers from the Northwestern University at Evanston in the United States.

Now that you know exactly what to do, we hope you have a healthy and happy 2017.

The author tweets @sneha_bengani

Follow @htlifeandstyle for more


    Sneha Bengani was part of Hindustan Times’ nationwide network of correspondents that brings news, analysis and information to its readers.She no longer works with the Hindustan Times.

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