Factors that are putting India's doctors at risk of early death | Health - Hindustan Times
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Stress, negativity, lack of sleep: Factors that are putting India's doctors at risk of early death

By, New Delhi
Jun 11, 2023 02:35 PM IST

Doctors have a shorter lifespan than an average person as per IMA Pune chapter. Two cardiologists on what is ailing the life saviours of our country.

Doctors are life saviours and work extremely hard making the right diagnosis and performing life-saving procedures. They often have hectic work hours which leave them little time for self-care and rejuvenation. As per Indian Medical Association’s (IMA) Pune chapter, an Indian doctor’s average lifespan is 55-59 years, which is almost 10 years lesser than that of the general population who can on an average live up to 69-72 years. The early deaths in doctors can be due to cardiac arrest, hypertension, diabetes and other such diseases. While doctors are equipped with facts, knowledge and awareness about various health conditions, they are able to do little for themselves owing to long hours and work stress say members of the medical fraternity. The death of Dr Gaurav Gandhi, a renowned cardiologist at the age of 41, should be a wake-up call for doctors to carve out some time for self-care and rejuvenation. (Also read: Cardiologists on why doctors could be at higher risk of heart attack; suggest heart care tips)

The death of Dr Gaurav Gandhi, a renowned cardiologist at the age of 41, should be a wake-up call for doctors to carve out some time for self-care and rejuvenation.
The death of Dr Gaurav Gandhi, a renowned cardiologist at the age of 41, should be a wake-up call for doctors to carve out some time for self-care and rejuvenation.

We spoke to two cardiologists who shared how surgeries, long hours, snacks and lack of sleep take a toll on doctors' health.

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Dr Kaushal Chhatrapati, MD DM, FACC FSCAI FESC, Senior Interventional Cardiologist, Saifee Hospital, Cumballa Hill Hospital agrees that doctors need to pay heed to their own advice when it comes to lifestyle changes considering many of them are neither eating well or sleeping properly.

‘Unending cups of coffee, samosa snacks take a toll’

"Doctors, arguably are some of the smartest people on the planet. Having survived cut throat competitions and excelled, we would think they would be the most sensible souls. Especially when they have the knowledge to do so, wouldn't they take the best care of our bodies so as to lead a long, fruitful and disease-free life? However, when I carefully thought about the life of a typical doctor, I realised that we are notoriously famous for neglecting our own advice. Smoking is no less common amongst doctors than it is amongst general population. Neither is drinking. Good sleep is also rare amongst busy doctors. Doctors have extremely disordered eating schedules, as also a higher than normal consumption of junk food. The unending cups of coffee to 'remain alert' the Vada-pav, samosa snacks which we have in operation theatres, in lieu of lunch also takes their toll. I know a lot of doctors who have not had a health check up in years. Cholesterol, sugar, liver and kidney function are what we prescribe to be tested a dozen times a day, yet never bother to get it checked in our own self," says Dr Kaushal Chhatrapati, MD DM, FACC FSCAI FESC, Senior Interventional Cardiologist, Saifee Hospital, Cumballa Hill Hospital.

'I am unable to sleep a wink on the day I have done a life-saving angioplasty'

Dr Chhatrapati says stress is another elephant in the the room and doctors often struggle with finding time for rest and restoration.

"Between doing lifesaving surgeries, attending to hundreds of frantic calls in a day, to running from one hospital to another the stress hormones wreak a havoc in our bodies. I find myself 'buzzing' and unable to sleep a wink on the day I have done a life-saving angioplasty. These 'chronic stressors' also increase the chance of malignancy in doctors, by hampering the process of 'cellular repair'," says the expert.

Dr Chhatrapati agreed that doctors, especially in India are highly prone to premature death and until they change their lifestyle they continue to be at risk.

'We also feel low and depressive'

Dr Bipeenchandra Bhamre, Consultant Cardiac Surgeon at Sir H. N. Reliance Foundation Hospital and Research Centre in Mumbai says a doctor also has to cope with a lot of negativity and that can take a toll on them.

"You will be surprised to know sudden death is higher in doctors than the general population. We all know that doctors have to work in very odd hours, late in the night, most of the weekdays work for more than 14 to 16 hours per day the environment for doctors is very tough as they have to absorb a lot of negativity to bring hope for the patient and family. Although society normally reciprocates this dedicated behaviour of doctors for the welfare of society with a lot of respect for them. All the factors take a toll on doctors' health. We have to stand for long hours and do not get time to eat and also most of the time sleep is also disturbed. Doctors are also human beings. After witnessing the grief of the critical condition of patients, doctors also feel low and sometimes depressive. But they also have to attend the next patient with the same enthusiasm and hope," says Dr Bhamre.

Lifestyle changes for doctors

1. Practice what you preach. Eat healthy. Don't smoke. Don't drink excessively.

2. Exercise. Take time out for yourself and walk in a garden. Listen to music. Meditate.

3. Get your blood tests and health check-up done yearly. Treat cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes. Do not neglect your symptoms.

4. Sleep at least 8 hours a day. There is no substitute for sleep.

5. Money is fine, but graves have no banks. Take vacations. Spend time with family. Health is the greatest wealth.

"The health of the entire nation depends on us. But, to achieve that goal, first, we need to be healthy. As they say in an airplane safety briefing: We must first ensure to put on our own oxygen masks, before we help others," says Dr Chhatrapati.

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