By Dr S V N Vijayendra
Mysuru, May 15:- All of a sudden, during the last few months, many people have started to think of their health. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic caused by tiny novel coronavirus particles for diverting the thoughts of the public towards health. Although it killed around three lakh people globally in a short span of 4-5 months, it resulted in substantial economic loss to many individuals, companies, organisations, establishments and countries, etc., due to the implementation of lockdown and social isolation. It affected the mobility of people and goods. It also created panic in some areas and burdened government exchequer.
However, millions of deaths at the global level are happening every year due to various other diseases which are not noticed much by common people. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 54% of 56.9 million deaths in the world are due to top-10 diseases or causes. These are very much higher than the COVID-19 pandemic. These include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cancers, ischaemic heart disease, stroke, lower respiratory infections, diarrhoeal diseases, Alzheimer’s and other dementias, diabetes, road injury and tuberculosis.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation of the University of Washington, United States, has recently indicated that annually 17.79 million people are dying due to cardiovascular diseases alone. According to it, deaths due to other health causes include 9.56 million by cancers, 3.91 million by respiratory diseases, 2.56 million by lower respiratory infections, 2.51 million by dementia, 2.38 million by digestive diseases related to the digestive system, 1.78 million by neonatal disorders, 1.57 million by diarrhoeal diseases, 1.37 million by diabetes, 1.32 million by liver diseases, 1.23 million by kidney diseases, 1.18 million by tuberculosis, half a million deaths due to exposure to extreme heat and cold, 1.24 million deaths due to road injuries.
Thus, lifestyle diseases are the biggest killers of people than COVID-19. Unlike COVID-19, lifestyle diseases, however, have not created any panic in public, as these are not contagious and not burdened every one of the society. However, precautions and safety measures ought to be taken by every individual to avoid contacting with the COVID-19 during the post-lockdown period.
Interestingly, most of these diseases are termed as lifestyle diseases, i.e., the emanation of diseases due to change in the lifestyle of the people. Yes, the lifestyle of humanity is changing. Traditional foods are disappearing, and more and more people are moving towards processed, junk foods with high salt, fat, or sugar, leading to increased calories.
Deep (fat) fried foods are dominating than those traditionally cooked foods containing low fat or low sugars. Intake of calories has increased, and physical exercises have come down, leading to overweight, and obesity and its associated diseases like BP, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases. Increased consumption of red meat and reduced intake of vegetables leading to health issues associated with the digestive system.
Personal habits like smoking or consumption of other tobacco products or alcohol are damaging lungs, liver, and kidneys or causing cancers. Higher consumption of fossil fuels in automobiles and industries, burning wood, are releasing outdoor and indoor air pollutants causing environmental pollution, which is leading to respiratory diseases. All these factors, either directly or indirectly reduce immunity levels in the population. People keep on suffering when their immunity is lowered. The absence of sanitation and hygiene is also causing diseases, especially in low and middle-income countries. Drinking contaminated water is one of the main reasons for millions of deaths in many countries.
Healthy people and healthy societies
Nations require healthy people and healthy societies, as healthy societies are the backbone for development and prosperity. Economies will be at stake when the people are not healthy. Hence, it is the right time to focus on these aspects and motivate ourselves to improve the living conditions by following healthy personal and eating habits and keeping their weight under control. It is also time to pay attention to have a healthy environment around us and to follow the best hygienic practices to reduce disease burden on families, communities, and countries, either due to lifestyle diseases or contagious diseases like COVID-19.
(The writer is a regular contributor to City Today and Traffic Warden and member, City Traffic Advisory Committee, Mysuru)