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Lifestyle Diseases – Face the Hidden Factors or Perish

“We have for over a century been dragged by the prosperous West behind its chariot, choked by the dust, deafened by the noise, humbled by our own helplessness, and overwhelmed by the speed. We agreed to acknowledge that this chariot-drive was progress, and that progress was civilization. Of late, a voice has come to us bidding us to take count not only of the scientific perfection of the chariot but of the depth of the ditches lying across its path.” This talk is still relevant to-day when the so called Progress is widening the gap between haves and have nots. Based on its traditional wisdom, can India raise to occasion to build its own Model of Development in which everyone shares the fruits of the progress and disparity between rich and poor becomes narrower?”

(From the address delivered in China in the early twenties by Rabindranath Tagore)

Conventional medicine is based on treating clinical symptoms and not on elimination of root cause. Further, Thrust on prevention of disease has taken back seat in hi-tech driven modern medicine which is oiled by commerce making healthcare costly and not affordable by common citizens. Maximum budget is spent on reactive medicare delivery establishments, drugs and devices which are getting costlier day by day than preventive healthcare for communicable and non-communicable and lifestyle diseases. According to WHO, United States spends more on healthcare per capita ($8608) and as percentage of GDP (17.2%). However about 20% of the population cannot afford and are uninsured as reported in 2010 and thus does not have access to healthcare. This is the position in free market economy which developing countries can ill afford with more than 40% of the population living in poverty.
            Globalization of unhealthy lifestyles away from nature will lead to increased cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Tobacco accounts for almost 6 million deaths every year. About 3.2 million deaths annually can be attributed to insufficient physical activity. Approximately 1.7 million deaths are attributed to low fruit and vegetable consumption. In terms attributable deaths, the leading NCD risk factor globally is elevated blood pressure (to which 13% global deaths are attributed) followed  by tobacco use (9%), raised blood glucose (6%), physical inactivity (6%) and overweight and obesity (5%) (
                 World health statistics 2012 report puts the spotlight on the growing problem of the non communicable disease burden. It is estimated that mortality from diabetic and heart disease cost India about $210 billion every year and is expected to increase to $335 billion in the next ten years. The Harvard School of Public Health has, in a study on economic losses due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs), estimated that the economic burden of these ailments for India will be close to $6.2 trillion for the period 2012-30, a figure that is equivalent to nearly nine times the total health expenditure during the previous 19 years of $710 billion. According to a New York based think, the trends of heart diseases, cancer, diabetes and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in developing countries show that more people will get sick, suffer more and die young. NCDs will cost developing countries to the tune of $21.3 trillion over the next two decades.
            Obesity, stress, wrong food habits, lack of exercise, sedentary lifestyle are playing a major role in causing type 2 diabetes, hypertension and cardiac problems. Childhood and adult obesity have become endemic in developed and developing countries due to consumerism aggressively pursued by processed food industry with chemicals acting as slow poisons. Stress, a man made health problem is increasing due to competitive, fast moving and ambitious lifestyle.
            Known factors attributed for increased lifestyle diseases are excess body fat (obesity), sedentary lifestyle, poor eating habits (diet rich in calories and fats with low nutritional value), alcohol, smoking, irregular sleep pattern, lack of physical activity or exercise, anxiety and stress due to ambitious, competitive & fast life broadly termed as westernized lifestyle which is infecting the affluent in developing world too. Interesting study was conducted questioning whom to blame for the rise in obesity (Appetite 2013; 68:14-20). Out of (1) Food manufacturers, (2) Grocery stores,        (3) Restaurants, (4) Govt. policies, (5) Farmers, (6) Individuals and (7) Parents, the authors report interestingly that 80% seem to have said individuals to be blamed while the next most (58%) blame worthy group as parents. It does not appear to tell the true story. It is time to recognize the hidden factors or the real culprits for elevation in lifestyle diseases namely industrial farming, chemical fertilizers, indiscriminate use of antibiotics & insecticides, processed and chemically polluted junk foods, environmental pollution, consumerist culture and deceptive advertising and marketing. The processed foods rightly called junk foods polluted with number of food additives and chemical supplements such as sulphites, nitrates, synthetic flavours, artificial sweeteners, phosphates, silicates etc as preserving, stabilizing, flavouring, antioxidation and thickening agents are far from safe and are responsible for increased health problems allergy, asthma and affecting immunity. A global epidemic of obesity is brought by the fast foods with refined sugars, oils and more consumption of fats. The soft drinks are nothing but chemical cocktails with zero nutrients. One CEO of a multinational confidently said that children and teenagers are their targets. Once they are addicted, the business will thrive without interruption. 
Mobile phone epidemic or mobile mania with addictive nature is over taking TV and further isolating the people, in particular the children and teens cornered to their individual nests affecting social connection and communication. Prof. Girish Kumar in his elegant review on radiation hazards from cell phones / cell towers, brings out common features between cell phones and cigarettes of 21st century. Both are produced by Multi-Billion $ companies products are linked to illness and industries deny many health problems.  John Kenneth Galbraith in his famous book, Affluent Society, seems to have written that advertisement is not to inform the buyer about the product, but to make him want to buy that product even when it is not needed. Repeated advertisement with announcement of ‘Sale’, monthly EMIs etc. is actually brain washing and refined cheating, playing a huge role in promoting conspicuous consumption. We are being force-fed by the handful of global corporations that make consumer – focused products from processed foods (instant variety), electronic goods to automobiles to change to new version or accumulate After Second World war capitalism encouraged industrialization and commerce for rapid growth without control or regulation leading to crony capitalism (self serving behavior by business or business people spill over into politics and government). Industrialization (factory farming, antibiotics, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, processed food, automobile, liquor, cigarettes, electronic gadgets, plastics etc.) helped in more productivity and economic prosperity of western world at the cost of social responsibility to society and concern to environment (food, air and water pollution) with limited earth’s resources.
            Rabindranath Tagore’s speech is still relevant to-day for control of lifestyle diseases. Developing countries in the name of growth of economy can only accept crony capitalism and consumerism at their peril which will not provide justice to all citizens. Based on its traditional wisdom, our country should develop our own nature friendly sustenance model based on moderation with concern to nature and environment.
Yoga (Science of Holistic Living) based lifestyle is an old traditional and spiritual way of living for prevention and management of chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, asthma, obesity, neuromuscular and psychiatric illnesses. Yoga in addition to physical postures and breathing techniques to tune the body, includes meditation which helps in control of mind and blissful living. Yoga’s ability to reduce stress, elevate immunity and improve the quality of life is well recognized.
Yoga based lifestyle (YOGism) may be simply described as simple living and positive & spiritual thinking with regularity in food & exercise, devotion and commitment to the task undertaken, yogasana, Pranayama and meditation at least 30 min in a day for integration of Body-Mind-Soul, contented life with service to the needy community. 
               December  30, 2014                                                                        Prof. B.C. Harinath