Here’s another downside of IT City, Bengaluru with its glitzy malls and generous sprinkling of junk food outlets. While its expertise in Information Technology has put it on the world map, the long working hours that the industry demands and the resulting stress appear to be taking a toll on the health of its people. With their work demanding all their time, the techies especially seem to be reaching out more for junk food that is never too far away. And now doctors are concerned this lifestyle is throwing them open to a host of diseases caused by unhealthy eating and lack of exercise. They have reason to worry as The National Family Health Survey 2015-16 (NFHS-4), reveals 33.4 per cent of women in the city are either overweight or obese and 27.5 per cent of men are overweight. Also, 6.7 per cent of adult women and 11.7 per cent of adult men in Bengaluru suffer from hypertension (including the slightly above normal to very high) and 12.8 per cent of urban women and 13.4 per cent of urban men have high to very high blood sugar levels .
Says Ms Sherly Ganesh, dietitian, Columbia Asia Hospital, "There is a big trend of junk food eating among techies in the city. Half of those, who come for counselling, have either weight issues, or their blood pressure is on the higher side. Many women have problem conceiving because of their weight gain. Although their lifestyle is stressful and most say they have no time to cook, people should be sensible enough to know where to draw the line." In fact, obesity is now becoming such a huge problem in the city that Dr Tulip, Consultant Bariatric, Metabolic (Diabetes) and Laparoscopic Surgeon at Vikram Hospital, Bengaluru says he conducts some 20 bariatric surgeries a month. "We have some seven to eight obese patients walking into our OPD every day. And we conduct some four to five metabolic surgeries every month. These are done purely for metabolic purposes , which has three components , diabetes, hypertension and hypercholesterolemia, also called high cholesterol," she says. Adds Dr Arun Rawal, a physiotherapist from People Tree Hospitals, "It may look like there is a growing concern for health and fitness in the city because of the mushrooming of gyms, aerobics and other fitness centres, but the fact is there is only a small jump in people going for regular or rigorous physical activity every day and over half of Bengalureans still don’t do physical exercise on a regular basis.”
Warning that they could inviting trouble , he points out there is strong evidence to suggest that physical inactivity increases the risk of many non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as coronary heart disease (CHD), type 2 diabetes, and breast and colon cancers, and shortens life expectancy. “Because much of the world’s population is inactive, this presents a major public health problem," Dr Rawal laments. It’s not Bengalureans alone, who are at risk , however, as a study conducted by healthi, a digital preventive health startup, says that about 30 per cent of the country’s male population and 15 per cent of its female population under the age of 30 already have or are at a high risk of getting hypertension. As much as 21 per cent of India's men and nine per cent of women are at a high risk of diabetes. Also 11 per cent of women and 23 per cent of men have high cholesterol. The study found that 20 per cent of India’s population has a sedentary lifestyle and is therefore at a higher risk of getting coronary heart disease. Unfortunately, despite their poor lifestyle choices, people are not opting for regular health check-ups as they should be. Going by the survey, 91 per cent of women currently do not screen for cervical cancer and 88 per cent for breast cancer, although timely detection and treatment of both ailments can help save lives.
‘Exercise is not a chore, but a lifestyle choice’
“Unlike our forefathers, we are not in an era where we eat a healthy agro- based diet today. So people need to change their lifestyles and take care of themselves by reducing the intake of processed foods and additives. Exercise is not a chore, but a lifestyle choice," emphasises Dr Jyothsna Krishnappa, senior consultant and general physician, internal medicine, Apollo Hospital, Bengaluru. "An ideal plate of food should include the most important nutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, fat, vegetables , fruit , milk and water in appropriate proportions. This will prevent weight gain and in some cases help weight loss," says Dr Mahesh D M, consultant endocrinologist, Columbia Asia Hospital, Hebbal.
Dr Jyothsna believes that diet care should start early among children. “One of the best ways is to create awareness among teenagers and school children, who should be aware of the risks that come with lifestyle choices. Childhood obesity can be controlled, but it needs a lot of effort,” she observes. Her advice is timely as childhood obesity seems to be on the rise in the city. While revealing that almost every other patient in his hospital’s OPD is either overweight or obese, Dr Subramanian Kannan, head of the department of endocrinology at Narayana Health City, says, “Worryingly, this trend is increasing among children. Every doctor sees about 35 40 patients a day with either hypertension or diabetes mellitus (DM). So we have two endocrinologists and two diabetologists anytime in the outpatient department.”
Going by Dr Sumit Talwar, chairman, bariatric surgery, Manipal Hospitals obesity can no longer be considered a lifestyle disorder as it is now classified as a disease by the World Health Organisation. “Also, obesity cannot be blamed on just an inadequate exercise regime. There are various reasons , including genetic predisposition and other lifestyle issues. People should become more aware and try to lead a healthy lifestyle,” he stresses.
‘Daily habits responsible for damage’A lifestyle disease is caused by an individual’s daily habits. For instance, if a person doesn’t indulge in physical activity or has an unhealthy diet he could be prone to such diseases. But lifestyle diseases are different from others because they are potentially preventable, and can be tackled with changes in diet, lifestyle, environment, and taking of a Vitamin D supplement. They include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and diseases associated with smoking, drinking alcohol and over-dosing on drugs. Obesity is a huge culprit too as many life threatening ailments like diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer, which affect adults, are often a consequence of childhood obesity.
In fact, an unhealthy lifestyle and increased obesity are some of the major reasons why many suffer from non-communicable diseases today. Take diabetes, which is caused by high glucose levels in our blood. Sadly, India has the largest number of diabetics in the world and often to blame are obesity and imbalanced body nutrition. The good news is maintaining a proper body weight and adopting a healthy lifestyle can go a long way in preventing it and slowing its progression. Engaging in regular physical exercise like jogging, yoga, running and cycling can greatly help in managing it as well. Some lifestyle disorders are also induced by stress, which can lead to mental disability, alzheimer’s, arteriosclerosis and gastrointestinal problems. Unfortunately, people are aging faster today owing to their work stress. High blood pressure has now become common among many, who work long hours and lead stressful lives. The answer could be eating healthy and cutting down on alcohol and smoking.