– Anurradha Prasad
(CMD and Editor-in-Chief, News24)
In Goswami Tulsidas’ Ramcharitmanas, there is a verse that goes: “In the reign of Lord Rama during the Treta Yuga, there was no physical illness, divine calamity, or economic distress; in other words, no one suffered.” But have you ever wondered what kind of life people lived back then, that allowed them to remain free from diseases? Or whether there existed such a period in the first place? This is a subject of research, but a document written thousands of years ago, Ayurveda, provides proof that India was deeply aware of a superior healthcare system. The same India today faces a health crisis, with over 1.4 billion people.
Politicians are discussing caste divisions, Hindu-Muslim issues, nationalism, freebies, and free medicines. However, there is a lack of honest debate about the rapid increase in diseases in India. Some are falling ill due to excessive salt intake, others are losing their happiness to sugar, and some are suffering from sleep deprivation. Some are so engrossed in their smartphones that they feel isolated from their families and friends. In India, millions are nurturing severe illnesses that are prematurely aging them and becoming a major cause of untimely death. In light of this, I have decided to discuss four invisible diseases in India today, which have become a time bomb for the country’s large population.
The ‘Invisible Adversaries’ of Indian Health
I am calling them the ‘Invisible Enemies of Indian Health’ because many diseases don’t manifest directly. Their symptoms become evident gradually, but some diseases silently infiltrate the body and start affecting vital organs without any noticeable signs. By the time the body realizes it’s sick, it’s often too late. The causes of these invisible diseases are sometimes being explored in changing lifestyles, dietary habits, or increasing competition-induced stress. It’s also challenging to determine how many people in India are struggling with such invisible illnesses. First on this list is High Blood Pressure, commonly known as BP. Globally, one in three individuals has hypertension, and among them, half aren’t even aware of their condition. Many people in rural or remote areas dismiss BP symptoms as minor headaches and attempt home remedies with cooling oils. According to the 2019 World Health Organization data, there are 188 million hypertensive patients in India. In the last thirty years, the number of people with high blood pressure has doubled.
Salt, Sugar, Or Lifestyle?
Are changes in lifestyle contributing to the rising prevalence of hypertension? Furthermore, why has every fifth Indian residing in villages become a patient of high blood pressure? A significant factor in this phenomenon is the habit of excessive salt consumption. According to the WHO, every individual should consume less than 5 grams of salt daily. However, in India, every person uses more than 8 grams of salt in their diet on a daily basis. In essence, the excessive use of salt beyond necessity is also placing a significant portion of the country’s population at risk of high blood pressure.
Similarly, in India, 11 out of every 100 individuals have diabetes, and 15 out of every 100 have prediabetes. The rapid increase in the number of diabetes patients in the country has earned India the title of the ‘Diabetic Capital of the World’.
When sugar level rises in the body, it has a detrimental impact on the kidneys, heart, lungs, pancreas, and eyes. If sugar levels are not controlled in a timely manner, diabetes gradually hollows out the human body. In India, the rapidly increasing number of diabetes patients prompts doctors to search for causes, sometimes in lifestyle changes, and other times in dietary habits. Diabetes is becoming increasingly prevalent in India, even among children who are seen carrying instant noodles and bread jam in their lunchboxes.
You may have often heard people say that someone sleeps only for four hours, another student studies for 20 hours daily, and yet another businessman remains active with just 5 hours of sleep. However, the reality is that insufficient sleep is a serious concern. One significant reason behind poor sleep is stress. In today’s competitive world, everyone is striving hard to establish themselves and move forward. Consequently, people’s sleep is decreasing naturally due to their concerns about the present and future.
Nevertheless, it is also a fact that for a healthy body, seven to nine hours of sleep is essential. The constant lack of sleep may lead to various serious health issues. For example, depression, anxiety, and irritability are common consequences of not getting enough sleep. After the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of people with mental health issues in the country.
Mental Illness Still a Taboo
According to an estimate, one out of every seven children in India is experiencing depression. However, despite significant changes in children’s behavior in our country, the notion of considering it a mental health issue has not yet fully developed. People hesitate to take children to psychiatrists for treatment.
In our society, there is a habit of concealing mental illnesses, and not recognizing them as serious conditions. However, in the rapidly changing social and economic landscape, mental health issues should not be underestimated; they demand significant attention. It is essential to understand that depression, among other mental health disorders, has a profound connection with physical ailments like high blood pressure, diabetes, insomnia, and mental disorders. These conditions interact within a person’s body, influencing and exacerbating each other’s effects.
Most individuals struggling with depression and other mental health issues often believe that they do not require treatment. The virtual world, including smartphones, tablets, and laptops, plays a significant role in affecting the mental health of children. Internet and gadgets have inundated young minds with an overwhelming amount of content and culture, making it challenging to navigate for a young child’s developing mind. Additionally, the rapidly increasing competition and pressure to achieve higher scores in exams are burdening their minds. This leads to feelings of isolation, anger, irritability, and changes in communication patterns among them. There is also a noticeable shift in children’s sleep patterns, with some sleeping less and others sleeping excessively. In this context, mental illnesses are gradually creeping into the lives of people from children to the elderly. It is crucial to note that there is a deep connection between high blood pressure, diabetes, insomnia, and mental disorders.
In a world that is changing swiftly, people are adopting lifestyles that may expose them to unseen diseases. In such a scenario, it is necessary to explore ways to prepare a defence within the body against these hidden illnesses. Because only healthy citizens can contribute to their families, society, and their country’s development.