What is the biggest killer in the world? It is not smoking or alcohol, but bad and calorie-heavy food. “Bad, unhealthy food kills more people than terrorism does. And Indians are genetically prone to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as obesity, hypertension, stroke and diabetes which are silent killers,” said Dr Umesh Khanna, a leading nephrologist in Mumbai who has done over 250 renal transplants. As Project Coordinator of Jeevan Sparsh, an NGO, he is one of the architects of Project Positive Health: Stop NCDs that aims to control the epidemic arising from unhealthy food and sedentary lifestyles.
Speaking at the Connect with Health session at the Rotary Institute, Indore, Khanna, also the Founder- chairman of Mumbai Kidney Foundation, said one in every three Indian adults is obese now and the country will have an estimated 17 million obese children, comprising 90 per cent of their population by 2025. Globally, 41 million people die of NCDs in a year, accounting for 71 per cent of all deaths, according to WHO. In India, NCDs account for 60 per cent of all deaths as the average daily consumption of salt, sugar and oil exceeds more than the WHO prescribed levels. “There is a nothing called sudden cardiac arrest, it takes years for such a fatal attack on the body and you are solely responsible for it,” he said.
An estimated 25 per cent of Indians have high BP and about 20 per cent have higher than acceptable sugar levels. “What is alarming is that most of them, especially in rural areas, don’t know that they suffer from such risk factors leading to NCDs,” he said. India cannot afford this epidemic and hence, Rotary has taken the Stop NCD Project which is aimed to reverse this dangerous trend. “Rotary has the reach, ability and depth of penetration to take up the NCD challenge. While creating awareness, it is also taking up capacity building and in an advocacy role with the government, has called for making food labelling mandatory,” he explained.
Rotary has the reach, ability and depth of penetration to take up the NCD challenge.
— Dr Umesh Khanna
In a panel discussion, Dr Hemal Shah, Secretary, Mumbai Nephrology Group, broke some of the prevailing myths such as taking medicine for BP is enough and young people will not suffer from high BP (>140/90). “You have to check BP level regularly as symptoms might not be visible. If left untreated, high BP damages organs, leads to stroke, vision loss and multiple complications.”
Dr Zamurrud M Patel, HoD, Diabetes Department, Global Hospitals, Mumbai, called for a healthy diet rich in vitamins and nutrients. “Instead of binging on your favourite food, eat moderately at regular intervals of time. Avoid smoking and alcohol, and exercise daily.” All packed or processed foods are harmful as they have preservatives with hidden salts and other ingredients that increase the risk factors for NCDs.
Diabetes is a silent killer, and 50 per cent of diabetics are unaware of their condition until they test positive in medical camps or health check-ups, said Dr Sandeep Julka, Endocrinologist, CHL Hospital, Indore. No time for exercise is an invitation for diseases. “What is alarming is that even children are getting Type-II diabetes, which is on the rise in the last 18 years. If both the parents are diabetics, then their children have a 50 per cent chance of getting this disorder; and if a single parent is diabetic, the children have a 25 per cent chance to have high blood sugar. On an average, diabetics lose six years of their life due to excess blood sugar,” he said.
On obesity, Dr Hemal Shah said that a BMI (body mass index) of over 25 comes under obesity, while 23–25 makes you overweight. “Around 30 lakh people die due to obesity-related disorders in the world and 20 per cent of all cancers are caused by excess fat tissues.”
In his closing remarks, RID Bharat Pandya said all the four panellists have suggested some well-meaning steps for a disease-free life, “unlike businessmen who make profit at the cost of people’s health.” PRID Manoj Desai felicitated the doctors.
Picture by V Muthukumaran