Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The lifestyle diseases

Way back in the 1970s or even before, every one walked to the office, perhaps, except for a few heads of departments.

Let’s go back a few years earlier. We, who are today in a comfortable position, had never heard of our parents having the problems that we are suffering from. It is indeed a sad state of affair.

Is it so? There was time when our people used to drink down three to four mugs of suja and a meal that contained a piece of pork pah, if not more, strewn with other vegetables.

But then, of course, they went down to the summer field to harvest the crop or went up the mountains to check on the herds. In retrospect, life sounds romantic and one thing no one realizes is that it is also tough. Go to plough the field or even dig a vegetable garden.

That’s how they burned their energy. They collected manure to spread on their field. They went to the forest to collect firewood and shogshing for the winter. If an animal was lost they walked the mountains to look for it.

They again went often to the mountains to collect mushrooms.

But they never collected cholesterol. Diabetes was never heard of. High blood pressure? They died more of hard work feeding us than high blood pressure.

Now, the old adage: all studies no play makes Jack a dull boy should be rephrased to Old people, no work should now start exercising. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily is limited to old people. This applies to many a young and middle aged people who lead a sedentary life.

What do the latest reports say? That 93.1 percent of the people are prone to what is known as lifestyle diseases. Well, at least we were not aware that somebody suffered from high blood pressure and diabetes in the olden times. We never ended up with cholesterol when we were working in the rice fields.

Ironically, it is not the men or women who have to chase the cows in the mountains who are falling ill or succumbing to high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and other diseases. These are diseases that are known as lifestyle diseases in other modern societies.

More than anywhere else, it is true of Bhutan.

High level of drinking and smoking, and of course unbalanced diet, wherein our intake of vegetable is reported to be low, is reported to be the culprit. That is right. At one time we lived off the land. It provided us with everything that we ever wanted.

Drinking has been reported as the biggest culprit, and of course smoking. There was a time when drinking took place only on social occasions, and smoking was a luxury. The survey only covers Thimphu and drinking is obviously high here in the capital. We have more alcohol shops than tea or coffee joints. Perhaps except for shops operated by cobblers and shoemakers, every second shop has a signboard that says: Hotel-cum-bar,Grocery and bar, or general store-cum bar. That is the beauty; you may not get a good coffee but you will get booze.

Yes, we have also been talking about alcohol and drugs and how harmful they are. We all know about it without the government spending so much money into it. Somewhere along the line, something hasn’t clicked. Somewhere between the preaching and practice, something has to be done.

There might come a time when many of our overweight or those afflicted with high blood pressure or cholesterol may not have to walk all the way up to Sangaygang every morning.

But then lifestyle is something that doesn’t change overnight.

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