“A Way Forward For Catastrophic Emergence Of Opportunistic Diseases In Kashmir”

|| SHEIKH UMAR AHMAD

          People in Kashmir are predisposed to various diseases based on their changing way of lifestyle and occupational habits. There occurrence is primarily based on daily habits and are a result of an adverse relationship of people with their environment. The onset of these lifestyle diseases is insidious, they take years to develop, and once encountered do not lend themselves easily to cure. The main factors contributing to the lifestyle diseases include bad food habits, physical inactivity, wrong body posture, and disturbed biological clock.

          Some of the common lifestyle diseases include, Arteriosclerosis, cancer, chronic liver disease/cirrhosis, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and stroke. OLD’s (hereafter referred to as occupational lifestyle diseses) include those caused by the factors present in the vicinity like heat, sound, dust, fumes, smoke, cold, and other pollutants. people in Kashmir usually work at places requiring low workforce & non strenous type of type, predisposing them to sedentary mode of life style. These factors in concensus and changing food patterns lead to various types of opportunistic lifestyle diseases as we see from rising patient outloads suffering from OLD’s.

          There is corroborative evidence that diet and lifestyle is playing a major role in predisposition to various diseases like cancer, gives us an indication that this might be a catalytic factor for rising cancer incidences in Kashmir. With the advent of western culture in kashmir, both lifestyle & diet patterns changed substantially in the last couple of decades with increase in the consumption of junk foods and alcoholic beverages, and decrease in consumption of starchy staple foods. Other aspects of lifestyle also changed notably, with large reductions in physical activity and prevalence of obesity.

           Latest medical research suggest that environmental or lifestyle factors rather than genetic factors are the key determinants of the international variation in cancer rates. With advancement of lifestyle, we have become dependent on technology and gadgets which directly have an impact on our health. Workers classified as heavy computer users were more likely to be long-sighted (hypermetropia) or short-sighted (myopia). Regular spending of lot of time in front of computer leads to neck and back pain because body adapt to take on this frequent activity. The heat generated by laptops kept on the lap of males cause decrease in sperm count. Other extensively used gadget is mobile phone which is supposed to be a culprit for a number of diseases and ailments, although its adverse effects on humans are yet to be established and validated.

          Research conducted on animals in different countries has established a number of adverse effects of mobile phone radiation like low fertility, reduction in attention and memory, increase in reaction time, leakage in blood-brain barrier, sleep disturbances, headache, ringing in the ears, hearing disturbances and much more. People working in night shifts, though they are very small in number in context to kashmiri population, but encounter long hours of sleeplessness due watching TV and spending lot of time on personal computer’s, followed by insufficient sleeping cycle, witness a disturbed biological clock leading to insomnia, indigestion, acidity, loss of appetite, headache, irritability, hypertension, mood fluctuations and body pain. Alteration in the circadian rhythm of a person compromises his immunity, further leading to various opportunistic diseases.

             The western lifestyle in Kashmir, characterized by convenience food, TV and PCs, is taking its toll on children as well as adults, and is producing increased numbers of overweight, passive youngsters with lifestyle diseases and under efficient performances. Kids spending too much time in front of TV or PCs, should be encouraged to take part in physical sports or activity they enjoy. Exercises should be encouraged into family outings, instead of late hour movie watching’s and spending leisure time at pizza huts. A diet of only junk food, overeating and lack of physical activity are not only responsible for diseases related to nutrition, but also anorexia nervosa, which involves many people starving themselves for maintaining their figure. This type of disease is now more prevalent in Kashmir negatively inspired from fashion and showbiz industry.

             A healthy lifestyle must be adopted to combat these diseases with a proper balanced diet, physical activity and by giving due respect to biological clock. To decrease the ailments caused by occupational postures, one should avoid long sitting hours and should take frequent breaks and outings for stretching or for other works involving physical movements. In this revolutionized era, we cannot stop doing the developmental work by using our brains for innovative outputs, but this should not be at the cost of our health that will lead to situation of catastropic emergence for no one at our rescue. We can certainly reduce the emergence of opportunistic diseases by incorporating these simple and effective remedial measures to our lives.

“Author is PG in Biotechnology and Gold Medalist from BGSB University Rajouri and currently at CSIR – Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine Jammu (J&K) as Medical Research Scholar, working on Cancer Biology & therapeutic interventions in skin molecular carcinogenesis”.

He can be reached at : biotechumar@ gmail.com.