Unhealthy diets and lifestyles are making Karnataka's population vulnerable to a host of fatal illnesses. A study published in a recent issue of The Lancet, the highly respected medical journal, says that the state's population is at high risk of contracting major illnesses including cardiovascular diseases and kidney dysfunction. The study investigated the disease burden affecting each state in the country in terms of Disability Adjusted Life Year (DALY) or years of healthy life that are lost to disease. It found that between 1990 and 2016, Karnataka lost 3,892 DALYs or healthy years to ischemic heart disease, far more than the national average of 3,062. Its loss of DALYs to sensory organ diseases, diabetes, chronic kidney disease and self-harm were 1,123, 1,202, 677 and 1,522, exceeding the national average of 1,023, 792, 583 and 884 for these diseases respectively. The study found that Karnataka has high rates of metabolic risk factors such as high blood pressure, blood sugar levels and cholesterol levels, as well as behavioural risk factors. These make a person vulnerable to contracting cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and kidney dysfunction. Karnataka also exceeds the national average in terms of occupational and environmental risk factors. Indeed, it stands second in the country with regard to the severity of these risk factors.
Non-communicable diseases not only reduce the quality of life but also these shorten our lifespans and impose a heavy burden on the family budget as well. As the incidence of these diseases increase, the strain they impose on the national economy is also rising. It is important therefore that we learn to identify and address these risk factors before they spiral out of control. It is possible to recognise metabolic risk factors; people who are obese or have a large amount of abdominal fat are at risk of developing diabetes, stroke and cardiovascular diseases. But a skinny person could become diabetic, too, underscoring the need for regular medical check-ups to prevent the disease from going undetected and posing a threat to the life of the person.
Fortunately, it is possible for us to manage metabolic, behavioural and environmental risk factors. Metabolic disorders, for instance, can be managed by avoiding processed and junk food, trans fats, refined carbohydrates, sugar and alcohol. Regular exercise is useful to kickstart our metabolism. Schools need to teach children about nutrition and exercise so that healthy eating and exercising become a way of life. While awareness of diet and exercise has grown in recent years, many youngsters are driven by the idea of becoming thin rather than the importance of living healthy. Near-starvation diets and excessive exercise are causing new deficiencies and diseases.