Let’s not let diabetes and hypertension turn into an epidemic
The news has come as a bad piece. Extremely bad. It’s an impending disaster for all of us.
A national survey has just said that some 30 million Bangladeshis aged 18 and above were hypertensive, with blood pressure levels above 90 and 140, and 11 million of the same age group suffered from high blood sugar. This means one out of ten is diabetic, and one out of four suffers from high blood pressure.
What could be more worrisome than these statistics? What will it be like in 2030? Given the nature of our current lifestyle, I believe there will be a sharp increase in the number of diabetic patients, as well as of people with high blood pressure.
Health experts have attributed this alarming situation to our poor food habits and lack of exercise. They are right.
If we compare our food habits with those of about 30 years ago, we observe a massive change. In the 60s or in the 70s, our food was simple. We had simple food even during the 80s. However, with the advent of the 90s, there was a paradigm shift in our food culture, especially in the urban areas. We turned to fast food, which has been termed as junk food across the world. We suddenly became so happy with various kinds of fries and sweet-based food items.
We did have a culture of eating sweets, I believe, for centuries, but the history of having oily and sugary food items is very recent. Our urban areas have become flooded with eating-out junctions such as restaurants, bakers, pastry shops, and cafes.
If we analyze how we spend our leisure hours, we observe that we only eat out. We gather at cafes, restaurants, and fast food joints, and eat all kinds of sugary and deep-fried foods. The use of sugar in our food has increased alarmingly. Chefs across the country are now using sugar in most of our dishes.
I even found sugar in meat curries, soup, and different kinds of bhortas. We have surprisingly developed a notion that sugar makes our dishes tastier.
The sugars that we use in our food are the refined ones. The refined sugar, according to health experts, doesn’t have any nutrition; it only has calories. The nutrition is extracted from sugar for making it attractive to consumers. In the past, we only had a few sugar-producing mills in the country. Now, we have many. We also import sugar.
We have also introduced energy drinks, which we are consuming without realizing the consequences of drinking them. People go crazy to drink sugar-based carbonated beverages.
If we prepare a list of what we eat all day, we see that sugar-based and deep-fried food items dominate our consumption. Imagine that a person who consumes five to six cups of tea in a day; with tea, he or she also consumes five spoonfulls of sugar.
We’re consuming this deadly poison as food, without even knowing the impact of it. We believe that sugar is only harmful when we become diabetic. This is such a wrong belief. We don’t realize that with every intake of sugar, we’re losing the strength of our pancreas and liver. We need to understand that like meat, oil, and alcohol, sugar is also a difficult item to consume; a human body needs extra strength to digest sugar.
The lack of physical activity has added to our misery. In the past, we had playgrounds across the country. In the past, people played games; they walked while commuting. But with the increase in the number of motorized and non-motorized vehicles, we have lost our habit of walking. We hire a rickshaw to cross even a distance of half a kilometre.
We don’t want to focus on physical exercise that may reduce the risk of picking up hypertension or diabetes. We only start physical exercise when we pick up these diseases. There are millions of people who don’t even know that they are suffering from diabetes or high blood pressure.
Physicians do advise us to pick up the habit of physical exercise, but we don’t listen to their advice. We believe we are too busy with our daily work to spare time for physical exercise. But we don’t realize that the lack of it is killing us.
Let me humbly suggest a few activities for people who have hypertension and diabetes, or for those who are on the borderline to acquiring these diseases.
Learning and practicing pranayam or breathing exercises can relieve us from high blood pressure and our daily tension. Yes, it is guaranteed that our blood pressure will go away if we practise pranayam regularly. Just spare ten minutes for yourself, and that will keep you safe from hypertension. Trust me.
We must stop consuming sugar, sugar-based, and deep-fried food items. We’re already consuming quite a lot of sugar when we’re having rice or roti. And all those shingaras, samosas, and chicken fries are absolute junk for a human body. Kindly stay away from those.
Finally, there’s no alternative to physical exercise. This is a must for everyone to remain healthy. This is not something that we may start tomorrow; we must start it today.
The state of our hypertension and diabetes is bleak. If we don’t change ourselves, we’re bound to witness an epidemic of these diseases very soon.
Ekram Kabir is a story-teller. His other works can be found on ekramkabir.com.