Do you know? A very small percent of the health outcomes in India is directly related to the clinical care that we receive i.e., the quality of the doctors or medical infrastructure etc., the remaining large percent is directly related to our personal Health Behaviors, Socioeconomic Factors, and most importantly to the Physical Environment around us. So, the chronic disease epidemic that has really taken a toll on humans in the last 50 years including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, dementia, cancer, these things can be attributed to the cumulative affect of all the lifestyle choices that we make every day. For the most part, these diseases happen by choice not by chance. And unfortunately, all the medicines and procedures we go through to combat them, might slow down the impending disability and disease but its rarely is able to bring us back to the state of complete resilience and well-being. But What if we could change the game and create a way that can bring both along health span and lifespan?
Our young generation is suffering from obesity and cardiovascular problems so much so that they cannot even run a lap around a gym without getting out of breath, and they are already well on their way to a lifetime of chronic disease just because of the lifestyle choices and social norms that are surrounding them. So, when they are told to drink less sugary drinks, eat more fruits and vegetable, participate in physical activity for 60 mins a day, it turns out to be ineffective. Especially compared to the tsunami of convincing messages that they are exposed to everyday in our society, asking them and urging them to eat junk, to exercise less, and consume as much digital content as possible. These choices turn out to be slow poison if we see clearly.
According to a study, there are four simple lifestyle factors,
1. If a person has a BMI less than 30, it means that person is not obese.
2. If that person smokes,
3. If that person engages in at least 30 min of physical activity a day and last
4. If that person eats a predominantly planned diet that has fruits, vegetable and wholegrains and has low red meat consumption.
So, any person who is able to follow all four of these factors has a decrease of risk of any chronic disease by 80%. And to a surprise there is no medicine or pills in any medical history that can decrease the level of any chronic disease by 80%. But only about 5 to 10% of people in India follow a healthy lifestyle in fact most of citizens don’t even know what is a heathy lifestyle for them. But why?
Well, it turns out Lifestyle choices are contagious very similar to a virus, so we are likely to pursue the same types of habits and activities that those who are around us are also engaged in. For example: If you hang out with someone who eats junk every day, you are likely to accompany them and that becomes your habit too, whereas if you hangout with a gym trainer or any person who exercise more you are likely to do the same. This is the power of social nudges which means that most people in a group will follow along with what the rest of the group is doing.
So, basically, we have to keep in check out lifestyle choices in order to live longer and heathier. These lifestyle choices can be distilled down to the way we move, what we eat, how we handle stress, and whether or not we feel a sense of purpose in life. We have to have a default of choices that can increase wellbeing and decrease diseases. If we chose to change our habits a lot can change. For example: 8 out of the top 10 disease that kill us are actually directly impacted by our lifestyle choices.
So, we certainly don’t need to wait for a new pill or a new study to cure this chronic epidemic of diseases. We can cure them with tools that we already know to be effective like food, physical activity, social connection, stress reduction, restorative sleep we can create our neighborhoods, schools and workplaces to nudge us into the type of lifestyle choices that nourish us, instead of causing us damage.
Written by : Anindita Aich