The life has always been tough. It’s full of struggles, conflicts, and problems of varied nature. We are physically and mentally very fragile and sensitive. Moreover, uncertainty and vulnerability of life prevails all the time. Despite scientific and technological revolutions that humanity has witnessed especially over last few decades has in fact changed our life style, ironically for our own disadvantage. Life has become more interesting and comfortable, with greater wealth, various avenues of entertainment, pleasurable goods and activities. Life expectancy has also improved tremendously due to far better medical interventions and facilities but health and quality of life has not improved. In fact, we are facing a big challenge as far as diseases and illnesses, born out of the life style, we lead. We are increasingly killing ourselves because of the way we live in modern age.
According to one study, for every year of added life that has achieved in last 30 years, only 10 months is healthy’. Nearly half of the people aged 50 or more suffer from some chronic illness or disability. In this way, we are adding more years to our life but these additional years are not necessarily healthy.As we become older, we get more prone to serious illnesses which generally lead to death. In developed countries, 75% of deaths from cancer, 90% from pneumonia, 90% from flue and 80% from all causes occur in people 65 years of age or older (Bill Bryson in The Body, 2019). We should remember that no one dies from ‘old age’. We die from some illness like heart stroke, organs failures, cancer etc.
We live in sub-optimal health: We humans are highly prone to fall ill. We can potentially suffer from 315 types of diseases and injuries. Besides, there can be around 250 causes of death. Every day, 1.51,000 people (56 million in a year) die in the world. About 20% of all deaths are sudden because of heart stroke or fatal accident. Another 20% people die after short illnesses. Remaining 60% of total deaths are as a result of long illness or protracted decline. More importantly, we lose about 31% of healthy life due to various diseases. The maximum health loss is due to lower back pain, depression, neck pain, dental issue and hearing loss. People living in sub-optimal health are increasing steadily. Majority of these diseases are the by-product of unhealthy way of living.
On the other hand, studies have established that we can increase our lifespan even up to 10 to 15 years. It means we can live longer by 15 to 20 %, depending upon the choices we make about our health. How seriously we take our mental and physical health on day by day basis, is the pertinent question? It’s all a matter of self-control and discipline we exercise over our life style. As life expectancy increases, we live longer but this increase in lifespan is not ‘healthy’. We also die long deaths. We spend more money and more time in hospitals and ICUs. We tend to see old people living in prolong illness. Fear of death and the process of dying make many elderly people beg for early death. This is the reason that our last wish is to experience a ‘good death’.
Our life style is killing us: It’s interesting to know that now in present day world, more people die from non-communicable diseases like diabetes, heart diseases, cancer etc. Comparatively, very few people die of infectious diseases, due to bacteria, viral and fungal infections. Nearly one hundred years back, the top 3 causes of death were infectious diseases i.e. pneumonia and flu, tuberculosis, and gastrointestinal infections. Now the leading causes of death in modern age are cardiovascular disease, lung and respiratory diseases, cancer, diabetes and obesity. These are called life style diseases, which are affecting around 75% of the population.
Our life style has become like that. We live with inadequate physical activity, bad eating habits, sedentary life, high mental stress, air pollution and smoking. These are new world maladies. We are therefore killing ourselves. We exercise little self-discipline and self-control over our life style.
Temptations of unhealthy things in life: To resist pleasurable and unhealthy foods and other things is an extremely difficult task. Every day in our life, we face problem about resisting the temptation of tasty but unhealthy food, excess use of pleasurable goods and activities like watching porn, taking drugs, consuming alcohol or smoking. It’s extremely difficult to avoid these pleasurable and tempting things but at the same time, damaging for our wellbeing. We continue to pass resolutions and make promises to ourselves to avoid or minimize these alluring things but most of the time we fail. Our willpower is not strong enough to resist such temptations in life.
All of these temptations like smoking, taking alcohol, drugs and eating tasty but harmful food items result from a phenomenon known as delay discounting. The consequences that may arise in future are discounted compared to immediate ones. At young age, to remain physically fit is a future goal but eating unhealthy food items like French fries, burger, coke and doughnut is an instant pleasure. So, they are for instant sensual gratification.
To remain healthy, we can’t afford to ignore 3 things; first, to be physically active, second, to eat balanced and healthy food and last, to sleep well.
To be physically active: The first and the foremost requirement for longevity is that we remain active throughout life. One undisputed fact about the modern lifestyle is that we humans are becoming less and less active. The majority still don’t move or walk sufficiently during the day. Insufficient physical activity is a leading risk for many lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes, heart and lung diseases, and cancer, and has a negative effect on mental health and quality of life.
Healthy and balanced diet: Researchers are now reaching to a conclusion that diet is arguably the most important predictor of long-term health and well-being. This is because of the fact that most of the major health problems are connected with the food we eat. Almost everyone’s health can improve if people follow a good healthy diet. There are innumerable studies supporting this conclusion.
Sleep deprivation is highly harmful: The recommendation for adults is at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night and for children 10 hours of sleep every night. However, the population does not get enough sleep. The prevalence of sleep disorders in India is high. Sleep deprived people are less effective in making quality decisions and are more likely to experience distress, develop obesity and are more likely to get coronary heart disease.
To conclude: Thanks to the evolutionary process based on ‘survival of the fittest’, human body has been designed and evolved in such a way to exhibit extraordinary strength, flexibility, and adaptability. This body can live beyond 115 years of age. The body has a vast potential to survive under extreme adversities and even after being misused and overused to a great extent. Internal healing system is extremely powerful. To completely protect against external and harmful agents like bacteria, virus, fungus etc, we can potentially create a strong immunity system. What’s badly needed is healthy life style – the way we live and interact with mother nature.