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Diseases associated with advancements in technology

Lately, I have been thinking about the technological advancement the world is undergoing and the attached transforming lifestyles to it. Having witnessed the 90’s era which was not as technologically advanced as compared to today’s age, many questions often surround me regarding impacts of modern habits on our health. The purpose of this blog is to have an overview of such issues keeping in mind the feelings of people having different backgrounds.

Today, Overuse of Smartphones, Tablets and Playstations etc have proved to be a worrying factor for society. In Middle East, every other person is busy using mobile phones most of the time. At airports, earlier practices such as healthy conversations between passengers of diverse backgrounds or book reading have been replaced with activities such as operating smart phones etc. As a result, our eye sights, nerves and emotional characteristics are changing. Only future research will unearth the effects of using these objects crazily.

In Middle East, the people are used to luxury and an easy lifestyle. Junk food and soft drinks are commonly consumed. As a result; people often feel fatigue and dizziness and find themselves suffering from diabetes, obesity and cholesterol related diseases. In Pakistan, people are very less health conscious and spend minimum time thinking about their diet and workout activities. Food feast is a main outing attraction in which having a balanced diet is not given any care. When a health related issue is diagnosed, often it’s too late.

Most of us must have witnessed our elders used to be relaxed and less occupied as compared to us during their employment period and hence carried better health. Today, we see frequent periods of extreme pressure to deliver our tasks in a shorter amount of time. The fear of being fired also causes anxiety time and again. I have personally observed people’s hair turning grey and their faces turning haggard in no time due to job anxiety. This brings minor strokes to major infirmity to working individuals.

Pakistan used to produce world class players, a good 20 years back due to numerous sporting facilities and gaming activities of our young generation. Now, with the passage of time, many sports grounds have been replaced by China Plots, Marriage Halls or some sort of commercial buildings resulting in scarce sports facilities for the youth.

We conducted a small survey based on the issue pointed out above from qualified doctors having a Pakistani background.

We inquired as to what health challenges were stacked against us in the modern age, to which

Dr.Irfan Malik from Nottingham, Englad was of the view that the main health challenges that we are undergoing are vascular diseases (angina/heart attacks & strokes) and diabetes. A less active lifestyle also contributes to growing obesity.

Dr.Asaad A. Khan, graduate from Harvard Medical School (USA) divulged into greater detail. He cited increased availability of mobile phones, TV, cars, online shopping and security concerns as the main reasons which have led to reduced actual face to face interaction and contact. As a result, an increase in the incidence of obesity, heart conditions, Diabetes, High blood pressure and depression are being commonly reported.

Dr.Irfan was then prodded to guide us on how to get rid of such health menaces. To which, an improved healthier diet, more exercise, weight reduction, were highlighted by him as the key steps. Regular routine checks with health professionals e.g. blood pressure checkups, BMI, screening of blood tests (fasted glucose level & lipids/cholesterol), kicking the harmful habit of smoking, avoiding stress would prove to be of more benefit.

Dr. Asaad opined that we should not stop or halt the use of technology altogether. However, we can definitely reduce its influence in our daily life by making sure we are dedicating a certain proportion of our time to physical activities like running , jogging or playing cricket, soccer etc. He specifically said that the use of television, internet and mobile phone should not be considered an alternative to family time. Depression should be considered an illness and not a stigma and appropriate help must be sought early.

It was then that we asked him about his advice as to those people who were desk workers with Sedentary/Inactive Lifestyles. Dr.Irfan Malik said that they should take some time out of their schedules to work and work out. A healthy diet which restricts them from gaining weight is also advised.

Dr. Asaad spoke at length when we asked him the same question.

“People who have a sedentary lifestyle must inculcate strict exercise and diet regimes .They must ensure ‘exercise and diet holidays’ are also included in their lifestyle modifications as too strict a plan will never work and it has been proven that occasional “binge eating” can help body procure the minerals and other essential vitamins which might not be a part of the so called “healthy eating” plan.”

We asked our doctors then to point out some motivational tips for people who were not generally interested in their health.  Dr.Irfan Malik was especially of the view that South Asians in particular  had to cope withvascular diseases & diabetes as an increasing problem. However with drastic lifestyle changes mentioned earlier,  the impact & severity of disease can be reduced. We can live longer & healthier lives with better quality of life.

“Agreed some of our community members don’t look after themselves very well but ‘health is wealth’. Need motivational people from within that community to reach out to the other members. Or through the media e.g. more health/lifestyle issues discussed on popular TV shows. Many a times illnesses are seen as God’s determined destiny, however we are able to manage and reduce the risks.”

Dr.Asaad properly guided us by outlining methods to counter obesity and raise awareness about these diseases. He stated that raising awareness of such issues via social and electronic media is probably the primary and most critical step towards raising awareness and motivating people against these “silent” menaces which have infiltrated our lives. In addition to informing people about the hazards of sedentary lifestyle, obesity and lack of social interaction, we must also try to inform them of the benefits that can be achieved by make those all important changes in life. Things such as increased life expectancy, disease free old age and a prosperous marital as well as family life are under-rated but probably more important than most other things we worry about.

We next requested our doctors to shed some light as to how these health issues are tackled abroad and in Pakistan?

Dr.Irfan disclosed that many health issues are similar in Pakistan and abroad. In Pakistan free professional medical health care was less available in rural areas therefore less early screening for disease. e.g. only consult a doctor when the disease becomes too apparent. This results in the disease being reported too late, in certain cases. In England people have rolled out health/lifestyle programs in mosques and places of worship to reach out to a wider audience. Asian diet is very poor (but much tastier) compared to the Western diet. However the Western unhealthy fast food outlets are now established in Pakistan also. Also Pakistan needs to be cautious of health professionals sharing needles, as there is a risk of blood disease transmission. This can result in contraction of Hepatitis C/HIV diseases through transmission. Vehicular accidental deaths are very common in Pakistan; these risks could be investigated & looked at.

“I have only worked in Pakistan for a little over one year (my internship) following which I have been based in European and US based institutions,” Dr.Asaad revealed.” I do think that doctors in Pakistan spend little or no time at all on counseling (be it lifestyle modifications, disease mechanics or patient’s worries).Counseling and allaying patient’s concerns are much more important than the drug “prescription”, which is no good if the patient doesn’t take it. Having talked to a few Pakistani doctors, I must confess that a vast majority of them are doing their best to work with the limited resources they have,” he further disclosed.

Dr.Asaad also revealed that Institutions such as Agha Khan and Shaukat Khanum can be used as role models since they have practically shown how revenue streams can be generated from the able and paying. If used ‘appropriately’ they could help provide the best healthcare and expertise. Lastly, he opined that overseas Pakistani doctors were and still are an asset to their respective institutions outside of Pakistan. A vast majority of them would not mind helping out by delivering free lectures and seminars if a forum is built by the government to facilitate this passage of knowledge to their Pakistani colleagues.

In conclusion of all above discussions, it is safe to state that the modern technology has brought with it some serious health issues as well. We need to learn from people who become a victim of sedentary lifestyle and overuse of technology. Staying well informed, having a balanced lifestyle and spreading awareness among others are high calls for a sustainable future.

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