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by Dr Praveen Raj


GEM Hospital

Looking back at the illnesses that faced mankind …what we remember are the  bacterial infections causing death toll in large numbers in the early part of 20th century.This was when penicillin , the worlds first antibiotic was invented in 1929,which revolutionised medical care.From thereon , the growth of pharmacology and medicine  was history.

During the middle part of the same century , viral illnesses in the form of small pox , chicken pox , measles and many more took over the role of what bacteria did to the human race earlier.Then with the introduction of vaccines, we now have successfully eradicated viruses like small pox , polio etc , some of the worlds most deadliest viruses.Don’t ask me why we are still unable to find an answer for flu , caused by influenza virus(how will our kids have any reason to bunk school !!)

Whats now alarming mankind?  Quite easy to guess ,its now the lifestyle related disorders like  diabetes , hypertension and related cardiovascular disorders , stroke , alcoholic liver disease , smoking related chronic obstructive lung disease etc.The list is actually endless.Believe me , even menstrual disorders is a lifestyle related disorder(polycystic ovarian disease is actually endemic among young girls today).

Did you note the word ‘lifestyle disorders’ that I have mentioned above.Expanding the word , it actually refers to ‘how stylish one lives his/her life’.What does this style refer to?Quite easy to say ,one’s eating pattern and how physically stable we are .But just that ???

We(includes each one of us including doctors ) have completely failed to have understood the concept of mental health, which is as important or even more than just physical fitness.What do i intend by mental health ?Wikipedia defines “Mental health is the psychological state of someone who is functioning at a satisfactory level of emotional and behavioural adjustment”.I would rather say , absence of anxiety and/or  depression  with the ability to sleep peacefully continuously for 7 hrs at night .In other words ,a STRESSFREE LIFE.

So now you know where I’m coming to.Yes! STRESS is the most dangerous disease of today and for the years to come, and I strongly believe in it. Now the questions that may pop out could be , How can anyone be stress free ? How can stress be a disease ? How can it ever be dangerous ?Let me try answering one after the other.

The answer for the first question could sound a little yogic.Pls excuse.I definitely can accept that in todays way of living , stress has become an important component of life.But , where does it come from ?Its only an external stimuli and how one reacts to it is completely personal.By which I mean for a similar kind of stress , the way one could absorb in to the extent causing mental instability is mere individual choice.Just take for example the scene on the day of school examinations ….the same stress(the exam) , but how different candidates can behave !

Is stress a disease ?Disease is defined as a disorder of structure or function in a human , especially one that produces symptoms  or that affects a specific location and is not simply a direct result of physical injury.We now have enough evidence to support that majority of clinical problems seen in day to day practice , from simple ones like acid peptic disease(randomly called ulcer problems), constipation (irritable bowel syndrome) , menstrual irregularities , diabetes , hypertension to more severe diseases mentioned above in the column of lifestyle disorders are linked directly to stress.Interestingly , many clinical studies on antidepressant medications and anti-anxiety medications on these diseases have shown dramatic improvement proving the relationship of these to stress.

And I refer it to a dangerous disease because its neither diagnosed nor treated.We were able to successfully win over major bacterial and viral epidemics only because we knew the existence problem and its magnitude.So to successfully win over these lifestyle disorders we need a complete understanding and willingness to change our lifestyle, most importantly mental stability.As doctors we need to spend quality time with the patients to diagnose these and find appropriate solutions , which is becoming practically difficult in busy medical practice.Integrated psychological care is unknown , atleast in India.On the other end , even when communicated , patients are not ready to accept that need to improve mental health.In fact many feel insulted on such diagnoses.Patients tend to depend solely on medications,which leaves them with unsuccessful outcomes adding more to the stress

On a personal note ,even though I come from a  pure gastroenterology speciality based hospital , I have employed psychologists for the treatment of many GI diseases ,as I strongly believe , STRESS is the disease of todays priority.

© 2017 GEM Obesity & Diabetes Surgery Centre - Updated by GEM Hospital IT Department