For a health-conscious society

A news report on the expanding market for pharmaceutical products in our country has caught my attention. The report said that the pharma market in the country has crossed Tk 200 billion. It also said that out of all pharmaceutical products that are sold in the local market, medicines for reducing acidity tops the selling list. The medicines of ailments due to acidity are sold worth Tk 30.13 billion.
The reason I mention about this report is the amount of sale in the medicines for acidity sends clearly shows that there is a serious problem either in the way we cook or in our eating habits. To my mind, the problem of acidity arises from consuming the wrong food cooked in the wrong way and from food irregularities.
There are several food items that contain acid and cause heartburn. Some foods and ingredients could intensify our heartburn problems such as spicy foods, citrus, tomato sauces and vinegar. The experts say that fatty and fried foods linger longer in our stomach. And that usually increases stomach pressure and forces the muscles to open and keep stomach acid out of the oesophagus. Other common heartburn foods include chocolate, caffeine, onions, peppermint, carbonated drinks, and alcohol.
Imagine a typical iftar by a Bangladeshi. Are fatty and fried are the most favourite? Certainly so; and we Bengalis without fail would for them, no matter what damages they do to our stomach. We depend on medicine; we tend to think medicine is a cure for our ailments. We always think, if medicines are available, there’s no harm is eating all those foods.
Having said that, we must have come across many insulin-dependent diabetic patients who eat everything. They think they have the right to lead the life as a non-diabetic person as long as they are on insulin. That’s really interesting psychology, as when they keep on leading the life of a non-diabetic, their insulin intake goes up and some years later the insulin doesn’t work on their metabolism.
That’s the irony of our wish to stay healthy. To my mind, we actually don’t want to remain healthy, to stay away from the diseases. Allow me to cite my own example. There was a time when I led a very unacceptable eating habit as well as an unhealthy lifestyle. I ate more sugar, meat and fried stuff than a normal healthy human needs. I became health-conscious only when I was diagnosed as a diabetic. I gave up almost all food items that could the causes to raise my blood sugar level. However, by then, the damages have been done. I began regular physical exercise only when I became a diabetic.
Things, on the contrary, could have been different if I were really a health-conscious man if I had consumed less sugary foods if I had consumed less difficult foods. By difficult foods, I mean the foods that are difficult to digest.
I often inspire the people around me about all this. I try to inspire them to do regular exercises, especially yoga. I have noticed that the common people hardly have any knowledge about physical exercise. I have tried to shape the minds of the people around me to start exercise. Some were sensitised, but ultimately couldn’t be persistent about it. I myself have also accompanied the people who were interested in it; however, after a week, they somehow lose interest. They say they know the importance of physical exercise, but actually, they don’t. If they knew, they wouldn’t have wasted any time but to fully focus on it.
I had also visited some clinics where the lower-income people are given free treatment and medicines for various kinds of illnesses. I was surprised to see that most of those people didn’t know about their diseases; they only knew they were unwell, but no one knew about cardiac, sugar, kidney problems; most people have heard about cancer but they didn’t know what cancer was.
Awareness about good health and bad health looks more important to me than anything else. It is due to our lack of consciousness; we lose so many lives every year. When the number of patients rises in a society, the expenses of the state also go up.
Having a huge and expanding pharmaceutical market doesn’t seem a piece of good news to me; it means our health, collectively, is deteriorating. We have to remember that when the diseases come, they come to stay; but we can stay away from diseases, they will not come.
First published in Bangla Tribune on 5 Feb 2019.

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