Lifestyle diseases such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, kidney ailments and hypertension are growing at an alarming rate among the Goan population. Not very long ago these diseases were considered to be phenomena prevalent in prosperous West. The incidence of these diseases in a developing state like Goa and a developing country like India is rising because our lifestyle is changing for the worse. We do not have our lives under our control. It has been proven that lifestyle diseases are bad byproducts, so to say, or toxic consequences of economic prosperity and the rise in the income of average person. The more a person earns, the less he spends on nutritious food, the less he works manually. Goans no more have to work hard to grow food in their fields; they buy food off supermarkets. They do not have to walk for long distances to reach their destination; they drive their automobiles to go wherever they want. There was need to do more physical work. Obesity was not a problem in Goa in the past.
After attaining freedom from the colonial rule Goa, much like the rest of India, set off on a course of fast development to make up for the loss of centuries under the European masters. In the initial postcolonial Goa life was still very hard. People had to do a lot of physical work. The life was not of comforts as we find it today. The number of goods and services available to the average Goan is so large, the previous generations could never imagine. Younger people were made to work and they learnt to have a dignity for physical labour, unlike today when parents let them concentrate only on education and entertainment. Obesity has been growing among children, because they have no physical exercise and keep sitting in one place. The rise in personal incomes that could not have been imagined in colonial Goa has led to rise in incidence of lifestyle diseases.
It is hardly surprising to learn that lifestyle diseases are less common among the people who live traditional lives. Men and women who own or lease in small farms are not as probable candidates for lifestyle diseases such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, kidney ailments and hypertension than those who live in the towns and cities. The people who are still living traditional lives, pursuing their traditional livelihoods, and eating their traditional foods, have fewer chances of getting afflicted by lifestyle diseases. In contrast, the rates of cardiovascular diseases among people living in cities are more. It has been proven by studies that the primary causes of diabetes, hypertension, cancer and cardiovascular diseases are not genetic but environmental. A man is more likely to be in bad health if the environment is bad.
Goans can attack the roots of the problem of rising incidence of lifestyle diseases by changing the environment in which they work and they live. It means that they have to make changes with regard to demands of their work, the travel time and means of transport, the demands of socializing and partying, the value system which approves of alcohol, the upward mobility that divorces one from traditional foods cooked at home. Eating food cooked at home is vital for reducing and preventing lifestyle diseases.
For centuries, the traditional diet of Goans has comprised foodgrains, vegetables, coconut and fish. If lifestyle diseases have to be warded off Goans must return to traditional diet and must eat the foods cooked at home. Eating outside food carries a lot of risks, as the cooking oil and the utensils used may not be hygienic. The vegetables the eateries get may not be fresh. One of the major reasons for growth in lifestyle diseases is unhealthy diet. The health department must launch a campaign continuously through the audio-visual media, newspapers and civil society groups to draw Goans away from processed and unhealthy foods. The government and society must also campaign for reducing consumption of alcohol, for that is an additive factor to the growth of lifestyle diseases in Goa. Together with good nutrition, a good amount of exercise also helps reduce the risks of lifestyle diseases, and the government, employers and society should do more to provide people space and time for physical activity. Good nutrition must go with good exercise. Good nutrition is important as poor nutrition is a causative factor for hypertension, lipid abnormalities and obesity. Lifestyle diseases are catching people young. Parents need to start the return to nutritious and active life with their children.