Pakistan is facing multiple crises. There is a severe economic one, along with growing food insecurity levels eating into the overall productivity of the nation. Then there is the issue of high and unsustainable debt, political problems and what not. However, amidst all of this madness, there is a serious reality tightening its noose around us and nobody seems to be talking about it, Yet, ironically, everyone is affected; it is the growing number and intensity of diseases in Pakistan.
The spectre of genetic predisposition is often invoked, but it's only one piece of the puzzle. Lifestyle choices, access to healthcare and socio-economic factors play a pivotal role in shaping Pakistan's health landscape. In this exploration, we will delve into the complex interplay between genes and lifestyle, pondering whether disease is an inevitability or a path we can choose to divert.
As of the latest data available, Pakistan faces an alarming rise in the incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Heart disease, diabetes, cancer and respiratory disorders have reached epidemic proportions. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), NCDs account for a staggering 58% of total deaths in Pakistan, making them the leading cause of mortality. These diseases, once associated with affluence, now cut across all segments of society, impacting both urban and rural populations.
Heart disease lays claim to the lives of 17 million individuals globally each year. In 2016, heart-related disorders accounted for roughly 19% of deaths in Pakistan. However, this alarming figure has now surged to 29%.
According to the most recent data provided by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on heart attack incidence in Pakistan, the year 2020 witnessed 240,720 deaths attributed to coronary heart disease, constituting 16.49% of all fatalities. Notably, Pakistan is ranked 30th in the world when it comes to heart-disease-related mortality, boasting a death rate of 193.56 per 100,000 people.
“It is in my genes”
Our human DNA only expresses about 20,000 genes. 2 million to 20 million genes are produced by our gut microbiome and 80% of this microbiome is in our gut itself.
So, the saying by Hippocrates goes: All disease begins in the gut is actually true.
Our microbiome releases these small molecules after the food digestion as a reaction to that digestion and these metabolites are absorbed in our blood. They have the capability to change our gene expression.
So how do we get a disease?
When your body is out of balance it is not at ease, and this is what we call DIS-EASE
The food we eat is one of the most important determinants of bringing and maintaining functional balance in the body and avoiding disease.
All the major risk factors and causes of life-threatening health problems are metabolic in nature; be it blood sugar, blood pressure or heart disease. All these diseases are lifestyle diseases and can be prevented and cured through diet.
Yes, we cannot certainly say that there are universally good foods – but there is no doubt that there are some universally bad foods like sugar and processed foods
Everyone shows positive change in health markers if these things are eliminated out of the diet. If we research about the recent additions in our diet, we can clearly see a trend of increasing chronic and metabolic diseases.
With the aberrant number of reels and videos on food recipes and combinations, it is time that you start listening to the untold needs of your body. The amount of food, time of food, combination of food & even the sequence of food can have dire impact on your mind, heart & body. Our food reflects our physiological and psychological orientation that develops as a result of our eating pattern and food preferences. Your plate, your health, your body - let them harmonise!
The idea of Inner Nurturing, as mentioned by Julie Simon in her book (When Food is Comfort) focuses on developing a healthier relationship with ourselves, and ultimately with the food that we consume. We need to let go of the notion that ‘genetics determine everything’. It’s actually the brain that tunes our habits according to our bodily sensations, behaviour, emotions, thoughts & needs.
Food should be seen as a medicine as it has the ability to alter our brain chemistry. In order to ensure that diseases remain a choice, practice the basics like reducing processed foods, increasing fibre-rich meals, and choosing organic and pesticide-free animal products. Also, don’t forget to incorporate movement into your daily routine and prioritise sleep along with rest in order to heal and repair.