Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Can babies born in India in 2012 expect to live 100 years?

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: One in three children born in the United Kingdom
during 2012 can expect to live for 100 years, say UK health experts on
the eve of the World Health Day.

Can Indian babies achieve this feat? A good percentage of babies born
in India during 2012 can too expect to celebrate their 100th birthday,
if they follow the age-old traditional lifestyle patterns as they grow
into adulthood.

According to senior geriatrician Dr VS Natarajan, an Indian can expect
a long and healthy life by simply “reversing back to our age-old
traditional lifestyle patterns”.
Indian scientists are working to attain the goal of increasing the
longevity of people born in the country. The present life expectancy
of a newborn Indian is around 64 years.

“Thanks to the advent of more intensive antibiotics and drugs,
communicable diseases are coming under control, he said. “But as a
result of encroachment of Indian traditional lifestyle by Western
ideas and principles, non-communicable diseases have emerged and are
progressing very rapidly everyday in India,” he added emphasizing the
need for following the time-tested Indian traditional tips on healthy

Dr Natarajan, who received a Padma award on Wednesday, told this
correspondent that India, though not at top of the world in geriatric
research, had made good progress in the geriatrics medicine. Citing an
instance, he said the Geriatric Department in Madras Medical College
had done significant research work on geriatric nutrition,
osteoporosis, falls and frailty.

Living a long and healthy life is not something alien to the ancient
Indian culture. Indian mythology is replete with instances of people
living for more than 100 years, hale and healthy. “While looking at
the 100 year life span of mythological characters we should also look
at the overall scenario in that era. With pure air, water and food and
strict adherence to good values, lifestyles and living with nature no
wonder, they could have lived 100 years or even 200,” he said.

“In my practice, I see number of people above 90 years of age. But
most of them suffer from disabilities like dementia, Parkinsonism,
arthritis and cataract. Lack of healthy ageing in this population
makes it unlikely to predict that these Indian elders will cross the
100-year mark,” Dr Natarajan.

Avenues such as stable financial security, shelter with emotional
support, appropriate nutrition and adequate tender love, affection and
care at homes and in case this is unfortunately impossible, then
admission to good old age homes will improve the quality of life in
the old age, he said.

Diseases like cataract are most of the times a result of ageing and
they cannot be prevented. However, early detection and proper
treatment and follow up can play a great role in prevention of heart
and kidney diseases. He said ageing should be viewed as a normal
physiological phenomenon and not as a pathological process. It is
possible to age gracefully and delay diseases that are inherent
because of ageing.

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