Friday, February 14, 2014

Autobiography of a fat cell: On prevention of non-communicable diseases

I wrote this essay for a college conference.

Hi. I'm a fat cell. As I sit here, waiting to be utilized, let me tell something about non-communicable diseases and how they have been rising like an epidemic in our country. They include heart and lung diseases, many cancers, diabetes, osteoporosis and more. 63% of total deaths worldwide are due to non-communicable diseases.

Non-communicable diseases are preventable. Then why are the deaths due to them rising? I guess people aren't taking care of themselves like they used to. Let me explain to you how it's easy, at the same time, so very hard to prevent them.

I'll start with myself, the adipocyte. We are specialized for storing energy as fat. We are essential but if we are stored more than we are required, we are harmful. Obesity, diabetes mellitus type II, polycystic ovary syndrome, obstructive sleep apnea, and many more diseases are implicated due to over accumulation of fat.
Exercise increases the turnover of lipocytes and can prevent many heart diseases. I don't get why humans are so lazy. The constant energy supply without utilization accumulates fat cells in the body. Honestly, it's getting a bit crowded over here.

Proper nutrition is another way to prevent non-communicable diseases. Fruits and green salads make you full and can prevent consumption of excessive amounts of energy. They contain anti-oxidants that fight molecules that cause cancer. They are also loaded with vitamins.
Instead of consuming healthy foods, young adults prefer fast food. If you are one of them, I highly recommend you change your eating habits. Scientists have found that even short periods of bingeing on junk food can leave the body more prone to gain weight for years to come. It is rightly said, "A minute on the lips, a life time on the hips."

The cells residing in the lungs tell me that the exposure to pollutants has increased. It's leading to repeated attacks of asthma and bronchitis. If humans could reduce air pollutants or increase the number of plants, it wouldn't get so toxic. I agree the measures are too drastic and expensive but health is wealth, isn't it? If the harm done by the environment can not be avoided, my advice to you is don't harm yourself and others by smoking. Lung diseases would be significantly reduced if people didn't smoke.

Psychological stress has a major role in causing non-communicable diseases. I recently got a letter from the cells residing in the esophagus saying they can't take the stress of acid reflux from the stomach. I fear they might change in response to the injury and convert themselves into cancer cells. Stress often leads to alcohol consumption, which by itself is going to harm the liver and gastrointestinal tract.
I can see the stress precipitating in you while reading this as well. But hey, all of this is preventable and also reversible. A good stress buster is Yoga. Scientists are getting close to proving what yogis have held to be true for centuries - yoga and meditation can ward off stress and disease.

Although the pathogenesis of these diseases seems complicated, the prevention is simple. To sum it all up, my advice to you is to exercise, eat good food, avoid unnecessary exposure to drugs and smile more often. I hope after reading this, you start adapting a health life style. Live well. Gotta go now, I have got some energy to supply!

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