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Opinion: Lifestyle, cleanliness and longevity – what history tells us?

One of the most important landmarks of the Indian freedom struggle in early twentieth century is the famous ‘Dandi March’. If you see the frontline photograph of that epoch making March what strikes at first sight is that all our leaders looked so simple and had very good health — thanks to their clean and healthy lifestyle, regular habits and positive mind set.

Mahatma Gandhi on the Dandi March
Mahatma Gandhi on the Dandi March

We Indians are extremely lucky that our founding fathers could contribute so much to the growth of our country in immediate post independence period only because they had sound mind in sound body. Leading this March was the Father of the Nation, affectionately called as ‘Bapu’ or Mahatma Gandhi, who was a strict vegetarian, passionate walker, observer of total abstinence from alcohol, a declared non-smoker and a staunch believer in non-violence. The others included, who were to become the very first Indian Governor General Chakravarti Rajagopalachari or the first President of the Indian Republic Shri Rajendra Prasad, the first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and the first Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel each one of them had very good health. Prime Minister Nehru though a social smoker did not smoke publicly. He used to practise yogic exercises daily. Other leaders (C Rajagopalachari, Rajen Babu, Sardar Patel etc) had strong aversion to tobacco and alcohol in their personal life.

Dr Shridhar Dwivedi
Dr Shridhar Dwivedi

It is worth remembering that all the above leaders were under terrible stress on account of the trauma of partition, unabated Hindu-Muslim riots, integration of princely states, rehabilitation of refugees, Mahatma’s murder, Kashmir invasion, and multitude of problems of the new Independent India. But thanks to their excellent health and lifestyle they steered the country out of the deep mess reasonably well. On the other hand Quaid-e-Azam Jinnah, because of his chronic heavy smoking succumbed to lung cancer and/or pulmonary tuberculosis shortly after independence.

Why go that far only the other day we lost famous Unani physician Hakim Syed Qadir at the ripe age of 114 years with all faculty intact still practising Hikmat till his last breath. Example of late Dr A P J Abdul Kalam, the missile man of India and former President of India, is too well-known to all of us. How razor sharp mind he had! He was delivering lecture at IIM Shillong at the time of death. Credit again goes to their healthy lifestyle, daily exercise, no tobacco and spiritual thinking.

This is enough a lesson for present day political leaders and those who are at the helm of affairs to lead a healthy lifestyle so that this generation and generation X imbibes these qualities in their day-to-day life and India does not suffer the ignominy of being labelled as the capital of oral cancer, capital of young heart attacks, capital of diabetes and the country with maximum number of obese teens etc. It may appear a bit preposterous to say that in a country of one billion plus people every fourth or fifth person is suffering from hypertension or diabetes and/or heart disease where majority of people belong to lower middle or low socioeconomic segment of the society. But the hard fact is that it is true.

The big question is how to salvage this grim scenario. The solution is not very difficult or costly. Truly speaking, the steps for healthy life do not cost much money. Health is dependent on the four basic rules of cleanliness:

1. Keeping our mouth absolutely clean – not polluting it in any way by tobacco or any addictive stuff. No smoking. Maintaining a good oral hygiene.

2. Not putting garbage in our stomach – no trans fats, fast food or aerated drinks, no liquor either.

3. Keeping our heart vessels and coronary arteries healthy – doing exercise daily.

4. Not cluttering our mind with anger, ill will, animosity or negative thoughts. Doing yoga or practising meditation.

It is worthwhile to mention that all the above organs — mouth, stomach, heart and brain — are interlinked directly or indirectly to each other through various neuro – humours/signals, metabolic pathways or cytokines. It is these cytokines or neuro-humours which are responsible for the present day non-communicable epidemic diseases mainly diabetes, hypertension, coronary artery disease (heart attack), cerebrovascular disease (brain attack / stroke), chronic kidney disease (kidney attack), oral and lung cancers, etc.

Can’t we, as a responsible citizen, start looking after our own health by following the above simple basic rules of cleanliness and make this nation a healthy nation rather than suffering from the double triple whammy of non-communicable and communicable diseases?

Dr Shridhar Dwivedi
MD, PhD (Cardiology), FAMS, FRCP (London), FIACS (Canada)
Senior Consultant Cardiology
National Heart Institute, New Delhi


  1. shridhar Dwivedi shridhar Dwivedi Tuesday, January 12, 2016

    दिल दौरे का कारण और निवारण
    तम्बाकू से मुख मैला है ,
    ईर्ष्या चिंता मन मैला है ,
    कोठे * में सब गंद भरी है ,
    दिल में कोलेस्ट्रोल फैला है I
    ऐसे में दिल दौरे की कहाँ कमी है ,
    बचना है तो सिगरेट छोड़ो ,
    घूमो- टहलो योग से जोड़ो ,
    फल सब्जी खाने में खाओ ,
    दिल दौरे से फुर्सत पाओ I
    कोठे * का मतलब यहाँ पर आमाशय (stomach) और कोलन (colon) दोनों से है I हम अनाप – शनाप जंक भोजन , जैसे बर्जर, समोसा , चिप्स , अधिक चिकनाई युक्त भोजन ,शराब या मांसाहार द्वारा पेट और बड़ी आंत में गन्दगी ( टाक्सिन ) इकठ्ठा करते है I ये विषमय पदार्थ जिगर में जाकर घातक चिकनाई और प्रदाह पूर्ण रसायन तत्वों में बदल जाते है I खून के रास्ते दिल पर सीधा चोट करते हैं I

  2. shridhar Dwivedi shridhar Dwivedi Sunday, January 10, 2016

    Thanks very much Dr Saroja for your excellent exposition of present day dismal scenario of political life ,however , being immediate post independence child and having seen many of our stalwarts following those worthy principles in their life and then the transition which started some where in late seventies and present day no hold bar deterioration in public life in all walks of life that the entire generation of young teens are now in the grip of so called non communicable diseases ,thanks to that life style imitating superstars , politicians and leaders of society . All said and done we as doctors owe it to society to tell the truth and show the path. May I now submit :
    Five simple steps – ‘ अपनी सेहत अपने हाथ ‘
    Walk daily no tobacco-transfat eat veg do yoga – meditate sleep seven hours ,

    Get rid of hypertension diabetes heart attack stroke cancer health blooming flowers I

  3. D, Saroja D, Saroja Friday, January 8, 2016

    Sir ji,
    Any amount you write is a wastage in front of present scenario when suits worth lacs of rupees are worn when a habitual alcohol addict is decorated with highest Indian honour , and when the architect of post independent India is considered as a traitor especially with a totally misconceived idea of a non existent entity of post independence time that is Subhash baboo.
    These mindsets did not know that Indian vigilance kept tracking several of jailed freedom fighters till mid sixties , even after independence because they thought they are the commanders of this country after British left.

    If cleanliness movement was so effective then why did so many deaths happen in Delhi due to Dengue? Leave the blame game , the backbone workers that helps win election could have helped in making the dream successful by going into interiors and cleaning the area?

    country is not run by slogans but by action.

    Any way thanks very much for doing a wonderful write up , at least the young confused generation will know the truth about our great leaders who’s images cannot be tarnished by some swarm of storm.

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