The frenetic pace of urban life has inflicted another set of torments on Vanitha Krishnan. Desperately seeking a remedy, Vanitha, a 38-year-old Chennai-based personal assistant, walked into sexologist D. Narayana Reddy’s Dega Institute for Sexual Medicines. She complained that she was being pressured into performing at office, and in her bedroom. "Her job, children, home exhausted her. She had stopped feeling any inclination for sex," recounts Reddy. This led her husband to force sex on her and she suffered a nervous breakdown. This, in turn, induced eating binges till Vanitha was diagnosed with bulimia. She became ungainly, hypertensive and was prescribed medication that made her a wreck. "Vanitha’s no unique case," says Reddy. "Over 45 per cent of patients who come to me these days suffer ailments due to their destructive lifestyle."
It’s wake-up time. Young and career-obsessed upwardly mobile Indians are suffering from something infinitely more serious than premature mid-life crises. A disturbing range of ailments—from hypertension to heart disease to diabetes—is felling them younger and faster than ever before. Doctors call them lifestyle diseases—and hospitals are offering specialised services combining conventional wisdom, regular check-ups and remedies. Lifestyle diseases are not communicable, nor are they triggered by skewed genetics. They only require our frenzied, unhealthy way of life, and our exhausted, out-of-shape bodies to breed in (see box). The casualties are piling up in our noisy and polluted urban jungles, and lifestyle drugs today contribute 40 per cent to the Rs 1,500-crore Indian drug market.