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Times of India
30 June 2011
Hyderabad, India

A sedentary lifestyle, mounting stress levels and exposure to infections on a daily basis have doctors in the city worrying about their own health. On an average, at least three cases of heart attacks and brain strokes are reported every month among doctors in prominent private hospitals in the city. Even as doctors across the country are set to celebrate National Doctor's Day on Friday, in honour of legendary physicist Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy, TOI finds many ailing doctors in the city.

Diabetes and obesity are the most common lifestylemaladies ailing city doctors, given their erratic lifestyle and eating habits. Dividing time between the hospital and the clinic, doctors say they hardly get time to follow a regimen. “Our sedentary lifestyle, lack of exercise and high stress levels are a killer combination. Many of my colleagues are diabetic and obese," said Dr Shivaraju, general physician, Krishna Institute of Medical Sciences (KIMS).

Long working hours, leaving virtually no time for physical activity in open spaces has also led to several doctors suffering from vitamin-D3 deficiency, which is essentially derived from exposure to the sun.

Osteoporosis emanates from this lack of exposure to the sun, and is another common ailment, doctors say. Increasing cases of strokes and attacks also indicate high levels of stress and hypertension among doctors. “Doctors are more prone to type-A diseases, which are related to anxiety levels, given the fact that many doctors are constantly engaged in emergency cases round the clock, “ said Dr Mohammed Imran, PG general surgeon, Gandhi Hospital.

While these ailments are essentially lifestyle-related, exposure to patients with infections only increases chances of getting infected with airborne communicable diseases like pulmonary tuberculosis and hepatitis-B, despite following the best of sanitary measures.

The lifestyle of doctors takes a darker turn in some cases, when they take the support of medicinal drugs to which they have easy access, to stay afloat in a profession that rewards long hours with hefty pay packets and higher stress levels. Doctors note that anxiety-related disorders are very common in the community.

“I have seen cases in which doctors start popping pills at the drop of a hat to focus on the job at hand and eventually become dependent on it," said Dr Aftab Ahmed, general physician, Apollo Hospitals, Secunderabad, adding that in hospitals that do not have strict narcotics control, the problem gets worse for some doctors.

In many cases, however, it is the rush to start earning well that leads to stress. Doctors say many young doctors try to work extra hours to repay loans or to make a mark for themselves right at the outset of their careers. “I know a fellow doctor who devoted himself completely to his work, spending almost 18 hours a day. He could do this for about eight months and then, he suffered a burnout," shared Dr Sudhir Kumar, a neuro physician, adding that the burnout syndrome is rather common among doctors today.

The Indian Medical Association corroborates the disturbing trend. “It is true that doctors are exposed to high levels of stress and lifestyle diseases, but we don't have any schemes currently related to the health of the doctor," said Dr Ravi Kumar, former Secretary, Indian Medical Association, Hyderabad.

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