By Raffique Shah
June 06, 2023
Leila found it hilarious when an interviewer, who is chronicling the lives of ‘prominent people’, asked his penultimate question: What’s next on the radar for you, Mr. Shah? He had covered much of the multifaceted life I’ve lived. He found, as I had done, that my life had indeed been intriguing especially upon reflection since having been struck with Parkinson’s Disease thirteen years ago. Except for my weekly columns in this space, and I have been trying to complete a few books that are mostly written, I’ve done little else in what many might see as an important periods in my life’s journey. I could not help but laugh out loudly, though, at the question about my future at age 77, stricken with this debilitating disease that can be crippling several times a day, every day without fail. What next for me? Death, I responded, laughing raucously. Everyone within range, joined me. I have that infectious effect when I talk about mortality.
Whenever it comes, I hope I’m ready for it, I added. I have lived a full, daring, adventurous life that many people would wish to do. What more can I ask for? I should note that up to when I was diagnosed with the incurable condition at age sixty-five, I confess I was stunned. I had lived a relatively healthy, active life. From my early teens, hell, even before that, I was active. I ran distances of between three miles and eight miles several times a week. I did weights, and enjoyed a decent physique. During my two-years training at Sandhurst, I retained a better-than-average standard of fitness and health, which I needed to do if I considered myself a leader in the military.
So readers will understand why I felt cheated in my latter years. However, I did not sit idly and await the end. Parkinson’s was then, and remains to this day, an incurable neurological condition that baffles the medical world. I tried to ignore its impact by continuing an exercise regime. The Covid pandemic forced me to abandon that, and so my fellow ‘sufferers’ and I take comfort in the mantra that neurologists spill out, since they have nothing different or new to offer; Parkinson’s won’t kill you. But it will be there when you die.
Some comfort. I have meandered around the plight of Parkinson’s patients, who must face rigidity, chronic fatigue, sleep disorder, tremors, falling here, there and everywhere, and indescribable other attacks, with few medications available not to cure it, but at best to give us relief that render the mal-effects…well, bearable. Other neurological diseases that are similarly categorized are dementia, Alzheimer’s and anxiety that seem to have suddenly taken flight, affecting millions more people every year.
What is incomprehensible to me is this: scientists have yet to understand what causes them, how people can avoid them. But the biggest threats to public health are the so-called ‘lifestyle’ diseases that are more deadly in terms of the staggering numbers of people who are afflicted by them, the huge numbers who deteriorate and die from them-diabetes, hypertension, obesity, kidney ailments-diseases that are both preventable and curable. Dietary pattens have been identified as a prime causative factor in the epidemics that are ravaging billions of people across the world.
Every ‘lifestyle’ disease is easily preventable, and if contracted, can be reversed or cured by a combination of diet and exercising. How I wish there were diets or exercises that could cure Parkinson’s: I would rid myself of it In short order. Unfortunately for us who are stricken with it, we have no such options. But those with Non-communicable diseases which are equally or more debilitating, and take their victims to their deaths via painful routes, can be stopped in their tracks once the stricken patient is intent on living a full life.
The aforementioned conditions are likely the biggest harbingers of bad news for their victims. But they can be easily defeated by a combination of health education, intense promotion of healthy lifestyles and governments and the public working in harmony towards eradicating them. It can be done. I have seen alternative medicine doctors work virtual miracles with people intent on living full lives being rewarded for their commitment and dedication.
I’m sure, too, we can save billions of dollars in healthcare costs, especially in expensive medications that are not necessary in a well organised war against NCDs. Co-ordinated attacks on what we eat- stay off refined sugars, unhealthy fats and other ‘poison’ foods like doubles and bake and shark; walk as much as possible in every activity you engage in, take the stairs, park further away from your destination, manage your stress levels.
Please, role models, do not promote unhealthy eats, drinks and recreational activities, no matter how much they pay. And, maybe within all of this we may yet find a cure for Parkinson’s.