Tihar is likely to be laden with sweets. All the sweet shops in Nepal will do brisk business, but in the wake of Dasain's excesses, this may also be the time to reflect upon the dangers of eating guliyo to our hearts' content. South Asia has the dubious distinction of being home to the largest number of diabetics in the world.
Undoubtedly, diabetes is the king of cardiovascular problems; it leads to a greater likelihood of strokes, heart attacks, kidney failure, and blindness, to name some of its important complications. At least we have antibiotics to cure widespread infectious diseases like TB, malaria, and typhoid. But with cardiovascular illnesses, the most one can do is control the disease rather than cure it. For many in Nepal, the financial costs of treating cardiovascular conditions such as diabetes may be too daunting.
As though this were not enough, there may also be a genetic component that predisposes South Asians to heart disease. When studies were carried out on South Asians living in the UK, it was found that they had a higher risk of heart disease than other groups in the same age groups. Similar studies in the US have confirmed that South Asians are at higher risk for heart disease. In fact, a cardiac gene defect (MYBPC3) has been shown to afflict 4 per cent of the South Asian population, predisposing them to cardiovascular illness. Four per cent in South Asia translates to millions of people, and even the World Health Organization confirms that South Asia will soon be the epicentre for cardiovascular illness globally.
So why bring up this gloom and doom during the magnificent festival of lights? There may be genetic disadvantages that we cannot undo, but there are some good health habits that Tihar's lights can remind us of: eating less sweets and oil-soaked kebabs, going for morning walks to get out of that sedentary lifestyle, keeping our blood pressure under good control with medicines if necessary, checking our cholesterol level, and finally, stopping smoking. This last is a double whammy of a health risk for those living in Kathmandu, with its rampant pollution. Why not lower your sugar and smoke intake this Tihar? Nothing could be more of a blessing.