Doctors’ Day brings their well-being and holistic development into focus

They save lives but their own health is in jeopardy. For several doctors in the city, their health comes last.

Studies find doctors are prone to several health problems, ranging from neck and back pain to diabetes and cardiac ailment. The reasons for these are not surprising — they include long and odd working hours and stress.

“We seldom follow what we preach. The work load is high and doctors assume they know the symptoms too well and can detect ailments if anything happens. But often, major diseases creep up on us silently,” a senior government doctor said.

He has been postponing a medical check-up for over a year due to work pressure. “On an average, a government doctor attends to at least 100 out-patients and 15 in-patients a day. For instance, an assistant professor puts in at least 90 hours of work — both in the government hospital and at private practice — each week. The stress is high,” he said. Three doctors of Madurai Medical College died of cardiac arrest in May. One of them was only in his 40’s.

A cardiologist said a number of doctors suffer from heart ailments, cardiac arrests and undergo bypass surgeries.

Justin Paul, professor of cardiology, Government Stanley Medical College, said, “Doctors blindly believe they are immune to diseases. Many doctors suffer from neck, back and knee pain. Surgeons have to stand for hours during surgeries. For instance, a neurosurgery takes at least nine hours. We also have to wear radiation-proof coats which add to the weight.”

Their sleep is also interrupted due to emergency cases.

That diabetes is on the rise in the country is a known fact. Doctors are not spared the malady either. “I get cases of at least four to five diabetic doctors a week. Studies have shown if you are an Indian and your abdomen measures more than 90 cm in men and 80 cm in women, you are prone to diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases. Obesity among doctors is increasing because many of them eat at odd hours and lack regular exercise,” said Vijay Viswanathan, head and chief diabetologist, M.V. Hospital for Diabetes and Research Centre, Royapuram.

Some of them eat lunch as late as 4 p.m. and dinner at 11 p.m. Then, there is a tendency to overeat, he said, adding, “Doctors should allot at least 150 minutes a week to exercising.”

Doctors mostly face health problems related to stress, said K.R. Palaniswamy, senior consultant, gastroenterology, Apollo Hospitals. “Many of them suffer from acid reflux, irritable bowel and fatty liver. Some of them work throughout the day and without weekend breaks,” he said.

V. Kanagasabai, dean of Madras Medical College (MMC), said doctors should undergo annual health check-ups and not take their health for granted.

“On Doctors’ Day, doctors should take a pledge to take care of their health so that the community will benefit,” said R. Lakshmi Narasimhan, professor of neurology, MMC.

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