According to World Health Organisation, climate change has become a critical health problem. Changes in weather impact our health by affecting the food we consume, the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the environment we live in.
Malnutrition, for instance, is rising in the developing world because crops are failing, or their quality is reduced; and that’s happening because of unpredictable weather conditions.
Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress.
From flooding and erosion to massive bushfires, extreme weather events have resulted in major effects in the world at different times.
In India, the pollution levels have gotten so severe that most of the major cities are gasping for breath.
Delhi has a year-round pollution problem. In 2019, there was a spike in respiratory and heart-related issues due to toxic smog.
Mumbai recorded ‘very poor’ air quality last year and Bengaluru’s lakes have been declared unsafe as they’re severely polluted and experts fear that by 2025, the city will be uninhabitable.
Those living in such cities are more vulnerable to climate change-related diseases than others, especially those with unhealthy lifestyles.
Thus, climate change, along with the modern lifestyle, threatens the overall health and well-being of people.
A healthy body and healthy planet are two sides of the same coin.
So, it’s important to take actions that directly benefit our health as well as that of the planet. For example, walking or cycling instead of driving avoids burning fossil fuels, provides exercise, helps maintain a healthy weight and also protects heart health.
To prevent various lifestyle diseases, one needs to improve cholesterol levels, control high blood pressure and keep blood sugar levels in check.
Eating less red meat and processed food and more plant-based food is not just beneficial for the planet but also helpful for the human body.
If possible, one should grow and produce local vegetables. Using renewable energy, avoiding smoking, staying physically active and creating less air pollution will result in fewer cases of heart disease, lung cancer, obesity and other lifestyle diseases.
Taking small steps to combat the effects of climate change on public health can create a more sustainable future for all.
The author is an interventional cardiologist, Joy Hospital, Mumbai.