Monday, 30th October 2017

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Around the earth on foot, twice

Gandhi walked 79,000km over 4 decades: ICMR

By G.S. Mudur in New Delhi
  • Published 26.03.19, 3:44 AM
  • Updated 26.03.19, 3:44 AM
  • a min read
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Mahatma Gandhi Wikimedia Commons

Mahatma Gandhi often walked 18km a day, and enough over 35 years to circle the earth twice, had unusually high blood pressure in old age but was otherwise in good health, the Indian Council of Medical Research said on Monday.

The ICMR has in collaboration with the National Gandhi Museum included information from Gandhi’s health records in a “collector’s edition” of the Indian Journal of Medical Research to mark Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary, which falls on October 2 this year.

Health researchers working with the museum staff used historical documents to determine that Gandhi often walked up to 18km a day over 36 years, covering 79,000km from 1913 to 1948, equivalent to walking around the planet twice.

The journal has also cited a “health file” on Gandhi that documented two of his blood pressure readings — 194/130 on October 26, 1937, at age 68 and 220/110 on February 19, 1940, at age 70 — as evidence of unusually high blood pressure.

Gandhi’s blood sugar levels were often significantly lower — 41, 71 and 115 on different dates in 1936, 1937 and 1938 — than the normal levels between 80 and 120.

“We can say he was in good health, a good basal metabolism,” Balram Bhargava, a senior cardiologist and director-general of the ICMR, told The Telegraph.

Bhargava said that documents show Gandhi taking drops of an extract from the plant Rauwolfia serpentina, known as sarpagandha in Ayurveda, for high blood pressure.

Medical records too suggest that Gandhi used the R. serpentina extract, shown through clinical trials to be a promising remedy for high blood pressure.

Rustom Jal Vakil, a cardiologist at the King Edward Memorial Hospital in Bombay, had in 1949 described a clinical trial on 50 patients that helped establish R. serpentina as a “perfectly safe remedy devoid of any serious or toxic ill-effects”.

In addition to such health records, the IJMR’s “collectors’ edition” contains review articles on the ICMR’s findings that are relevant to Gandhian principles, such as the importance of hygiene and sanitation to diseases such as cholera, leprosy, malaria and tuberculosis.

The special issue of the journal also contains review articles on the environment and lifestyle-related diseases.

“Gandhi was a firm believer in the principle that a healthy mind keeps the body healthy and he (had) stressed the importance of a balanced diet, natural cure and physical fitness,” the ICMR said.