New Delhi : Doctors attending on Anna Hazare term the 74-year-old a “rare man” and are flummoxed at how the social activist has been subsisting on plain water for the past 12 days and, though visibly weak, still manages to infuse enthusiasm into thousands of his supporters.
“For anybody else his age, it would have been very difficult. He is a tough man,” a senior doctor in the team examining Hazare said.
“When you talk to him, you feel there is a strong sense of responsibility driving him,” the doctor told IANS on condition of anonymity.
According to doctors, the situation would have gone worse for anybody within 48 hours of fasting in that manner.
“It is rare for someone to survive on plain water for so many days. Water alone can help in maintaining blood pressure, but it can’t keep you going for so many days,” Anoop Misra, Fortis Hospital’s Director and Head of Department (Diabetes and Metabolic diseases), told IANS.
Hazare has been fasting since Aug 16 – over 270 hours so far – demanding a more inclusive Lokpal Bill.
“I am not aware of Anna’s medical history, but his system seems well adapted to a low calorie diet. His body composition is enabling him to withstand the weakness, and yet address the crowds at intervals,” Misra added.
However, in the long run such fasting can cause damage to vital organs such as kidneys, brain, and heart, they said.
“The vital parameters may remain fine. But if the fasting continues, the body condition tends to deteriorate. It affects the liver and the kidneys,” Randeep Guleria, professor and head, department of pulmonary medicine at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), told IANS.
“Temporary changes reverse after proper diet. Water during fasting helps maintain the electrolyte level,” Guleria added.
Health experts explained that the body starts using stored proteins, leading to production of Ketones. This causes further weakness, cramps, and dizziness.
“There could be genetic strength also. But the immunity might weaken in later stages, or the bones can become thinner because of age,” Misra noted.
Though Anna Hazare has been subsisting on water for the past 12 days and has amazed doctors and the public alike with his energy, it is his disciplined life style and self-control that has kept the 74-year-old going, aides close to the social activist said Saturday.
“It is the self-control mechanism that Hazare is following, it is not new for him as he has always led a principled life,” a long-term associate of Hazare told IANS.
His normal diet when he is not fasting consists of milk and fruits, dalia (wheat porridge) and simple khichdi. Most of the time he skips even this simple meal.
“He never takes tea,” the aide added.
Regular practice of yoga for at least two hours a day keeps him fit even at his age.
A strict and disciplined lifestyle of this ex-army man has made him achieve this feat.
“He eats only once in a day,” he added.