Can you manage diseases at 80? Avidly working on sets, Amitabh Bachchan shows you why he is more than just a survivor story

When it comes to Amitabh Bachchan, people are so used to extolling his superhuman abilities that they forget he has battled human frailties along the way. Big B at 80 makes for a great survivor story, having gone through several debilitating health conditions ever since that accident on the sets of Coolie made hospital visits and appointments a perennial part of his routine. During one of the episodes of Kaun Banega Crorepati, a game show he has been hosting over decades now at a frenetic pace, he himself said that he didn’t know how many diseases he was suffering from. And now at 80, he has become an icon of disease management, lifestyle discipline and most importantly a positive and creative outlook that helps him soar above the many speed bumps along the way. In fact, he is an example of how you can age not just gracefully, but robustly. Never missing out on his workout routine, apportioning his work and leisure into unwavering slots, and engaging with people of all ages around him, Bachchan never allows idle thoughts or moments. Given India’s rapidly aging population, he shows us not just how to push boundaries but live life as it’s meant to, without fearing boundaries. If he can do it, so can you.

How you can battle Severe Diverticulitis of the small intestine at 80

According to reports, Bachchan reported from gastro issues which later transformed into Diverticulitis of the small intestine. Despite this, the octogenarian actor is leading a normal life. Diverticula usually affects the large intestine, but Bachchan developed this condition in the small intestine, complicating matters. He even had to undergo surgery for this condition. Explains Dr Roy Patankar, gastroenterologist and Director of Zen Multispeciality Hospital, “The large intestine is affected by the associated digestive disorders, diverticular disease and diverticulitis (colon). This causes the lining of the gut to develop tiny bulges or pockets known as diverticula. When these pockets swell or become infected, it is known as diverticulitis. The small and large bowels both include diverticula, which are sac-like protrusions of the intestinal wall. Diverticula in the small intestine are frequently asymptomatic and found by accident. Even though they are uncommon, the symptoms – related consequences might be fatal.”

How can this be treated? “Conservative treatment for small intestinal diverticulum is frequently advised for patients who show no symptoms. Encouragement of fluid intake and the use of bulk-forming substances (such as fiber and bran and cellulose supplements) are two examples of conservative treatment. To increase GI system motility, a high-fibre diet may be suggested.
More aggressive treatment options, which may vary depending on the issues and symptoms, include antibiotics (for bacterial overgrowth) and hospitalisation (to deal with problems such as severe bleeding).”

Can octogenarian patients lead a normal life with this condition? What kind of lifestyle and dietary changes need to be made? “Increase your strength and coordination through exercise. Make an effort to maintain your muscular strength and conditioning each day. Swimming, wandering around malls and senior exercise courses are all excellent options. Make recovery a high priority if an illness or injury prevents you from moving forward. Cutting out added sugars, saturated fat and salt enhances diet quality, as does consuming more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and dairy products. Meeting food requirements and nutritional guidelines can be made easier for older persons with the assistance of friends, family, and medical experts,” adds Dr Patankar.

How 70-plus patients can manage Myasthenia Gravis

Shortly after the Coolie incident, several newspaper reports indicated that Big B had been diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis, which is caused by an error in the transmission of nerve impulses to muscles. This causes weakness in limbs and difficulty in motor movements and double vision. But Bachchan recovered from this condition. Says Dr Pavan Pai, Consultant Interventional Neurologist and Stroke Specialist, Wockhardt Hospitals, “A chronic autoimmune, neuromuscular condition known as Myasthenia Gravis results in skeletal muscle weakness that gets worse after periods of exertion and better after periods of rest. These muscles control respiration and the movement of various bodily parts, such as the arms and legs. An imbalance in the way that nerve impulses are sent to muscles is the root cause of Myasthenia Gravis. It happens when the regular flow of information between the neuron and muscle is disrupted at the neuromuscular junction. This is where nerve cells link with the muscles they regulate.”

How can people above the age 70 years lead a normal life? In order to maximize your energy and manage the effects of Myasthenia Gravis, Dr Pai suggests a fixed regime: “Change your dietary habits. Try to eat when your muscles are at their strongest. Between bites of meals, take a break and take your time chewing your food. You might discover that eating modest meals multiple times a day is simpler. Avoid items that need more chewing, such as raw fruits or vegetables, and aim to consume more soft foods instead.

“Take safety measures at home. In areas where you need assistance, such as close to a bathtub or a set of stairs, install grab bars or rails. Maintain spotless floors and relocate area rugs. Maintain the walkways, sidewalks and driveways outside of your home free of leaves, snow, and anything other that might trip you up. Make use of power tools and electrical equipment. Try utilising an electric toothbrush, electric can openers, and other electrical gadgets to do activities to help you stay energized.

“Put an eye patch on. An eye patch can aid with double vision by providing temporary relief. Try putting one on as you write, read, or watch TV. To lessen eye strain, periodically move the eye patch to the opposite eye. Plan your activities for when you have the greatest energy, such as when you have housework, shopping, or errands to run.”

How can you manage liver conditions after 70?

The megastar himself made a revelation that he was suffering from Hepatitis B which came to him accidentally. This happened after the accident on the sets of Coolie. He had to be infused with the blood of about 200 donors into his system. One of them had Hepatitis B which infected him. But he was diagnosed only in 2000 when doctors told him that his liver was infected and that he was surviving on just 25 per cent of his organ. Bachchan had also assured his well-wishers that a person could also survive with 12 per cent of liver but no one gets to that stage. Explains Rajeswari V Shetty, Consultant-Head of Department, Dietetics, SL Raheja Hospital, “When a mere 25 per cent of the liver is functioning, the condition is called cirrhosis. It cannot be reversed but a patient can live a healthy and normal life by having a balanced diet. People with cirrhosis, especially the elderly group, need to follow a balanced high-protein diet of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian sources. Vegetarians can consume milk and milk products of low-fat variety like tofu, yogurt, and paneer. In the case of non-vegetarians, they can have lean meat, and fish. They can also have plenty of nutrients and minimally processed ingredients like fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The last has many options like jawar, bajra, brown rice and boiled sweet potato. People with cirrhosis should control their salt consumption and instead try substitutes like lemon water and herbs. It is also advisable to cut down on caffeine as it can worsen liver disease. One of the major problems these patents suffer from is fatigue and muscle loss, especially those in the geriatric category. To control this, they can increase protein consumption for every meal. One can implement lifestyle changes and start with basic exercises, including walking, meditation and yoga, which will help them calm their minds as well.”

How to battle tuberculosis of the spine

Amitabh Bachchan has also battled tuberculosis of the spine, which is a kind of tuberculous arthritis of the intervertebral joints. He went through a very rigorous treatment and physiotherapy for almost a year. He even shared how uncomfortable it was during this time where a person finds it difficult to even sit or lie down.

But he went through the rigours simply because he was full of beans and wanted to continue working. “Bachchan is an inspiration for not just the aging population but even the young people. He has demonstrated how proper lifestyle management and a positive, will-do outlook can tame severe diseases in the body and keep them in check. Ageism is often used as an excuse but the Big B has turned that into his advantage, ”says Dr Rajesh Budhiraja, Associate Director, Internal Medicine, Asian Hospital.

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