Introducing Big Data in Healthcare – Evolution or Revolution?

Most companies now a days are digitizing their ways and means of functioning. It helps keep a better track record of things, makes communication easier, helps in faster research and makes the overall work culture more efficient. Big data provides insights into a lot of aspects which may seem like too much information in the beginning but does prove to be relevant at some point of time or the other in the future. But is healthcare an industry that can benefit from big data? Can data-driven approaches change the way the world of healthcare works and make it evolve? As a matter of fact, yes! The role of big data in healthcare is huge as it helps in building better health profiles and predictive models around individual patients so that they can better diagnose them on intricate levels and find out ways and means to treat a disease.

One of the main things that healthcare industry today lacks is understanding the biology of the disease. We have broad perceptions about how a disease is caused and presumptuous conclusions about how it should be treated. This is where big data comes into the picture and helps aggregate more and more information at deeper levels to understand the root cause of a disease. From DNA, proteins and metabolites to cells, tissues, organs, organisms, and ecosystems, there can be multiple reasons to how a disease first comes into being. These scales of biology can be integrated with big data.

Currently, the involvement of big data in healthcare is at a fairly nascent stage. The more we delve into it, the better will we be able to aggregate data and develop models based on the behaviour of an individual suffering from a particular disease. These models will make it easier to answer questions and can be refined as and when more information is collected or changes in behaviour are witnessed.

One way in which big data can be adopted in healthcare is by the incorporation of wearable devices and mobile apps for patients. These will represent the future of not just the research of diseases but that of medicine as a whole. On an average, an individual spends ten minutes in front of a physician in a year; some don’t even do that. Wearable devices or apps can longitudinally monitor your state on a daily basis and provide you with a much better and more accurate profile in terms of who you are, what your baseline is and how deviation from that baseline may predict you sliding into a state of disease. This, in turn, will help you and your doctor intervene sooner and prevent you from the severity of the disease. There are already glucose monitors with an interface with digital apps, which then connect directly with healthcare providers based on what they’re seeing with your glucose profiles.

While the introduction of such devices is evolution, in a larger picture it will bring about a major revolution in terms of the way things work between doctors and patients. A patient’s data collection will act like a dashboard of themselves where they can see all the information about their health. This means that they will not need to see a physician every time to understand what their body is going through. Simultaneously, when a severe difference, change or abnormality in the body arises, they can visit a doctor and make it easier for the doctor to interpret what is going on since the basic information is already available to him. That will make the procedure of discerning the disease much faster and more efficient.

One of the major problems in making the idea of big data for healthcare a success is the engagement of people. Everyone has grown up in an environment that is completely counter to this kind of a system. If that can be cracked and the required transformation in the mindset of people can be brought about, big data will definitely change the way the world looks at medicine. Appropriate adaptation of means and devices will hopefully make the world a healthier and happier place in the years to come!

Malaria – Get Facts on Symptoms, Treatment and Home Remedies

Over the past few years, the momentum of research and efforts on malaria has tremendously increased. In many poor tropical and subtropical countries of the world, malaria continues to be one of the leading causes of illness and death. To avoid a decline in the efforts to prevent and treat this disease, World Malaria Day is celebrated every year on the 25th of April. In a bid to promote global efforts to understand and control malaria, WMD is one of eight official global public health campaigns upheld by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

In terms of malaria, the statistics are shocking. Across the world, more than 3 billion people in 106 countries are currently at risk of malaria. In 2012 alone, malaria caused approximately 627,000 deaths. Through programs and initiatives taken around World Malaria Day, an estimated 112,235 children under 5 are alive today who would otherwise have died from the disease, and 41 million people have been educated on the prevention, detection and treatment for this deadly illness.

So what exactly is malaria? Malaria is an infectious disease carried by mosquitoes. When a mosquito carrying malaria bites a human, the disease spreads from the insect’s saliva to the person’s blood. If malaria isn’t diagnosed and treated as quickly as possible after becoming infected, it can become fatal. The main signs and symptoms of malaria include headache, high temperature, fever, nausea, diarrhoea, aching muscles, fatigue, and a dry cough. Although these are the most common symptoms of malaria, not all of the above may appear. Sometimes you may only two or three of the most common symptoms, such as a headache, fever, and vomiting. Malaria is mainly found in tropical regions such as large areas of Africa and Asia, Central and South America, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, the Middle East and some Pacific Islands.

If you are diagnosed with malaria, it is important that you start taking your medicine immediately to avoid the disease from becoming fatal. As much as possible, stay indoors in well-screened areas, especially at night when mosquitoes are most active. Use mosquito nets and bed nets. It’s best to treat the nets with the insect repellents. Wear clothing that covers most of your body. Use an insect repellent that contains DEET or picaridin. These repellents are applied directly to your skin, except around your mouth and eyes. If you choose a picaridin-based repellent, you will need to reapply it every several hours.

Travelers occasionally get malaria so it is strongly recommended that you take preventive medication when you travel to a region of the world that has malaria. The treatment may begin two weeks before your trip for the prevention of malaria. It may also continue for a month after you leave the area.

Treating malaria has become much simpler and easier with the discovery of effective medicines and undoubtedly medicines are the first option to treat the illness. The most widely used medicine for malaria is Chloroquine along with Quinine sulfate, Hydroxychloroquine, Mefloquine and a combination of atovaquone and proguanil. Just like any other disease, measures to prevent malaria can be taken by using simple home

remedies too. Although this might not be applicable in severe situations, they will definitely help in building up your immunity and resistance towards the disease.

One of the most effective home remedies for malaria is grapefruit. It should be consumed daily. The natural quinine-like substance can be extracted from the grapefruit by boiling a quarter of it and straining its pulp. Cinnamon is a valuable remedy for treating malaria. Take one teaspoon of powdered cinnamon and boil it in a glass of water with a pinch of pepper powder and a teaspoon of honey. Take this on a daily basis. Lime and lemon also play a vital role to reduce the quartan type of malarial fever. Take 4 to 5 drops of lime, add the juice of one lemon and dissolve it in one glass of water. This mixture needs to be consumed before the onset of fever.

Most importantly, you need to ensure that you maintain a clean and hygienic surrounding around you at all times. Keep yourself healthy by eating the right kind of foods and by keeping away from mosquitoes. The right kind of measures will keep you safe and away from the wrath of this terrible disease.

A Bright and Healthy Summer for Your Kids!

Schools are going to be shut for a few more weeks now. It’s that time of the year for which the kids wait all year round to enjoy the thrill of not having to go to school or sit and complete their daily homework. They sure have a gala time this season but the same creates feelings of anxiety and insecurity in parents. Parents do not have all day to spend with their children so taking care of how the kids spend their time becomes very important. As a responsible parent, it is your duty to ensure that they do not indulge in any kind of wrong activities and also stay fit and healthy!

There are a lot of ways in which you can take care of their health. Children need at least an hour of physical activity per day so getting them registered for a fun activity or sport, such as football, volleyball or badminton would really help. Find out what they like and make sure they enjoy the classes. This will not only keep them occupied but also teach them values such as teamwork, punctuality and maintaining a daily schedule. Do not let them get addicted to playing video games or watching TV. Too much of these will adversely affect their eyesight and also make them lazy.

Although children do not have to wake up early in the morning and get to school, maintaining a rough schedule for their day will really help. Make sure that they do not stay up too late in the night. Sticking to an agenda will make them organized and also make the transition of getting back to the routine of school a lot easier. Place unhealthy snacks out of their sight and reach. Surely, kids love munching on chips and biscuits, or resorting to a bowl of Maggi for their late night hunger pangs. By keeping them away, you can reduce their temptation and avoid the kids from mindlessly reaching out for them time and again. Instead, have a bowl of fruits such as banana, orange, and apple on the dinner table along with a jar of dry fruits such as cashews, almonds and pistachios. These will keep them from eating unhealthy and also provide health benefits.

Another activity which kids will heartily enjoy this season is swimming! Get them to join swimming coaching classes if they need to learn the sport or simply a club where they can go and swim. You will have to keep an eye out and ensure that they play it absolutely safe in the water. Once the safety precautions have been taken, swimming is one of the best summer activities for kids! Be it whatever sport you get the children to play, you have to make sure that they keep having a lot of water throughout and do not get dehydrated. Keep a bottle of water handy with them at all times and remind them to keep taking sips since kids often tend to get too involved with their surroundings and forget. Lack of water can cause serious problems such as dehydration and kidney stone. You can also give them fresh fruit juices of watermelon, lemon, orange and sweet lime. These will keep them hydrated and be tasty too.

Protect the kids from harmful UV rays. Make sure that they wear a cap when they step out in the afternoons, encourage them to put sunscreen and wear full sleeves to protect their skin. Too much sun can cause heat boils, causing feelings of itchiness and uneasiness. Direct exposure to strong afternoon sun can even cause heat strokes. Give them light coloured clothing and involve a lot of cotton in their wardrobe. Cotton keeps the body feeling light and absorbs heat easily.

Summer sunshine brings along feelings of joy and happiness. A little weariness from the sun and a few safety measures to protect kids from the scorching heat will keep them feeling fit and healthy throughout the season, and in perfect shape for the next academic year at school!

Night Shifts and a Healthy Lifestyle – Can they ever be BFFs?

Anjali is a successful Operational Manager at a company. She works on night shift four days of the week. While her work gets done quickly and easily due to lesser people in office and the laidback vibe of late hours, her lifestyle is completely out of order during the other three days of the week. She sits up late at night due to insomnia and sleeps through the day. Because of this, she cannot get any other work done and also ends up indulging in unhealthy eating habits. Lack of a schedule makes her hungry at odd hours; she ends up grabbing a packet of chips or biscuits to munch on, only to realize that she hardly has any proper meals throughout the day! Over time, she realized that this has got to stop. What does she do?

This is not only Anjali’s story but of several others who work in night shifts or at odd hours. People assume that working a night shift is easier than the normal shift since you have probably a calmer environment to work in. But these working hours have a tremendous disadvantage upon your health and your personal life. Once you have gotten yourself into the routine of staying up late in the night, taking some precautions and measures to ensure that the rest of your days are spent productively and that you get the rest that you deserve is very important.

The most important thing is diet! When you’re on a night shift, you probably end up eating packaged food or junk food or even nothing at all. While resorting to such means a few times is alright, making it a part of your daily routine is a strict no-no. The best way to go about it is to prepare something beforehand and take it with you in office to eat later. These could be simple dishes such as a chicken salad or a bunch of chopped vegetables sautéed together. Do not waste time being meticulous in the preparations because then you will get bored of doing it after a couple of days. Stick to the basics and make it a habit.

It’s understandable that working late hours is going to need you to put caffeine in your body to give you energy and keep you up. After all, coffee is the go-to option for people working in normal shifts too, so we can’t really blame the ones working in night shifts. If not for coffee, there are people who have energy drinks or soda to keep themselves up, which is alright too. Again, the only thing to remember is to not overdo it! A cup or two of coffee is a given but if you are having six to eight cups a day, you have got to find an alternative. You can try black coffee or green tea. These will prevent your body from heavy intakes of sugar, thus, also avoiding too many calories.

There will, of course, be instances when you really want to cook something to avoid eating junk but you have absolutely no preparation time. In such cases, go in for good liquid calories by preparing yourself a smoothie. Make sure that you have a blender at home or at work (if that’s allowed) and you can just pop in some fruits, add milk and voila! There’s a healthy liquid meal right there! Experiment with flavours, add almonds and nuts for taste and even treat yourself to Nutella and chocolate syrup once in a while. It’s still going to be better than a packet of chips for dinner.

Lastly, make some time for exercise! Working long hours is going to make you feel like you have absolutely no time for it but it is definitely possible if you can push yourself a little. Try cutting your nap time a little shorter. If you do not have time to hit the gym, do

a quick 20-minute workout at home. If that’s not possible either, take a quick walk down the road from your house and back. Make sure that you subject your body to some form of physical exercise, at least, every alternate day. Though this may seem like an impossible task in the beginning, it will make you feel much healthier and fitter in the long run.

Make good use of technology! With the increasing number of apps and websites available in the market today, you can have a virtual assistant for all your chores. These apps can help you keep an account of your weekly intake of food and calories so that you can change your eating habits accordingly.

With a little bit of effort and precautions, working on a night shift can be as smooth as working on a regular shift, and the right diet will help you remain fit and healthy too!

Can Your Child Bid Goodbye To His Glasses?

Little Rahul was a naughty child but at the same time always stood among the top three rankers in his class. He also loved television and watching cartoons all day. When he turned four, he started complaining about frequent headaches and blurry vision while reading. On getting his eyesight tested, his parents realized that they need to get their son a pair of glasses. His parents were shocked that their child had been detected with a flaw at such a young age! Convincing him to wear his glasses at all times when all the other kids had clear visions was another difficult task that Rahul’s parents had to go through.

Rahul’s parents are not alone. Myopia and Hypermetropia are cases that a lot of kids these days are seen to be suffering from. A recent study published in the medical journal Paediatrics states that one out of every 20 pre-school aged children has a vision problem. Such incidences can be quite hard on the parents. They get overwhelmed and start stressing about the news. They also start worrying too much, worrying about buying new glasses, worrying that their child would have lifelong vision problems and that he would always be called the ‘boy with the glasses’. However, worrying does not solve any issues. More than taking stress about his current situation, as parents, you should focus on doing the right thing for your children and help them in developing a good vision.

While eyesight problem in children is not a disease that can be solved simply by taking a dose of medicines or performing a surgery, there are a lot of home remedies that can help your child to get rid of his spectacles. Their lifestyle and the food they consume play a major role in the healing process. Make sure that you give them food that has enough nutrients and vitamins to make their eyesight better. Green vegetables, fish like salmon and tuna, citrus fruit juices like orange and lemon, fruits like banana and nuts are very good for the eyes. Include more food that has vitamin E, C and A in their diets. Make sure that they drink a lot of water during the course of the day – water keeps the body hydrated and prevents dry eyes.

Simple exercises at home are safe for the children and are also designed to strengthen the eye over time, thus improving vision. Try the eye shift exercise using a pencil and a calendar. Place a calendar on the wall and have your child stand at least 10 feet away while holding a pencil in front of his/her face. Ask your child to focus on the pencil, and then to look at the numbers on the calendar. Then, have him look back at the pencil. Repeat this at least 10 times. You can also change the amount of distance between your child and the calendar.

Another great exercise is the tracking exercise. Kids who struggle with skipping over words, switching up the order of letters, and losing their spot while reading a text can benefit from this exercise. Hook a ball to some string or a shoe lace. Hang the ball so that it is in line with your child’s nose, and tell him to watch the ball as you swing it back and forth. Repeat this exercise as you swing it side to side. Your child should be following the movement of the ball with his/her eyes only – no head movements!

Restricting the TV watching and video games time also helps because these activities put additional strain on the eyes. Spend a “No TV” Sunday evening with your children, play

some games with them, cook dinner together, read stories to them – this will also help you strengthen your bond with them 🙂

Most importantly, make sure that your kids wash their eyes often and keep them clean so that it reduces chances of infection or any kind of dust particles settling on the surface of their eyes. As long as you make your child stick to a healthy diet and spare some time daily for these exercises, he is definitely on his way to a clearer vision and can get rid of his glasses sooner than you’ll know!