Understanding Blood Pressure and Keeping It Normal

Having a normal blood pressure is very important to lead a healthy life. Without the right pressure, which ensures that our blood flows around your circulatory system, the oxygen and nutrients do not get delivered through the arteries to the tissues and organs. The pressure also helps your body’s immunity since it is responsible for delivering white blood cells, antibodies and hormones like insulin. Your body is accustomed to having a certain amount of pressure which is called as the healthy blood pressure level. If this pressure balance gets messed up, you suffer from high or low blood pressure. This causes different effects on your body. A severe change in the numbers can lead to extreme effects. Senior Surgeon Dr. Ramakanta Panda predicts that by the year, 2020, almost one-third of our Indian population will be suffering from high blood pressure.

For a normal reading, the top number needs to be between 90 and 120, and the bottom number needs to be between 60 and 80. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), when your numbers fall between these ranges, it is considered to be normal blood pressure.  So what do these numbers mean? The first number is the amount of pressure in your arteries when your heart muscles contract. This is referred to as systolic pressure. The bottom number is your blood pressure when your heart muscle is between heart beats. This is termed as diastolic pressure. Both numbers are important in determining the state of your heart.

To get an idea about the stage of blood pressure, you need to know the different categories. Here’s how you can differentiate them:

Normal:
Systolic mm Hg (upper number) – less than 120
Diastolic mm Hg (lower number) – less than 80

Prehypertension:
Systolic mm Hg (upper number) – 120-139
Diastolic mm Hg (lower number) – 80-89

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) – Stage 1:
Systolic mm Hg (upper number) – 140-159
Diastolic mm Hg (lower number) – 90-99

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) – Stage 2:
Systolic mm Hg (upper number) – 160 or higher
Diastolic mm Hg (lower number) – 100 or higher

Hypertensive Crisis (emergency case):
Systolic mm Hg (upper number) – higher than 180
Diastolic mm Hg (lower number) – higher than 110

In the case of low blood pressure, there are no specific numbers for reference. This is because even if your numbers are low, as long as you are not experiencing any symptoms, there is no need for concern. Your doctor can tell you more about your low blood pressure condition depending on the symptoms you are facing.

Causes:

With regards to high blood pressure, there are higher chances of it occurring in patient’s going through pregnancy, thyroid, diabetes, low blood sugar, depression, Parkinson’s disease, heart problems, widening of the blood vessels, heat exhaustion or liver diseases.

Also termed as hypotension, low blood pressure may be the sign of an underlying problem, especially in the elderly. It causes inadequate blood flow to the heart, brain, and other vital organs. Postural hypotension can happen to someone who is rising from a lying down or sitting position. This is considered to be a failure of the cardiovascular system and can lead the nervous system to react inappropriately. The effects of low blood pressure become more intense and evident when it occurs in people belonging to older age groups.

Diagnosis:

Blood pressure is measured with a device known as a sphygmomanometer, consisting of a stethoscope, arm cuff, dial, pump and valve. The pressure reading numbers may increase or decrease depending on factors such as your age, heart condition, activity, emotions, and medicines. One high reading does not mean that you need to worry. To be extremely sure about the diagnosis, you need to be comfortably resting and take readings at least three different times.

For low blood pressure, you may feel symptoms such as dizziness or lightheadedness. Few other underlying conditions could also be the cause. To avail the appropriate treatment, identifying the cause of the low blood pressure is very important. Factors such as medical history, specific symptoms and age will help the doctor perform an efficient evaluation of the system.

Treatment:

If you are suffering from high blood pressure, the first thing you need to do is to adopt healthier lifestyle choices. Maintain a healthy diet and reduce your sodium intake. Ideally, one should not consume more than 2300 mg per day. Have a limited amount of processed foods because these are high in sodium content and have low nutritional value. Reduce your caffeine intake as it plays a sensitive role in your blood pressure readings. Exercise regularly – Even 30 minutes a day can help you maintain a healthy weight and feel good about your body. Indulge in yoga and meditation sessions, these will help you reduce stress after long work days. Keep your alcohol intake under control and quit smoking.

Keep track of the numbers by checking them frequently. Adopting different measures to be absolutely sure. In the case of very high blood pressure, your doctor may recommend certain medication. ACE inhibitors and calcium channel blockers to relax your blood vessels, alpha-blockers to decrease arterial resistance, beta-blockers to decrease heart rate, and diuretics to decrease the amount of fluid in your body are some kinds of medications that usually help but you should not take these without a doctor’s advice. If you experience symptoms such as shortness of breath, visual changes, chest pain, loss of muscle control, blood in the urine or dizziness, that means you are in the danger zone and require immediate treatment.

As you age, prevention becomes more important, especially when it comes to this kind of health problems. The American Health Association says that your systolic pressure tends to rise up once you are cross the age of 50. Take regular health check-ups and keep your doctor informed about the smallest of symptoms because the faster you know the better your will be able to take care of your health and keep the numbers under control. As far as you follow a healthy lifestyle, eat proper food and take regular medication, blood pressure is not a fatal disease.

The Dangers of Self-Medication

Nowadays, everyone feels like they have the qualities of a doctor. And hence, they often resort to self-medication. ‘Bad stomach? I know the pill for it!’ ‘Pain in the abdomen? It’s probably just acidity!’ While health issues like cough, cold, and fever can be treated at home, at times, the health issue at hand may be much bigger for which, visiting a doctor is an absolute must. The doctor is the only one who can give you a complete diagnosis of your situation and provide you with guidance regarding the steps you can take going forward, to enhance the healing process.

Self-medication is harmful due to a number of reasons. A study by Psychology Today explains that individuals tend to act as their own physicians in an attempt to handle the symptoms of the physical or mental health concern involved with it. A lot of times they want to hide their condition since going to the doctor may come across as a sign of weakness. Sometimes, they are scared or embarrassed, and at times, they simply want to avoid the expenses of getting the diagnosis of the problem from a professional. Truth is, self-medication can ruin a person’s life, the lives of others around him/her and can end up making the original situation much worse than it was.

Some of the important dangers of self-medication are:

Wrong Drug Dosage

When you decide to prescribe drugs for yourself, there is no one to tell you the right dosage for the pills you are using. Even if you have got the drug right, factors such as the dosage of the drug, how it needs to be taken, its composition and its side-effects or reactions, if any, also need to be considered. Ignorance and lack of awareness when it comes to these things can cause serious problems and can also lead to a fatality. According to a study by the non-profit group, Trust for America’s Health, nearly 52% of deaths were related to prescription drug overdoses where the patients did not even know that they have taken an overdose.

Side-effects

Many medicines tend to have side effects on your body. When you go to a physician, he gives you appropriate drugs to counter those effects and stabilize your body. He prescribes medicines keeping in mind your body type, your diet, your daily routine, etc. Self-medication, on the other hand, can lead to severe side effects such as allergic reactions, loose stools, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness.

Wrong Diagnosis

One of the major things that can go wrong when you resort to self-medication is the wrong diagnosis of the disease at hand. You may be suffering from some specific symptoms and will link those to a disease that you know of. You will end up taking the medicines for it but that probably will not work. This can complicate simple situations and also make it difficult for the doctor to correctly diagnose and treat your situation at later stages.

Self-medication for Pregnant Women

This one could probably be the most dangerous kind of self-medication. Wrong moves or intake of unfamiliar drugs could cause birth defects and congenital anomalies in the child. What the mother consumes during the pregnancy stage directly affects the child so it is very important that they find out all the information about the particular drug that they are consuming. Visiting a physician and taking his recommendations for the medicines would be the best way to go about it.

Addiction to the Wrong Drug

A lot of times, there are cases wherein a patient is taking a wrong drug and gets addicted to it. This is especially true in the case of medical conditions such as depression where the doses of the drug are very high and cause severe effects. If you are following self-medication, there is no one who can reassess the prescription for you. Strong pills and their overdose can lead to severe problems or even death. According to a study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 33,175 people died in 2012 due to an unintentional drug overdose.

Masking the Symptoms of a Serious Condition

The route of self-medication may also cause the patients to overlook the symptoms of a serious condition that they may be suffering from. For example, a patient may be suffering from a condition such as pneumonia but may pass it off as a case of the flu. At times, people tend to take this route to save themselves the embarrassment of being the victim of a serious disease. However, this is very harmful and the most inappropriate way of dealing with the problem.

Alternately, there are times when people tend to adopt the route of telemedicine. A lot of times, this may prove to be fruitful since it reduces the hassle of visiting the doctor in person and thus saves time and money. But where does the credibility come in? With so many portals offering medical advice, there are a lot of cases of spam and frauds. The advising authority may not have the right knowledge or skills to guide you with the best possible treatment. Carelessness and lack of precision from their end could lead to devastating results and also a case of fatality. When you are looking for doctors offering telemedicine, look for the credibility of the doctors and the portals which offer this service.

Don’t take your health very lightly. Always remember, Google is not your doctor – avoid self-medication. Always consult a doctor for the smallest of health issue. After all, the preservation of health is always easier than a cure of the disease.

 

Why A Fad Diet Is the Worst Solution to Lose Weight

If you’re looking to lose weight, you know that your mind is generally open to all kinds of things so as to strike a chord with that one remedy that will work. “Have hot water, lemon and honey in the morning. Okay, I’ll do it.” “Avoid carbs in my diet? Okay, that can be done!” And while you’re in the midst of dreaming about that perfect body, one thing that is most tempting is that awesome diet which has worked for that celebrity from Hollywood. Fad diets promise you a lot of things which sound great for your body. The fact that it is a trend that celebrities follow makes you believe in its effects because the results are right in front of your eyes. But in reality, fad diets can be extremely harmful to your body. The weight loss is very momentary and your body will end up gaining more kilos once you stop following the diet.

Some of the popular fad diets are Cabbage Fruit Diet, 3 Day Diet, 5 Bite Diet, Liquid Diet. Low-Carb Diet, Low-Fat Diet and Zone Diet. Most of these diets work in terms of helping you shed kilos quickly but they have a lot of negative effects on your body too. Let’s take a look at some of the disadvantages of the fad diets:

Hair and Muscle Loss
When you are depriving your body of the regular foods, what you are losing is muscle weight and not the fat on your body. The result? You have a body which makes you thinner and fitter on the outside but is very weak on the inside. The reduction of muscles in your body reduces your strength and lowers your energy levels. Lack of enough nutrients may also cause hair loss. Proteins make your hair stronger and shinier and the lack of it will lead to your hair to become scanty and weak.

Weight Gain
This is ironical because you have decided to follow the diet primarily to lose weight. While it does help during the days that you are following the diet, but the moment you decide to end the diet and get back to your normal routine, your body starts gaining weight. You may also weigh more than you were before the diet. This happens because you tend to consume more unhealthy food because of the restrictions you put on your body while you were on the diet.

Nutritional Deficiencies
Fad diets consist of very specific foods and hence tend to deprive your body of some of the vital proteins, vitamins and minerals it needs for normal functioning. The lack of nutrients affects your body in several ways. Your hair starts falling, skin looks pale, nails become brittle, and you may even start getting dark circles under your eyes.

Alteration in Metabolism:
When you have multiple normal meals during the day, your body is used to a particular pattern and acclimatises itself to it. It can adjust if you happen to skip a meal at times or happen to overeat at a particular occasion. But with the diet, your eating pattern suddenly changes and this has adverse effects on your metabolism. Thus, your body may not be able to digest food properly during the diet and the effects may also last after the diet.

Dehydration
A lot of diets compel you to survive on liquids that help you get rid of all the water weight in your body. This means that you are not exactly losing the fat in your body. Losing water weight is easy but the moment you start eating solid foods, your body will gain all the weight back. And that’s not all. This causes your body to get severely dehydrated leading to feelings of fatigue, nausea, and dizziness.

So what’s the best way to lose weight? You can go on a diet but ensure that it is designed to provide enough nutrition to your body. And exercise! Even a daily walk on half an hour or a quick swim in the pool will help and will give you far better effects than following a fad diet.

Chronic Health Management with mHealth

According to a recent study conducted by the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), chronic diseases account for 60% of the deaths in India, annually killing more than five million people every year. These diseases include various ailments such as diabetes strokes, cardiovascular diseases, mental health illnesses, cancers, and chronic lung diseases which will cost the country around Rs. 280 trillion between 2012 and 2030 in terms of economic output. Why are these numbers so high? Is there something we can do to reduce them?

While there is no definite answer to these questions, mHealth is one technology that is actively helping in reducing these numbers. One of the major problems in chronic diseases is that they cannot be treated in one go. Patients need to monitor their health on an ongoing basis and also need to maintain a constant communication with their doctors so that the doctors are able to keep a check on the patients’ health and monitor the effects of medicines. The introduction of mHealth has been a major breakthrough in this area since it works on concepts such as consolidated data and encourages faster and easier communication between the patient and the doctor.

So what exactly is mHealth? The use of mobile phones and other wireless technology in medical care can be termed as mHealth. This includes the use of Short Messaging Service (SMS), getting a consultation from your doctor/physician over the phone and the use of apps that are built for health management of the patients.

Health Record Management

Mobile apps make it easy to measure, track, and keep a record of various statistics related to chronic diseases such as blood glucose, weight, diet, and exercise. Instead of maintaining a record of these vitals on paper, patients can maintain their health records right on their phones for access from anywhere, anytime. This recorded data can then be easily shared with doctors, clinics, hospitals and laboratories without having to carry loads of paper reports.

Doctor-Patient Communication

Mobile has made the doctor-patient communication very easy and effective. Patients can communicate with their doctors through messaging apps, share their reports through apps and also maintain a history of their conversation. Patients also have the option to share their health data with the doctors and receive feedback and advice related to their health.

Health Management

Mobile apps have made health management very convenient. For chronic health diseases, patients need to be extremely cautious and regular with regards to their medication.  There are a few apps which intimate you with reminders to take your medicines at a particular time of the day and monitor the time when the medicine was actually taken – making the adherence to medication easier.

People suffering from chronic diseases need to keep a check on things like what they eat, how much they exercise, their heart rate, hemoglobin levels, etc. because excessively high or low numbers can have serious effects on their health. Mobile apps help them maintain a record of this data. With real-time access to data about their health, they can engage in personalised health management and know what is going on in their body. The meaningful insights offered by the data accumulated over a time helps patients is being more aware, responsible and proactive when it comes to maintaining their health issues.

Rural Healthcare

Another major trend in mHealth is Interactive Voice Response (IVR). This is especially helpful in the rural parts of the country where the masses do not have access to the latest technologies or basic health care. IVR provides distant training to health workers with the use of a simple cell phone with text and talk capabilities. This provides the possibility for remote education, disease tracking, monitoring, data collection, diagnostic and treatment support, communication, and training. An evaluation of these activities showed that most of the users had a great experience and would like to see more such initiatives.

It is evident that twenty-first-century health care will be driven by mobile technologies rather than location-based diagnostics which can be carried out only in hospitals and clinics. We will be able to undertake treatments anytime and anywhere, making them as mobile as we are and ultimately change the face of how the healthcare industry has been functioning.

This Is What an Integrated Healthcare Experience Looks Like

The Indian healthcare industry is very fragmented. The whole ecosystem is largely manual and paper-based. Patients, today, have to go through a lot of hassles and stages to get a proper medical care. This leads them to be frustrated and irritated owing to factors such as long wait times, specialized physicians that are not easy to get hold of, and a medical system that is not easily accessible. The overall healthcare system in our country is at a very unorganized level. Patients need to take care of all documentation and records such as reports, x-rays, prescriptions, notes from doctors etc. manually and be responsible for all of them. This is a result of the fact that we do not have one integrated platform where all the information and content can be readily available and easily accessed by patients, doctors, physicians and anyone else who may be involved in the process of the treatment.

How can an integrated healthcare experience benefit the patients?

However, in recent years, the face of healthcare industry is changing and people are coming up with more healthcare options than we have ever been exposed to. India’s healthcare system is working towards technology-enabled collaborations to incorporate advanced techniques and ideas in the processes. These introductions aim towards creating a fully integrated healthcare system which will

  • Provide comprehensive solutions to all the individual entities such as patients, doctors, physicians, clinics, hospitals, laboratories, and medical stores.
  • The application and use of such a system will enable faster and more efficient communication between patients and doctors and make the entire system more smooth.
  • The use of cloud-based and mobile-based tools for storage and access of information will make them easily accessible at any time from any device. Such an experience is what can be defined as an integrated healthcare experience.

Better patient care at lower costs

Integrated care aims at taking a more comprehensive approach offering the patients with higher-quality and more efficient care that better meets their needs.

Along with that, it also tries to reduce the costs involved in the treatment by analysing the overall situation and taking the right steps at the right time. It can work around different approaches but the ultimate aim is to provide the patients with what is best for them.

In the case of patients suffering from chronic diseases, integrated care works towards creating a symbiosis between primary and secondary care to ensure more appropriate use of health care resources. It aims towards ensuring the availability of all types of services such as physicians, specialists, nutritionists and other health professionals for patients on a single platform.

With an integrated system, patients will be able to undergo diagnostic tests and get prescriptions filled in one go. They will be able to store a complete health history of themselves as well as their families online, thus avoiding the hassle of preserving physical documents.

Smooth communication between doctors, caregivers and patients and optimised costs

Another feat integrated care works towards achieving is to improve communication between a wider range of services. This facility will allow the patients who have undergone a treatment or surgery at a hospital to get discharged at an earlier time than the usual. They will then be provided with follow-up services and appropriate care. The aim is to reduce the hospital stay once the patients no longer require close treatment, thus reducing costs and optimising the overall process.

Patient Finance and Insurance Management

Patients will be also able to keep track of their healthcare finance management by quickly accessing their insurance credentials, insurance details, reimbursement that can be claimed through their insurance by accessing all the information on their mobile phones.

 Self care

Through access to all the healthcare analytics data, the patients will be able to decrease the risk of costly emergency interventions and thus reduce the chances of death. The insights provided by the integrated healthcare management system will allow the patients to keep a constant check on their health without having to visit your doctor each time. Old patients suffering from chronic diseases will be able to easily track their medications, get medication reminders, and reduce the chances of wrong medications.

While healthcare industry has developed a lot in the recent years and has seen many technological transformations, there is always scope to develop the existing services and aim at achieving higher levels of integration. Integrated healthcare systems provide a full continuum of services in a user-friendly manner, creating a one-stop environment to eliminate the cost of intermediaries, promote wellness, and improve overall health outcomes.