How Digital Health Technology Is Changing Heart Health

Blame it on rising stress levels, erratic lifestyles, or anything else you can think of, but there is no getting away from the fact that heart health is causing much concern for people across the globe. Cardiovascular Diseases (CVD) are affecting young and old and are the number one cause of deaths – approximately 17.5 million people died from CVD (i.e. 31% of all global deaths) in 2012. Such striking figures explain why it is all the more necessary to become aware of the reality and start taking productive steps towards countering the risk factors.

Access to Health Data

Thankfully, with the advent of technology, it can be easy to at least have access to one’s health data. To think of it, it is actually the biggest benefit to be gained from technology, especially digitisation. Digital health technologies allow a person to stay informed of vital stats and then if need be, seek medical assistance. For instance, there is Mobile Health or mHealth as it is popularly known. It involves making use of mobile communication devices to stay informed of any health changes occurring in the body. One can use mobile apps to keep a track of dietary habits, sleep patterns, and fitness levels. As more and more people opt for better Internet connectivity through 3G and 4G networks and the reach of smartphones expands further, the reach of mHealth or rather digital health is rapidly increasing.

Unlike the typical perception of technology being too complicated, several of these health technology apps are simple to navigate. There is the largely popular Fitbit to track fitness progress, smart watches which can be paired with heart monitors, weighing scales, and other Bluetooth-enabled devices for tracking health data, and finally the mobile text messaging interventions (TMIs). Such wearable technology is proving to be highly resourceful for bettering the heart health of millions of people. So much so, that according to the World Economic Forum by 2022, one in every 10 people will be wearing clothes connected to the Internet or the ‘wearable Internet. This has to mean that digitising the health world is feasible.

Healthcare has become participatory

How is then digital technology really helpful?

  • First, there is real-time data available and it can be corroborated with a person’s previous health records. Thus, understanding why a health scare might have occurred is quicker for a doctor or at other times, preventive measures can already be employed.
  • Digital technology allows the doctors to gather data, diagnose, identify possible lacunae, etc. even before the patient arrives at the hospital. So there is a considerable saving of precious time.
  • Some medical practitioners use tablets to track and share data with other teams when working on an emergency. Apart from doctors, even for say a common man, the technologies available in the market can make understanding the readings/ statistics undemanding. As a result, health management can become possible even at home, making the person take a step towards dealing with CVD a little sooner.
  • Since the data is very specific to a particular patient, it assists the healthcare practitioners to provide an accurate diagnosis. It then further implies receiving personalised treatments based on the individual health records.

Remote Health Monitoring

Remote Patient Monitoring or RPM includes communication gadgets as well as tools for measuring medications such as glucose monitoring, oxygen saturation measurements, etc. Deploying RPM ensures that patients can be closely watched for their health in the comfortable confines of their home. These tools check for all the vital parameters without bothering or being too obtrusive and thus, help in creating a stress-free environment. Ideally, RPM directly delivers actionable data to the medical practitioners who can then alter the treatment according to the reports they keep on receiving. Especially in the case of CVD, RPM has proved to be highly successful for patients suffering from congestive heart failure and those with implanted cardiac rhythm devices.

Personalised Medicines

Unlike cancer, genomics has not progressed much for CVD. However, the genome is an important factor when considering treatment for a patient suffering from CVD. Thanks to the digital means of gathering individual health information, doctors can now consider providing specific treatment depending on pathology, raw digital data sets from genomics, imaging, etc. Then there is also Artificial Intelligence or AI which, when combined with genomics, can greatly help in preventing and treating CVD. Since CVD can be connected to a person’s lifestyle, it is a huge boon to be able to decide on a personlised treatment plan based on genomics.

Digital health technology makes life simpler and more convenient. It can make the healthcare sector efficient and effective, reaching out to a vast number of people simultaneously. This sector is not just limited to doctors and patients but also includes pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and the medical devices manufacturing companies. But most importantly, it gives an individual the option to make informed choices. Especially for CVD, it is bound to play a major role in the area of prevention. It is for the best then that digital health technologies need to be more explored and exploited to ensure a healthy heart.

The Shifting Goalposts Of Popular Health Parameters And What Those Mean For Us

Here’s the irony we all seem to live with – while technology is giving us more and more opportunities to stay ahead of time, somewhere it is also making us too dependent on circumstances. The changing focus on health concerns rightly compliments this argument. While every person, irrespective of profession and gender, ideally needs to take care of health and stay fit, this is all the more true for working professionals who deal with long and stressful work hours. Consequently, diabetes, cholesterol, and thyroid top the list of most common health concerns faced by the working class.

Change in Health Parameters

Earlier the parameter set to identify if a person was diabetic, for example, was if the fasting blood sugar level was above 140 (i.e. 140 milligrams of glucose per decilitre of blood). However, in 1997, the Expert Committee on the Diagnosis and Classification of Diabetes Mellitus brought down the number to 126. This was probably more from a preventive point of view wherein; experts felt that sooner a condition was treated better the chances of a person from avoiding the dreaded health condition altogether. Unfortunately, this decision meant that all of a sudden almost 1.6 million people who were otherwise “healthy” (since their blood sugar level was in the previous good range of 126-140) suddenly were declared diabetic. The same goes for measuring cholesterol. While the cholesterol level earlier was considered a risk at 300, over the years as research progressed it came down to 240 and eventually has settled at 200, thus bringing in almost 42 million people in the category of high cholesterol patients.

The other health problem which is seen to greatly impact the population is thyroid. Thyroid, too, was always a concern but never with the same gravity that it demands now. Hypothyroidism affects about 4-5% of the people across the globe and in India, one in ten adults go through it. Statistics state that women are much more at a risk and need to take precautions from early on. Such numbers further promote research and force the medical fraternity to take the results even more seriously. However, the more focus the problems get, the more the number of people seem to “suffer” from it.

Change in the Treatment Outlook

As a result, the treatment patterns also have considerably undergone a change. Everyone now stresses on preventive measures vis-à-vis earlier times when a health problem was treated as and when it occurred. It could be because of the fact that since there is so less time to spare, people prefer taking extra cautions to stay healthy rather than later spend time making visits to a doctor. From the doctors’ perspective, they would prefer avoiding an unwarranted health scare by prescribing medicines to counter a possible situation than having to deal with it at a later stage. It also implies monetary profits for the healthcare business sector. That makes the increasingly lowered threshold levels slightly difficult to accept. But for the common man, the risk seems too great compared to money spent.

Resultant Situation

More importantly, what this situation has resulted in is an over-cautious generation. Lowered ideal health range levels may make people take cognisance of their eating habits, exercise routines, and so on. But they also forget the fact that excessively worrying about a certain health aspect will not take away the problem entirely; while cholesterol is the primary cause of a heart attack it can also occur due to unhealthy lifestyles, smoking, etc. Another example is of the BMI (Body Mass Index). In the beginning, BMI was essentially used as a measure for body weight, and, thus, to basically remain in the healthy bracket. It helped in predicting cardiovascular diseases or nutritional competencies. Now, as with other health parameters expanding their scope, so has this simple figure. Health specialists have lately arrived at a Waist-Hip Ratio (WHR) which when used along with the BMI apparently better predicts more serious disorders such as diabetes, lipid problems, atherosclerosis, and so on.

In some ways, this sounds greatly helpful. Yet, it is also important to remember that over-diagnosis can be problematic as well. Imagine the number of medicines one consumes these days. Somewhere it makes the body immune to certain strains of those medicines and hence when the real need arises, it is doubtful if that medicine will really have a positive effect. Many times, people even ignore the side effects of taking extra medications, just to ward off a future possible concern. The number of treatments available is endless as well. It is thus up to the educated us to decide whether we will allow ourselves to be supposedly called “unhealthy” and where to stop in this vicious circle.

 

Improve Your Heart Health with These Super Foods

Heart health is no longer a matter of concern for the elderly only. Even in their early twenties, men and women suffer from health ailments that can be fatal. According to a senior consultant cardiologist at a well-known hospital, India is currently witnessing around two million heart attacks a year with a majority of the victims being the youngsters. One person dies every 33 seconds because of a heart attack!

While some heart conditions that cannot be prevented, most concerns can be avoided. With these superfoods in your daily diet, curbing a heart attack will get easier.

Superfoods

Although superfoods have been around for a long time, the health benefits have come to light only recently. Superfoods are super rich in nutrients and antioxidants. They are beneficial for one’s health and can prevent terminal illnesses. Here are some of the superfoods you may love or hate, but can tremendously help in improving your heart health!

Walnuts

Walnuts top the nut list for heart-healthy superfoods. The distinct ‘brain’ shaped nut is high in Omega-3 fatty acids. Walnuts contain higher quality antioxidants that fight free radicals responsible for heart diseases. Craving for a sugary snack? Snack on a handful of walnuts every day. The goodness they give you is more than your daily portion of fruits and vegetables, combined!

Salmon

Salmon is the star on the heart superfood list. This oily fish is high in Omega-3 fatty acids and super rich in proteins, Vitamins B and D. Regular consumption of Salmon lowers triglycerides by 50%. Triglycerides is the bad fat that increases the cholesterol in your body. This Omega-3 rich fish has proven to lower the risk of arrhythmias (abnormal heartbeat). It also reduces the mortality rate of those with congestive heart conditions.

Oranges

An orange a day keeps your arteries healthy! This citrus fruit is high in flavonoids that help lower heart conditions caused by clots. Vitamin C present in oranges is linked with lower heart diseases. Oranges are rich in potassium, magnesium, fiber, and beta-carotene too. Several studies have shown that the chemicals present in oranges reduce blood cholesterol levels by 20-25%. Beware of the hidden sugars in the packaged orange juices, though.

Garlic

Garlic is a blood thinner. Garlic makes the blood consistency such that it easily passes through blood vessels. Garlic is high in bioflavonoids and contains sulfur which gives protection from calcium deposits and reduces the size of arterial plaque. It promotes adequate blood circulation. Regular consumption of garlic in your diet lowers the risk of blood stagnation and passage blockages by unhealthy fats.

Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate has got a plenty of attention for being good for the heart and here is why. The cocoa bean is rich in flavonoids and antioxidants. This is the perfect recipe for a healthy heart. Flavanol is the main flavonoid present in chocolate. It helps lower the blood pressure and improve the blood flow to the brain and heart. It also enables blood to clot by making the blood platelets less sticky.

Kale

Kale has risen to fame over the last couple of years. Kale is a nutrient-packed superfood. It has minerals, vitamins, and much more. It even has bile acid sequestrants which help lower the cholesterol levels. A study showed that consumption of kale juice for 12 weeks increased the level of ‘good’ cholesterol. Kale is also known to be one the world’s best sources of Vitamin K.

Oatmeal

Another superfood for your heart is the humble oatmeal. It is packed with omega 3 fatty acids, folate, and potassium. It is rich in fiber which is good for the digestive tract. This superfood can lower the levels of bad cholesterol and keep your arteries clear. Oatmeal helps curb type 2 diabetes and helps in weight loss as well.

Avocados

Avocados are nutrient packed and good for your heart. They have good fats and are free from sodium and cholesterol. This superfood cuts down your saturated fat intake without compromising on calories. Just eating healthy fats is not enough. Ensure that you are exercising to burn off the calories consumed too!

Olive Oil

Olive oil is the secret to the healthy hearts of the Mediterranean folks. It prevents the formation of blood clots and excess blood coagulation. It raises the level of good cholesterol while lowering the bad cholesterol and triglycerides in the body.

Acai Berries

Known as the miracle berry, this berry is full of antioxidants and vitamins. Acai berries are high in flavonoids that prevent plaque buildup in your arteries. They increase the capillary strength, prevent inflammation and lower cholesterol levels.

Of course, simply adding such superfoods in your diet won’t keep you disease-proof. You also need to follow a healthy routine, eat healthy food, and exercise regularly.

Did we miss a super food? Comment here and let us know.

Beat the Monday blues. Here’s how you could do it

image courtesy: thedoctorscloset.com
image courtesy: thedoctorscloset.com

Let’s face it: Monday hits all of us sometimes. While there are many gurus, motivators and thinkers who say that if we really love our work there should be no such thing as Monday blues, for regular walking-talking folks out there work is not always the biggest draw, day in and day out. After the weekend, especially if you have a life outside of the office (which is a great thing by the way), getting back to your desk on Mondays can be bit of a drag. Mondays come with its own pitfalls: demanding bosses, deadlines, goals (some of it too abstract to make sense), swipe-ins and swipe-outs, lunch hours etc…. basically a set of rules we program ourselves to follow, but are not really keen on. With a salary staring at us from the end of the tunnel, the whole problem is harder to deal with for some of us. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if we didn’t have to fight Mondays as much as we generally have to? Here’s a quick guide to easing out the Mondays blues and welcoming the week with some semblance of joie de vivre:

If it is too bad, review what you are doing

First things first. If getting back to work on Monday pulls you down so badly that you cannot function without feeling depressed consistently, week after week, the problem is more serious than just Monday blues. It needs fixing. It is a sign that you are unhappy at work. Make a list of things that are not letting you function like yourself, and address them. If you are not yourself, you can’t function normally. This could, in really serious cases, could be a sign of depression. You need to find out what is bothering you and take proactive action to beat your blues. The usual Monday blues don’t hit you consistently. The sign of regular Monday blues is that you are aware of it. It should not cripple you. If it does, see a therapist. Continue reading Beat the Monday blues. Here’s how you could do it

Smile, even when you’re not on camera

 …you will look better, feel better and your body will love you always smile 1440x1280-421

 If you read the title of this post with a smile on your face, know that your brain just  released some endorphins – the feel-good chemicals. But that’s just one thing. Studies  have shown that smiling can have a positive effect on our mental health and can boost  the immune system. To begin with, it releases stress and emotions. But all this holds  true for genuine smiles. The French physician, Guillaume Duchenne, coined a term  ‘Duchenne smile’ for real smiles, which is considered as the sole indicator of true  enjoyment.  

 As Savetime decides to spread smiles today, we are giving away free smiles through      these health benefits of smiling.

  1. Lowers Heart Rate
    Smiling reduces blood pressure levels, if only temporarily, and lets the heart work without any stress. People who are emotionally sound and smile and laugh often are less likely to develop a heart condition. A study, which consisted of 2,000 people, carried out by the European Heart Journal, revealed that people with a positive outlook towards life are less likely to develop heart conditions than their pessimistic peers.
  2. Reduces Anxiety
    Sure, it isn’t easy to smile when in a stressful situation. But if you try to calm yourself down, take a breath, share a joke and smile it away, your anxiety is sure to fade. Smiling is known to release the body’s happiness hormone endorphin. With its release, cortisol levels, the stress hormone, also come down.
  3. Strengthens the Immune System
    One study found that smiling produces white blood cells (WBC) in our body which are responsible for improving our immunity.
  4. Relieves Pain
    A study published in the Journal of Pain, revealed that people who frowned at an unpleasant medical procedure felt more pain than those who smiled through it. The release of endorphins is the science behind this awesome revelation. Endorphins, the happiness chemicals, are released when you smile and act as natural painkillers.  You could try this when you have a headache or a sore throat the next time. Watch a funny Youtube video. And when you crack up and laugh, you will see why they say that laughter is the best medicine!
  5. Uplifts Mood
    You may think that people smile only when they are happy. But that’s partly untrue.  Dr. Michael Lewis, a psychologist at Cardiff University explained, “Simply using the same muscles as smiling will put you in a happier mood. And that’s because, use of those muscles is how our brain evaluates moods.” So, find a reason to smile and your mood will follow.
  6. Makes You Attractive
    Needless to say, when you have a smile on your face you seem more attractive to people. Smiling improves facial features and sharpens them. The use of muscles keeps the face looking young and charming. A full-blown smile is a sign of confidence.
     
  7. Adds Life
    Believe it or not, smiling has a positive effect on longevity. Smiling in both, good and bad situations, is a sign of great mental health. A happy disposition can have a powerful impact on life expectancy. In 2010, the Telegraph wrote a report on a recent study by Wayne University, in which the experts studied 230 old photographs of major league baseball players in the 1952 baseball register. Each of these pictures had the player’s statistics, like his age, weight, marital status. Based on this, the experts ranked each of these players on their smile – no smile, partial smile and full-blown smile. To cut to the chase, the conclusion of this study was: among the 184 players who had died, those in the ‘no smile’ group lived an average of 72.9 years. The ‘partial smile’ group lived an average of 75 years and those with the widest grins and genuine smiles lived an average of 79.9 years.This was a ground-breaking medical revelation which concluded that smiling often can add up to 7 years to your life.If you need a better reason than this to smile, consider this: it takes only 17 muscles to smile and 43 muscles to frown. Which means smiling is not only good for health, it is also easier on you.