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.

 

It’s a Myth that Plastic Surgery is Just for Vanity

What’s the first thing that pops into your mind when you hear plastic surgery? Nose jobs, liposuction, breast implants? If you associate plastic surgery with these (now alarmingly) common procedures, you are not alone. There is a rise in cosmetic surgeries on popular celebrities, both men and women today. So, many wrongly believe plastic surgery is just for vanity, only a luxury for the rich and the famous. That is not true.

Cosmetic Vs Plastic Surgery

Many use the names interchangeably and wrongly assume that both are the same things. However closely related they may be, cosmetic and plastic surgery both have different goals.

Cosmetic surgery, as the name implies, is only focused on improving the appearance. Breast augmentations, liposuction, Botox and tummy tucks all fall under this category. Cosmetic surgery is generally not covered by the insurance.

Plastic surgery is primarily focused on the repair or reconstruction of dysfunctional body parts so that the person undergoing the procedure may live better. Burn repair surgery, hand surgery or scar revision surgery etc. fall under this category. Plastic surgery is expensive, but for the right reasons, it can be covered by your insurance.

Women and Plastic Surgery

Women with breast cancer may have to undergo a mastectomy but not all women with mastectomy will pursue breast reconstruction. In another scenario, some women want breast reduction to help reduce chronic back pains.  Either way, plastic surgeons closely work with such cases. While this may not be medically necessary, it helps women enhance their quality of life. Although it is a part of it, plastic surgery is not just to enhance a person’s appearance or beauty. In many ways, surgical enhancements develop into a medical necessity.

Check out the following cases where it is not only medically essential but proves that plastic surgery is not just for vanity.

Skin Cancer

Plastic surgeons work closely with people with many types of skin cancer, such as squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma, etc. The surgeon first removes all the skin affected by cancer. Then reconstruction is performed which includes sutures or skin graft – which is the process of replacing skin with skin from another part of the body. This is an extremely intricate procedure.

Dog Bites

Plastic surgery is key for victims of a dog attacks. It aids proper healing and avoids the risk of skin infections and scarring if treated within the 12-24 hours. Bites that cause serious injuries to the face as those incurred in car accidents may also need plastic surgery.

Face Reconstruction

A severely injured soldier also gets help from the plastic surgeon. The treatment is not just to fix or improve the external look of the person. Plastic surgery helps improve the soldier’s quality of life. They can look in the mirror and not be reminded of the trauma they underwent. The surgery also protects the soldier from stranger’s reactions to the injuries, thus improving their self-esteem.

Deviated Septum

A nasal septum is normally the straight midline of the nose that divides the nose passageway into equal halves. A deviated septum is a severely shifted midline. A person having it may have heavy snoring, chronic sinus infections, nosebleeds, headaches or nasal congestion. Septoplasty is an invasive procedure performed by a plastic surgeon so there is no bruising on the outside of the nose.

Birth Defects

Babies born with a cleft palate or deformed upper lip are unable to nurse or suck the right way. This is a type of birth defect which requires plastic surgery to reconstruct the lip. Others with facial bone defects require plastic surgery not only to enhance their look but to improve the way they eat, breathe and talk too.

Eye Lifts

Some women who still want to wear eyeshadow and look young, go for eyelid procedures. However, eye lifts are medically necessary if the dropping of the eyes interferes with the person’s ability to see. Insurances generally cover the latter case.

Patients who are looking for a surgeon for either cosmetic or plastic surgery procedures should always check out the doctor’s specific certifications and if he or she is a member of the Association of Plastic Surgeons of India. There is absolutely no harm is talking to other people who have undergone a similar procedure to know how exactly it works, what to expect and what not to expect.

Is It Time for Your Next Dental Check-up?

The high-stress lifestyle which we all live these days leaves us with very little time to take care of one the most important things – our health. There is simply no time to take precautionary measures. The doctor ceases to become someone we visit only when there is no getting out of a health scare, and that too when we are unable to treat the problem ourselves! Unfortunately, that isn’t exactly an appropriate way to go. Timely checks help us avoid last minute tensions, and in turn, time and money so to say.

On that note, we realised that somehow the most ignored health aspect is taking care of our teeth. Unless someone is grappling with a toothache or maybe a loose tooth, there hardly is a time when we visit a dentist on our own. So much so that in the process we fail to see the long-term repercussions of missing a dental check. According to National Oral Health Programme, only 50% of India’s population uses a toothbrush and just 2% of the population visit the dentist.

Teeth are an indicator of not just a clean mouth but also a healthy heart! Yes, you read it right. During a routine dental exam, a dentist will check for any gum problems, decaying of teeth, and any tartar or plaque build-up. However, the overall oral condition will also indicate if you suffer from any vitamin deficiencies (especially vitamin C), and other serious problems such as diabetes or oral cancer. Dentists are also ideally supposed to check for the movement of your lower jaw joints (TMJs) to indicate any joint problems and peripheral head and neck issues. But most importantly, there is a strong link between healthy gums and our heart. Apparently, the oral bacteria easily spread through the body worsening any impending heart diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, type 2 diabetes, and other inflammatory conditions. No, we don’t mean to scare our readers at all. Just trying to reiterate the importance of dental hygiene for the overall wellbeing.

Even if you brush twice a day, floss, avoid harmful substances such as tobacco and cigarettes, it is vital to go for a dental exam every six months. That is what the American Dental Association recommends for all, young and old. Just schedule a 6-monthly appointment with your dental practitioner so there will be no hassle in remembering the dates. Do check with the doctor if the daily dental routine you follow is on the right track; if the brushing and flossing technique you use are correct; if there’s anything more that needs to be done for the maintenance of the teeth and gums. At such appointments, you will be checked if the previously done fillings are still strong or need rework. That is critical because the way we chew the food has a direct effect on our entire digestive system. Sometimes, dentists may even ask you to take an x-ray to check for any root damage. That again is very important since it will avoid significant pain, if some tooth root does show to be problematic, in the later days. Hence, dental exams allow a thorough complete protection against future concerns and thus are absolutely indispensable on a periodic basis.

Before any dental procedure, don’t forget to share your medical history with the dentist. It is important that they know about your medications, medical history, heart diseases, diabetes, pregnancy etc. It is also always recommended that you share your health concerns, allergies, or anxieties with the dentist. In today’s age of smartphones, you don’t really need to carry too many files with all such details with you. All you need to do is maintain your medical history through a mobile app, and share the information with the doctor during your visit!

The sound of the drilling by some dental devices or pain experienced during treatment in the past may be keeping you off such visits. However, don’t be nervous. Do remember that it is all momentary. And also, something for your own good. Once the check-up/ treatment is done you are good to go for another couple of months without any worries. Your teeth will look cleaner, you will feel so fresh and healthy, and more than anything else, the bright smile will be so worth it!

 

Financial Anxiety Is Real – How to Cope?

It’s been a month now that Sheela hasn’t slept well. Almost every day, she wakes up in the middle of the night and her mind veers to the long list of bills she needs to pay for the month, concerns about sudden illness, accidents etc. Before she knows it, she gets into a panic mode with a sick feeling in the stomach and racing heart and ends up staying awake all night without accomplishing anything out of it. She is going through financial anxiety. Just like Sheela, there are many who stress about money management on a daily basis. According to the American Psychological Association, 80 percent of people go through stress due to a financial crisis. The reasons for suffering from financial disability could be many. Maybe you have a loan that you need to pay off, maybe you are in the middle of shifting jobs or maybe you just end up spending all your money by the end of the month without any savings. Instability regarding money matters can lead to a lot of stress. And this, in turn, can affect your body and lead to the beginning of other health problems. In the times when the economy was unraveling, it is obvious to be a bit concerned about one’s financial well-being. However, it should not hamper your overall well-being. Hence, it is very important that you take a step back, address the issues at hand and find out ways and means to cope with them.

Here are some ways in which you can keep your financial anxiety under control and manage the stress –

1) Make notes about your monthly spends:
A lot of times, you may keep a certain budget for every month stating the overall amount you are planning to spend. However, all of the life’s expenses are barely constant and it is obvious that the expenses can fluctuate. Hence, be sure to make a note about the money you spend along with the date and what you spent it for. Go over your bills and ensure that the numbers are accurate. While you are at it, set aside some money to an emergency fund. This can be useful in times when you have a health situation, a car repair, a sudden vacation or any other unpredictable events.

2) Stop comparing yourself to others:
As human beings, the idea of comparison has been rooted in us. But with money matters, the lesser you compare the better you will feel about what you own. While a friend may seem to be enjoying life to the fullest, you do not know what is in his bank account. You are not aware of all the facts as you use what they showcase on channels such as Facebook and Instagram to get an idea about their lifestyle and how they live. Any such comparison is very unhealthy and may instigate you to spend more money just because someone else is.

3) Don’t be embarrassed:
If you have less money or are saving up most of your salary for a secure future, there is nothing to be embarrassed about. You may have less money to spend today but you are avoiding suffering from a crisis situation later. At times, a past occurrence of financial mismanagement, incorrect budgeting or ignorance may lead to shame and can initiate a cycle of anxiety and future problems. This may even lead to money avoidance and the unwillingness to deal with money matters.

4) Be more informed:
Money is a constant need in all phases of your life. And the more informed you are about the ways in which you can save it, the happier you will be. If you want to save money for retirement or for your child’s future, research the options and accumulate all the information together. Choose the one that is going to yield the best results and start investing every month. Signing up for a course or taking advice from a friend or relative can also help. When you have all the information at hand, you will feel much more confident about your future.

5) Approach an advisor:
Getting professional help from advisors can definitely help you calm down your worries since they can tell you whether you are following the right path or not. They can also give you suggestions for newer saving schemes or policies which you may not be aware of. Tax reduction is another benefit that you can get by planning your investments. Financial advisors can make their way around loopholes to provide you with the best possible means of availing tax benefits. Just be clear about your goals and your current situation with the advisors and they can take care of the rest.

Financial anxiety is a problem that cannot be solved by taking any medicines or undergoing a surgery. To get yourself together, you need to be mentally strong, calm your worries and feel confident about your financial choices. That is the only way you will be able to avoid the anxious feeling and look forward to a brighter future!

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.