“Life is movement, movement is life”

Dr. Devendra Vartak talks about bones and joints and what we must do to keep them healthy
By Avanika Mote

Dr. Devendra Vartak
Dr. Devendra Vartak

One Wednesday morning, we asked four quick questions to Dr. Devendra Vartak, an acclaimed orthopaedic surgeon from Pune. He agreed to give us 20 minutes of his valuable time meant for his daughter who had a school holiday – a priceless gesture from a man whose time is at a premium. We asked him about his work and how he goes about it, and he spoke about his expertise briefly, which are hip and knee surgery, joint replacement surgery, fixing fractures of the hip and knee, and revision hip and knee surgeries. He also sounded enthusiastic about his newly set up operation theatre at Ameya Clinic in Erandwane.

What was the most difficult case you have come across?

Dr.Vartak: A 20-year old boy from Aurangabad, who was suffering from ankylosing spondylitis, visited me some time ago. Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis that affects the spine. He was bed-ridden for three years and his body was immobile. His spinal bones had fused together resulting in a rigid spine. The X-ray reports showed that his hips stood at 90 degrees on account of this condition. After the diagnosis, I decided to operate him. A poly-hip replacement surgery was the only hope. His bones had become so fragile that I had to perform the surgery with a feather touch. We also gave him a shot of a hormone that strengthens bones and today, he is functional. He can move with the help of a walking stick. The great thing is, he does not need a wheelchair and has a relatively normal life.

Any other case you recall that was difficult to deal with?

Dr. Vartak: Another lady, who is 35 years old, was diagnosed with Guillain Barre Syndrome, a nervous system disorder that causes weakness in the muscles, loss of reflexes and numbness in the arms and legs. She was on a ventilator as she had breathing issues. Also, she had nerve blocks which had caused ‘foot drop’ – an abnormality caused by the paralysis of muscles of the lower leg. This case was tricky because I didn’t want any artificial fixtures. The only direction I could consider taking was to transfer a tendon to her affected leg muscle through a foot-drop gait surgery. This isn’t something that you get to see everyday and there were some risks involved. However, it worked wonders and my patient has been recovering through various post-surgery physiotherapy sessions.

That is commendable. I cannot imagine anybody going through such muscular conditions. So, how do we take care of our bones and joints without having to take supplements?

Dr.Vartak: Good question. We live sedentary lives these days and hardly make time to exercise. I’ll give you a quick checklist of things to do and not do.

  • Workout.
  • Walk to nearby places, like say the grocery store and so on
  • Take stairs, ditch the elevators.
  • Don’t sit at one spot for long, keep moving. Keep your bones and muscles mobile. Because, life is movement, movement is life.
  • Stretch as much as possible.
  • Monitor your posture, use cushions when the neck is under stress.
  • If you work on a computer, it should be positioned at the eye level and your elbows should be supported. Ergonomics are important.

Thanks, doc. I’m sure most of our readers need these basic tips to protect their bones and joints. On a candid note, what are you doing when you aren’t working?

Dr.Vartak: (smiles) I like to trek and spend time with my family. I like to chat with like-minded people and hang out with friends in my free time.

Dr. Devendra Vartak is an MBBS, MS, DNB. He has been practicing in Pune since 2007. He has a state-of-the-art operating room with laminar flow and in-house physiotherapy department at his clinic in Erandwane.

On World AIDS Day, here’s how the world looks

Image Courtesy: Google Images
Image Courtesy: Google Images

Currently, more than 35 million people across the globe live with HIV/AIDS. Around 3.3 million of them are under the age of 15. In 2012, an estimated 2.3 million people were newly infected with HIV, and 260,000 of them were under the age of 15. Every day about 6,300 people contract HIV— that’s 262 every hour. In 2012, 1.6 million people died of AIDS and 210,000 of them were under the age of 15. Since the beginning of the epidemic, more than 75 million people have contracted HIV and nearly 36 million have died of HIV-related causes.

Number of people living with HIV/AIDS: 2.39 million

India has a relatively low rate of HIV infection as compared to Africa and the Asia Pacific region. According to the 2012 National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) report, which is a Government of India institution, an estimated 2.39 million people are currently living with HIV/ AIDS in India. Of these, 0.31% people are above the age of 15. HIV epidemics are severe in the south and north-east of India. The highest estimated adult HIV occurrence is found in Manipur at 0.78%, followed by Andhra Pradesh at 0.76%, Karnataka at 0.69% and Nagaland at 0.66%.

In the southern states, HIV is primarily spread through heterosexual contact. Infections in the Northeast are mainly found amongst injecting drug users (IDUs) and sex workers.

Sub-Saharan Africa
Number of people living with HIV/AIDS: 25 million

More than 70% of all people living with HIV, which is estimated to be around 25 million live in sub-Saharan Africa. This includes 88% of the world’s HIV-positive children. In 2012, an estimated 1.6 million people in the region became newly infected. An estimated 1.2 million adults and children have died of AIDS, which accounts for 75 percent of the world’s AIDS deaths in 2012.

The Asia-Pacific
Number of people living with HIV/AIDS: 5 million

In the Asia-Pacific region, as many as 351,000 people were newly infected in 2012, bringing the total number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the region to nearly 5 million. AIDS claimed approximately 261,000 lives here in 2012.

The Caribbean
Number of people living with HIV/AIDS: 250,000

Approximately 12,000 people were infected in the Caribbean in 2012, bringing the total number of people living with HIV/AIDS there to over 250,000. AIDS claimed an estimated 11,000 lives in 2012.

Central and South America
Number of people living with HIV/AIDS: 1.5 million

There were an estimated 86,000 new HIV/AIDS infections and 52,000 AIDS-related deaths in Central and South America in 2012. This region currently has 1.5 million people living with HIV/AIDS.

North Africa and the Middle East
Number of people living with HIV/AIDS: 260,000

Approximately 260,000 people are living with HIV in this region and an estimated 32,000 people were newly infected in 2012. An estimated 17,000 adults and children have died of the virus here.

Eastern and Western Europe
Number of people living with HIV/AIDS: 1.3 million

In 2012, an estimated 130,000 people were newly infected with HIV, bringing the number of people living with HIV/AIDS to 1.3 million in Europe. HIV/AIDS claimed 91,000 lives in 2012. HIV infections have increased by 13% (that is 100,000 people) since 2006. The majority of people diagnosed with HIV were drug abusers who use intravenous needles and gay men. Less than 1% of the population was HIV positive across the continent.

In Western and Central Europe, there were 29,000 new cases of HIV, bringing the number of people living with HIV here to 860,000 in 2012. An estimated 7,600 people in these regions died of AIDS in 2012. However, Ukraine, Belarus and Spain were found to have the highest HIV rates among needle users, with 21, 17 and 16% respectively. The number of AIDS-related deaths in the region has increased from 36,000 in 2001 to 91,000 people last year. New infections among drug users in Greece have risen because of funding cuts in the treatment centres.

What is PEPFAR?

PEPFAR is the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Tanzania is its key partner. In 2013 alone, PEPFAR’s support programs directly helped more than 990,000 people in Tanzania. Of these, 330,000 were orphans and vulnerable children. The lifesaving anti-retroviral treatment was given to more than 444,000 Tanzanians through PEPFAR. This year alone, PEPFAR has diagnosed and counselled over 5 million Tanzanians, of which, an estimated 1.5 million were pregnant women. With PEPFAR’s combined efforts, Tanzanians are less likely to be infected with HIV and the ones living with HIV are hoping to live full lives.

PEPFAR envisions an AIDS-free generation for the entire world. In 2013, PEPFAR and its partners launched the PMTCT (prevent mother-to-child transmission) program which witnessed the millionth HIV-free baby born to an HIV-positive mother. Through various advances in healthcare and, individual and collective behaviourial changes, PEPFAR has reached a tipping point of the epidemic.

Source: UNAIDS report on the global AIDS epidemic 2013; UNAIDS Fact Sheet 2013 and NACO 

Thank you for making us the best start-up

photo 4
The Savetime booth at PuneConnect 2013

Savetime thanks PuneConnect’s audience for their immense support and love. We are honoured to have become your favourite healthcare destination in Pune. Yesterday, we saw the announcement at puneconnect.com and we were simply thrilled to know that we got the maximum number of votes for the Audience Choice award for the best start-up in Pune.

The event saw more than 1,000 professionals from IT / ITES and other sectors. We were among the top 27 start-up companies which got shortlisted for a demo at PuneConnect – the city’s largest start-up shootout. Our team stood by us to set up the booth and presented us at their best. A team of 15 people represented Savetime at the event. The team wore tee-shirts that read, ‘If an apple a day doesn’t work, visit savetime.com’. As a welcoming gesture, we gave away apples to people at the event.

We would like to thank our team who make us who we are each day. We are proud of our team for its contribution at the event and for interacting with the audience. On asking how he felt about the grand win, Mitesh  Bohra, co-founder, Savetime said, “An award from the audience is a high that every entrepreneur seeks. I am a dreamer and find a surreal thrill in a start-up environment. At Savetime, it’s not only my dream to bring real patient-centric innovation into the world but also contribute to the rapidly developing start-up ecosystem in India. Audience is the best jury out there and to get such love from them is phenomenal. It’s a very humbling experience. I sincerely thank all our supporters. Time to go back to work where we continue to keep doing what we do best and march forward towards realising our collective dreams — becoming the TripAdvisor of the healthcare industry.”

Team Savetime poses for the shutterbug during a break. Note the basket of apples -- every visitor to the booth got one
Team Savetime poses for the shutterbug during a break. Note the basket of apples — every visitor to the booth got one

8 ways to boost testosterone levels

If you are down, you probably need to up your ‘T’ levels. Here’s how: Image

If you are a man and have been feeling tired and depressed for no apparent reason, and concentrating on your regular work is getting tough, even the stuff you enjoy, then you need to take care of your testosterone levels. If you are not feeling up for love, and the blues are catching up, you could probably be sure that the levels are hampering your natural joie de vivre.

Millions of men around the world suffer from this. In America alone, at least 13 million men have ‘Low-T’.

Nature ordains that testosterone levels are optimum when a man is young, and fall steadily beginning around age 30.

Besides sexual function, testosterone in the right amount is needed for strong muscles and bones. It also keeps fat evenly distributed in the body.

Low T can even up your bad or LDL cholesterol levels. Which means, it is crucial for a healthy and happy life, as it affects both our psychology and physiology.

If you have been feeling blue for no apparent reason, you could try these simple ways to boost your testosterone levels:

Get lighter, feel better
That simply means lose extra body fat, as it lowers testosterone levels. Especially if you have a paunch, it is sure sign that T levels are likely to go down faster. At least, 40 percent of obese men have low testosterone readings. But it isn’t tough to reverse it: lose weight and get the T joy back.

Cuppa of joy
Drink some coffee. Make it on the stronger side. Caffeine, which is the heart of coffee, boosts testosterone. According to a Harvard study, around five cups of coffee a day for a month increased testosterone-to-estrogen ratio in overweight men by nearly 200 per cent! While the effects are not long lasting, a cup of coffee during your breaks does not hurt as far as testosterone levels are concerned.

Vitamin D is vital
This vitamin is really a hormone. Contemporary life is such that Vit D deficiency is a major problem around the world, especially in urban settings. A three-year study of older men published in Hormone and Metabolic Research stated that men with higher levels of Vitamin D had higher levels of free testosterone. In any case, it does not do any harm to pop a Vitamin D3 pill once a month to keep your bones strong.

Take it easy
Stress is not only bad for your heart, but also causes low-T situations. When in stress, the body releases huge quantities of cortisol. Cortisol inhibits the function of testosterone and even blocks it, a University of Texas study stated. Apparently, high cortisol levels messed  with the ability to reproduce.

If you are feeling low or stressed out, this is the time to hit that yoga class or go for a walk on a hill or wherever you like. A beach in South Goa is a great idea too. Or simply, meditate in your office cubicle for 15 minutes before you start work.

Sleep well, sleep enough
Sleep is the ultimate pain balm, the ultimate relief for every ailment. It is the ultimate natural drug.  According to a team of Dutch researchers, older men between 64 and 74 can double their testosterone levels simply by getting a good night’s sleep. The longer you sleep, the more testosterone circulates in your blood.  A University of Chicago Medical Center study stated that being sleep deprived for a week decreases testosterone levels by 15 per cent.

You gotta move it
We mean, don’t just sit on your desk. Move it, get some exercise because it boost testosterone levels appreciably. A Baylor University study found that T levels remain elevated for 48 hours after lifting weights. Another research suggested that short but intense sprints significantly increased testosterone. Try sprints that are around 10-second long, take a break and do it again. Do it about 10 times, and feel the difference. Apparently, evening workouts are best for boost testosterone levels. They can push levels by 40 per cent.

Be nutty, feel great
All nuts, like almonds, Brazil nuts, peanuts, walnuts…. All of them are great for encouraging production of testosterone. A diet high in monounsaturated fats, the kind found in nuts, push testosterone levels and make it optimum.

Nuts not only drive up testosterone, but also the amino acids in them improve blood circulation. Which is why, instead of chips or some other junk snack with your beer, try a few nuts. Or just eat them when you get a hunger pang or a food craving.

 Root for your team
This might sound far-fetched but rooting for your favourite cricket team or your favourite sportsman actually increases testosterone levels by 20 per cent, a University of Utah study found. The dark side is, if your team loses your T levels go down. So, just for the sake of your health, trying supporting the winner. Funny, isn’t it? But it works.

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.