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.

Allergic Rhinitis – Here Is What You Need to Know

A multi-centre study conducted by the Asthma Epidemiology Study Group of the Indian Council of Medical Research found that allergic rhinitis is prevalent among 3.5% of the population in India. In another study, 21.27% of school girls between the ages of 4-17 years were seen to be suffering from allergic rhinitis. So what exactly is allergic rhinitis? Allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever, is a hypersensitivity disorder of the immune system of the human body. In layman’s terms, it is caused due to how your body responds to specific allergens. An allergen is a normally harmless substance that tends to cause an allergic reaction in your body. The most common allergen is pollen.

Symptoms of Allergic Rhinitis

Symptoms of allergic rhinitis include sneezing, coughing, frequent headaches, excessive fatigue, itchy and watery eyes, a runny, stuffy and itchy nose, dark circles under the eyes and extremely dry, itchy skin that often causes blisters. You may see one or more of these symptoms after your body comes into contact with an allergen. Severe headaches and fatigue are extreme symptoms which may occur only if your body is exposed to allergens for a long time.

Causes of Allergic Rhinitis

Many times, it may not be easy to decipher the cause of your allergic rhinitis. Essentially, it is caused due to the release of histamine in your body, which occurs when your body comes in contact with an allergen. Histamine is a natural chemical which defends your body from the allergen. Along with pollen, few other things that can cause allergic rhinitis are grass, dust, pet hair, animal dander, dust mites, and cat saliva. Perfumes, smoke from cigarettes and diesel exhaust can also tend to trigger hay fever in the human body. Although tobacco is not directly related to allergic rhinitis, a study on MedIND showed that 55% of people suffering from allergic rhinitis were tobacco users. In some cases, allergic rhinitis occurs due to a family history of allergies. Cold temperatures, humidity, the wind, air pollution, hairspray, and fumes may also trigger or worsen the situation of allergic rhinitis.

Types of Allergic Rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis can be categorized into two different types – seasonal and perennial. Pollen-based allergies are usually seasonal and occur around the summer season. This kind of allergic sensitivity may even be caused by allergens from grass, trees, and weeds. Perennial allergic rhinitis, on the other hand, shows symptoms all your year round. It is caused due to substances you may come in contact with on a daily basis such as dust mites, pet hair, or cockroaches. At times, hidden food allergies may also result in perennial nasal symptoms.

Diagnosis of Allergic Rhinitis

If you experience any of the symptoms of allergic rhinitis, you can visit your doctor for further diagnosis. The doctor can check the inside of your nose to spot nasal polyps. These are fleshy swellings that grow from the lining of the sinuses, the small cavities inside your nose. Another common method of diagnosis is the skin prick test in which the doctor places the allergen on your arm and pricks the surface of your skin to let it enter it into your immune system. This is done to check how your body reacts to it. If you are allergic to it, a small itchy spot will appear. Another way to go about the diagnosis is through a blood test. This helps in checking the immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibody in your blood. This antibody is produced in your immune system in your response to a suspected allergen.

Treatment of Allergic Rhinitis

Mild allergic rhinitis can be treated by the intake of antihistamines. Regularly cleaning your nasal passages with a salt water solution, also called as nasal douching or irrigation, can also help. You can consider using eye drops or nasal sprays as they help in relieving the itchiness and other symptoms for a short time.

For severe allergies, a lot of doctors recommend immunotherapy or allergy shots. This begins with taking the shot one to three times per week for three to six months. This is called the build up phase. This is followed by the maintenance phase where you visit your doctor once in a month for a course of three to five years. Once your body starts getting used to shots, the allergy symptoms will start fading slowly and eventually disappear altogether. Another popular method of treatment is sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT). This involves placing a tablet on your tongue, which contains a mixture of several allergens. This method may have some side effects such as itching in the mouth or irritation in the throat.

The best way to keep your allergies under control is to keep yourself and your environment as clean as possible. Identify the things or situations which cause you allergies and try to stay away from those. Don’t let the symptoms hamper the quality of your life – Remember, prevention is always better than cure.

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.

 

14 Tips to Stay Fit and Healthy This Monsoon Season

We are always happy to welcome the monsoons! The first showers that bring in the smell of fresh rain, soaking up dry mud are a welcome break from the scorching heat we have to face for the months before that. While the rainy season comes in with a lot of positivity, the one thing we need to pay attention to in this season is our health. Cold, cough, running nose, or viral fever become a common phenomenon during this season. Water-borne diseases such as diarrhea, dengue, malaria, cholera and typhoid are also seen to spread among the masses easily. All this and our eating habits adversely affect our workout routines as well, leading to an overall disruption in our health routine. So how do we ensure that we do not become victims of the diseases floating in the air this season? How do we know that we are making healthy choices? Here’s a quick guide to some of the things we must and must not do to stay healthy and fit this season:

1) Eat only when you feel hungry. This is a universal mantra for food all year round but holds a lot of relevance during the rainy season. Overeating causes ingestion problems and other illnesses.

2) Make fruits an important part of your daily diet. Fruits such as apples, mangoes, pomegranates, and pears are great. You can avoid summer fruits such as watermelon and muskmelon.

3) Foods such as brown rice, oats, and barley are the best foods you can have during this monsoon.

4) Try to have as less salt as possible by using it in average amounts in your food. Salt causes high blood pressure and water retention.

5) Opt for dry foods such as corn, gram flour, chickpea and stay away from watery foods like lassi and or heavy food items like rice.

6) Hot foods like soups, stir fries, and curries will be a treat to your throat as well as your body in this season. Add a dash of garlic to these – it will help in increasing immunity.

7) Avoid too much milk in your diet and try inculcating yogurt, curd, and almonds instead. Consume a lot of water each day to keep your body hydrated and try to stick to boiled or purified water to keep yourself away from the harmful germs and bacteria.

8) Your body is very prone to infections of different kinds in this season. Eating bitter vegetables such as bitter gourd and bitter herbs such as neem, turmeric powder, and methi seeds will make your body stronger and help in preventing infections.

9) Stay away from sesame oil, peanut oil, and mustard oil as they can invite infections. Instead, choose drying oils such as corn oil or light oil.

10)If you have sensitive skin or skin that is prone to rashes and other such problems, the monsoons can have adverse effects on your skin. To avoid skin allergies, skin irritation, boils,

change in skin colour dullness, rashes and pyoderma, refrain from eating spicy foods. Take care of your skin by using a good moisturiser and a good sunscreen lotion.

11)Don’t include large quantities of sour foods such as tamarind, tomatoes and lime in your diet since these can also be the cause of water retention in the body.

12)Ginger tea with hot pakodas this season feels great! You can also try having herbal teas, which have anti-bacterial properties. Try different variations such as ginger, pepper, honey, mint and basil.

13)While the rains and gloomy weather may make you lazy to hit the gym, a great alternative to losing calories would be to indulge in household chores. Sweeping and swabbing the floor proves to be the best exercise. You can try different yoga techniques at home too.

14)Another great alternative for workouts is using the stairs. Choose them over the lift every time you step outside the house. An average of ten rounds up and down the stairs will make you feel pumped up and re-energized.

Follow these simple guidelines, carry an umbrella to avoid getting wet in the rains every time you step out, and get ready to enjoy a healthy monsoon this season!