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.

 

Here Is What You Need To Know About Thyroid Disorder

Thyroid is a disease that we have often heard of. We all know someone who is suffering from it. Depending on the severity of the disease, thyroid affects the body in various ways and needs to be kept under control. But do you know what exactly takes place in your body when you get thyroid? How can you be sure that you are suffering from it? As a matter of fact, most people suffering from it don’t even know that they have the disease! This is because the occurrence of this disease in your body is a slow and gradual process and there is no definite way of determining it.

In the recent years, the number of people suffering from thyroid in our country has increased rapidly. It tends to be very common among individuals falling in the age group of 20 to 40 years due to our unhealthy lifestyles and busy routines. A lot of times, the reasons may even be genetic. According to a study conducted on the victims of this disease, the number of people in India suffering from thyroid is 42 million. The problem with this disease is that unlike other diseases, the ease of diagnosis, the accessibility of medical treatment and the visibility that it offers the treating physician is very low and the only way to successfully keep it under control is an early diagnosis.

Introduction

So what exactly is thyroid? It is small, butterfly-shaped gland which is located at the base of your neck right below the Adam’s apple. This gland plays a huge role in your body when it comes to the regular functioning of some of the most important parts of your body such as heart, brain, liver, kidneys and skin. A person suffers from thyroid disease when this gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones. This condition is termed at hypothyroidism. In the case of the thyroid gland becoming overactive and producing excess hormones, the condition is termed as hyperthyroidism. Both these conditions can have serious ill-effects on the body and, therefore, maintaining a balanced count of hormones produced by the thyroid gland is very important. Hypothyroidism can reduce the level of metabolism in the body and directly affect the bloodstream causing dysfunction in growth, development and other cellular processes. On the contrary, hyperthyroidism increases the metabolism rate and causes problems such as irregular heart rhythms and osteoporosis.

Symptoms

Initially, symptoms of thyroid in the body are very subtle and hence patients often tend to ignore them. Hypothyroidism is usually characterized by unexplained weight gain, hair loss, irregular menstrual flow, infertility, lethargy, rough voice and slow speech. The level of intensity of these systems can vary from patient to patient and can increase as the disease spreads into the body. Protruding and excessively drowsy eyes, hair loss or grey hair and a tender and lumpy throat along with difficulty in swallowing are some of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism.

Diagnosis and Treatment

To determine whether you have thyroid or not, you need to get a blood test done to check the hormone levels in your body. The doctor will check for TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) and T4 (thyroxine). Extremely low or extremely high levels of T4 means that you need treatment. The doctor will prescribe a synthetic thyroid hormone T4 or advise you to undergo a surgery. Strong medications can interfere with how your body absorbs the synthetic thyroid hormone so it important that you choose a doctor who knows about all the medicines, herbs and supplements. Hypothyroidism in pregnant ladies can affect the baby and lead to problems with mental development. Severe conditions can cause unconsciousness or lead the person to go into a coma.

What can you do?

The best thing to do is conduct a self-examination on your thyroid gland if you experience any of the symptoms. Feel your thyroid gland by running your hands along the area right below your Adam’s apple. Check for any bumps or swelling. Tip your head back slightly. As you swallow and your windpipe rises and goes back to its original position, look at your neck. Check closely for a protrusion in the area. Repeat the procedure several times until you are sure and if not, go visit a doctor.

Thyroid is a long term disease and maintaining efficient functioning of your body while suffering from it is not always easy. Extreme cases can lead to anxiety, depression, stress and many other mental disorders. But with the right kind of precautionary measures, treatments, medication and advice from physicians, you will be able to keep it under control and keep your body healthy and happy.