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Friday, September 28, 2012

One in 3 Mumbaikars has abnormal lipid levels

    Nearly one in three Mumbaikars has unhealthy lipid levels that greatly heighten the risk of heart disease, according to a new survey. The study showed that the country's metros, including Delhi, Chennai and Bangalore, have worryingly high burden of dyslipidemia—abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels—that is mostly attributed to sedentary lifestyle and westernised diet. 

    Mumbai's citizens, the survey revealed, have the worst low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels as compared to the other three cities. A whopping 51% of the 17,655 patients surveyed here between January and July this year had borderline high or high levels of the bad cholesterol. Increased LDL is known to play a significant role in hardening the fat that goes on to choke arteries, which eventually leads to heart attack or stroke. 
    Initiated by diagnostic major Metropolis Healthcare, the survey studied lipid profile investigations—comprising cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels—of 2.7 lakh people in the four metros and found abnormality in as many as 33% cases. 
    In Mumbai, the survey found about 54% of women—particularly aged 35 to 50 years—had higher cholesterol levels than men. Forty-six per cent of the men here were noticed to have high or borderline high cholesterol. Among children, the survey discovered that over 2% did not have 
the desired levels of good cholesterol or HDL. A senior cardiologist from a state-run hospital blamed the troubling statistics on the rapid change in eating patterns in urban households. "Weekly outings now mean eating fast food, which is high on cholesterol. Ready-to-eat food could also be a contributing factor," the doctor said. 
    Experts believe dyslipidemia is a crucial parameter in gauging the burden of heart disease in a nation. 
    In the survey, Bangaloreans were found to have the worst degrees of cholesterol. While 42.61% of them had abnormal levels, 30% of Mumbaikars had such levels. Interventional cardiologist Dr Vijay Bang, who consults at Bandra's Lilavati Hospital, said the trend is worrying. "It has become imperative that people be pushed to exercise and adopt better dietary habits," he asserted. 
    The head of interventional cardiology at Breach Candy Hospital, Dr Dev Pahlanji, said almost every patient who meets a heart specialist today has at least one abnormal lipid parameter. "The trick is to watch out for related factors such as genetics, dietary and lifestyle. Hypertension, stress, smoking and diabetes contribute to heart ailments." He recommended that anyone over 50 should be up-to-date on their lipid profiles. 
    The survey found that 48% of women and 34% men who had high cholesterol levels were above the age of 50. Pahlanji cautioned that, if the heart disease epidemic among Indians has to be controlled, the bar for checking lipid profile should be lowered due to genetic and dietary factors.


32m patients, but cardiac care heartwarming

Mumbai: Nearly 32 million Indians suffer from some heart disease, according to extrapolations from the Global Burden of Diseases study. Given this huge number that is almost the population of Canada, cardiac care is not surprisingly one of the busiest medical specialties in India. 

    Within this field, the Cardiological Society of India's statistics show that progressively more heart patients now opt for angioplasty, the minimally invasive procedure to remove blockages in blood vessels. In 2011, 1.5 lakh Indians chose angioplasty— almost 29% more than the number in 2010. "This figure has been growing annually by 25- 30% in the last few years," said Dr Sundeep Mishra who, as CSI's National Interventional Council chairman, maintains the national registry. 
    Since only 55% of the cath labs actually send their statistics to the council, the number is bound to be higher. Dr Mishra believes over 2.5 lakh angioplasties are performed annually. In contrast, about 1.5 lakh cardiac bypass surgeries are performed a year, said cardiac surgeon Dr Ramakanta Panda of Asian Heart Institute. The reasons for the angioplasty demand range from people's fear of open heart surgery, growing number of cath labs and availability of affordable stents. 

City has worst lipid level record in India 
sedentary lifestyle and fast-food diet are taking a toll on the Mumbaikar's heart. With one in three people in the city having unhealthy lipid levels, Mumbai has the worst record among metros like Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai, a study has revealed. About 54% of women, mostly those between 35 and 50, were found to have higher levels of cholesterol than men while 46% men were borderline cases or had high levels, putting them at risk of developing heart ailments. Worse, over 2% children in the city were found to be lacking the desirable level of good cholesterol. P 6 Smaller cities too offer good heart care 
    Fear of bypass surgery and the availability of affordable stents has prompted the number of angioplasties in India to rise sharply. "Also, the spending power of the middle class has improved," says Dr Sundeep Mishra, CSI's National Interventional Council chairman. 
    Dr Ramakanta Panda of Asian Heart Institute concurred. "The numbers of heart patients who come to doctors are just the tip of the iceberg. Many cannot afford treatment, many are frightened of interventions and only want medical treatment," he said. 
    There is a silver lining to the growing cardiac care facilities in India: the care itself is getting better. The CSI registry throws up big positives in India's battle against cardiac ailments. The biggest positive seems to be the time taken for the average cardiac patient to reach a cath lab. The doorto-balloon time is a term to calculate the time between the patient reaching a hospital and doctors removing the blockage. The 2011 statistics from CSI say that that average time is 48.6 minutes, though it varies from a minimum of 12 minutes to a maximum of 120 in some hospitals. "International norms suggest that the average door-to-balloon time is 90 minutes. If India's average is 48.6 minutes, it is excellent," said cardiologist Ganesh Kumar from Hiranandani Hospital in Powai. 
    The CSI statistics show that the number of primary angioplasties, which is done within six hours of a patient getting a heart attack, is increasing. Nationwide, many hospitals now offer primary angioplasty, with many of their staff members living on the campus to facilitate better time management. In 2008, 10,465 primary angioplasties were performed in India, accounting for 9.23% of all angioplasties that year. In 2011, 20,541 primary angioplasties were done, accounting for 13.5% of the total procedures. 
    CSI said that although half the number of procedures is performed in a handful of cities, there is a trend of smaller centres coming up across India. "People no longer travel to big cities for interventions. Pune, for instance, has overtaken Mumbai in the number of angioplasties," said Dr Mishra.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The deafening truth about mobiles

Mumbai: When 21-year-old Hiten, a Dadar resident, started complaining of a whistling sound in his right ear, he thought it was an infection. But ENT specialist Divya Prabhat shocked the youngster with his diagnosis: hearing loss. 

    "An audiogram revealed that he had significant hearing loss in his right ear, the one he favoured while talking on his phone," said the doctor. While the jury is still out on the connection between shiny new phones, personal listening devices and hearing loss, Dr Prabhat said he found no other reason for Hiten's galloping hearing loss. 
    During World Deafness Week, which this year has ironically coincided with Mumbai's favourite but noisy festival, Ganeshotsav, doctors and activists feel it is time to draw a connection between lifestyle and hearing loss. "Previously, I would get patients with complaints of tinnitus (ringing sound in the ears) in their 60s, but now I have patients in their twenties," said Dr Prabhat. 
    Overusing mobile phones, say doctors, is also associated with rising incidence of vestibular schwannoma (also referred to as acoustic neuroma or benign tumour growing on the nerve). "It is felt that the incidence of vestibular schwannoma would be 50% higher in mobile users than nonusers," said Dr Prabhat. 

A loud warning for youth 

Long hours on phone, listening to loud music affects hearing, say docs Today, youngsters hit by ear ailments for long associated with those in their 60s Listening to sounds over 80 decibels for four hours will damage ear, warns WHO Activists say noise pollution must be considered a health problem and awareness created 
We may turn into a nation of deaf people: Activist 
    Doctors say hearing problems affecting youngsters these days are due to their favourite habit—hanging on to their phones and music players at loud volumes for several hours a day. "Hearing loss depends on two factors—the decibel of sound and the duration for which one is exposed to it," said Prof Hetal Marfatia from KEM Hospital, Parel. "If one is listening to sounds over 80db for four hours, there will definitely be hearing loss." The World Health Organization has said that noise above 85db is damaging to human ears and a 3db rise above this reduces by half the time needed to cause damage. 
    But another doctor, Nishit Shah, said rapid hearing loss is only caused by viral 
i n f e c t i o n s . "Hearing loss o c c u r s o ve r years," he said, adding that the only exception would be instances of terror victims turning deaf on exposure to loud sound. 
    But Dr Marfatia said an angiogram would be a definite way of understanding if hearing loss is caused by noise pollution, be it exposure to sound in the environment or personal music players. 
    A study from Tel Aviv University has shown that youngsters who listened to over four hours of music on their MP3 players or iPods could be damaging their hearing. Dr Prabhat remembers a 38-year-old businessman from Surat who suffered complete hearing 

    loss in one of his ears due to mobile use. "He confessed he was on the phone from morning to evening. It definitely had a result," he said. 
    Sumaira Abdulali of Awaaz Foundation, which works on creating awareness about noise pollution, said, "The levels of noise we are exposed to could turn us into a nation of deaf people. It's high time noise pollution was considered a health problem and solutions worked out accordingly." 


PLDs permit users to listen to crystalclear tunes at high volume for hours on end The study found that 21% of the participants were using PLDs from one to four hours and 8% for at least four hours Experts feel that the extent of slow hearing loss will only be felt in 10 or 20 years, by when it may be too late for an entire generation to do something about their hearing 

Worldwide, 16% of disabling hearing loss in adults is attributed to occupational noise, ranging from 7 to 21% in various sub-regions 
Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is the second most common form of acquired hearing loss after age-related loss 
NIHL is generally used to denote the cumulative, permanent loss of hearing that develops gradually after months or years of exposure to high levels of noise. It has long been recognized as a problem in occupations associated with prominent noise 
Studies have shown that people who are exposed to noise levels higher than 85 db suffer from NIH


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Nona Walia finds out about ‘The Slow Movement’ that’s asking people to take a few steps back from the hurdle race, and enjoy every moment of their lives

 EACH one of us has felt it — the sheer exhaustion that envelops us as we rush through the day completing chores at home, beating the traffic, meeting deadlines in office and multi-tasking. At the end of the day, we may realise that we have matched the pace of the ticking clock, but lost a lot in the bargain — whether it's peace of mind, our health or the satisfaction that one derives of a job done well or a day spent well. Fareed Zakaria, one of the most-respected journalists in the world, after being recently accused of plagiarism, and being too busy to check the details of his column, said, "It forced me to rethink my heavy workload and slow down." Pop diva Rihanna said in a recent interview that she was so overworked during the making of her recent album that instead of a creative high that every artiste has the right to experience and enjoy, she felt sick. "I realised I needed to cut back on work, slow down," she said. TV actor Sanjeeda Sheikh explains, "People like us in the television industry are always on the run because there is this feeling that if we slow down, we will miss out." 

Why go slow? 
H owe ve r, that life in a hurry is superficial is being felt by people these days, and it's because of this rea
son that the 'The Slow Movement' (see box), a cultural revolution that began in the West in the mid-1980s, is fast catching up. The basic idea is to cut back on speed, slow down and derive satisfaction out of work, rather than just finishing it in a hurry. 
    Mumbai-based textile designer Padmaja Krishnan is part of this global movement. "Slow Fashion looks at all that's useless and discarded. I choose techniques that are slow and not fully controllable. I'm against mass consumerism and don't believe that you need 20 outfits. My fashion doesn't follow trends or seasons. I take time and joy in making clothes," says the head of Transit Studio. Jogi Panghaal, a slow design activist from India, says he has bridged the gap between traditional craft and modern design by being a part of the same movement. "I learn the traditional skills of tribal artisans and combine them with modern technique. Our process is slow and we believe in conserving," says the NID graduate. 
    In 2001, Time magazine rated the Slow Food 
Movement as one of the 80 ideas that shook the world. The movement has found its takers in India too. Vandana Shiva, who owns Slow Food Café, in Delhi, says, "We make food from organic produce and use ingredients that are fast disappearing from India. For eg, we make pizzas and crêpes from ragi and upma." 
    Fad or necessity? 
Slowing down isn't just a fad or a luxury. Neither does it mean one's inefficient or ineffective. It's more of a necessity. Believing in this movement does not mean one undoes all the advantages technology has offered to make life easier; it simply professes one should live life fully, at a slower pace. It asks each individual to 
own his existence. The aim is to find the right pace for each part of our daily routine. 
In a recent poll, half of the British adult population confessed that their hectic life caused them to lose touch with their friends. Latest neuro-scientific research too suggests that the human brain is not very good at multi-tasking. Says psychiatrist Dr Avdesh Sharma about multi-tasking, which is professed as a super-positive trait in today's world, "There's a tendency for people to be less and less mindful. Texting while driving, eating while talking on the phone, reading and listening to music at the same time… it's exhausting. And you derive pleasure out of none of the activities that are keeping your mind occupied. What's the point?" 
In his best-selling book, In Praise of Slow: How A Worldwide Movement Is Challenging the Cult of Speed, Canadian journalist and author Carl Honore talks about the negative impact 
of life in the fast lane. "Today, one can do a course on speed yoga, speed dating, speed meditation, but the fact is that you can't hurry up relationships." He says in the bargain, parents and adults apart, children also suffer. "Children need slowness even more than adults do. It's in the moments of quiet, of unstructured time, of boredom even, that kids learn how to look into themselves, how to think and be creative, how to socialise.We are doing a great disservice to our children by pushing them hard to learn things faster and by keeping them so busy. They need time and space to slow down, to play, to be children." 
    Rushing against time also has medical repercussions. Cardiologist Dr Anil Bansal explains as we inch closer to the World Heart Day (September 29), "Fast-paced 
life isn't heart-friendly. Stress increases cortisol in the body and puts one at an increased risk of a heart problem." 
Slow is the new fast 
The cult of speed actually ends up slowing us down, because a slightest hiccup may stress us to the extent that we lose our temper, and instead of thinking of solutions, we slow our minds down with more problems. Christine Louise Hohlbaum, author of Power of Slow, says, "Slow is actually faster whilst fast is merely exhausting! When you slow down long enough to actually think, you make smarter decisions, that leads to better outcomes and thereby saves you time in the long run. You learn the art of managing expectations." 
    As Gandhi once said, "There's more to life than increasing its speed." 

Slow Food strives to preserve regional cuisine making optimal use of the local ecosystem. Slow Design includes materials and processes that are forgotten.Slow Cities are characterised by a way of life that supports people to live in the slow lane. These cities have less traffic, less noise, fewer crowds.Towns in Italy have banded together to form an organization and call themselves the Slow Cities, also known as Cittaslow. These apart, the concept of Slow Mail, Slow Music, Slow Parenting, Slow Homes, Slow Cars, Slow Travel etc.,are also catching up.

    — Mae West, actress/writer

— Edgar S Cahn, a pioneer of The Slow Movement, who asks people to invest time, instead of money


To check genuineness, send SMS before popping pills

Mumbai: Now before popping a pain-killer or having cough syrup, you can be sure that it's not fake thanks to an innovation designed to curb the menace of spurious medicines. Strips of popular and commonly-used medicines like Combiflam, Disprin, Crocin, Voveran and multi-vitamin Becosules will soon carry a unique code, which when sent via SMS will help verify the medicine's genuineness. 

    Companies like Roche, Lupin and Unichem have already started rolling out medicines in the new packaging with the unique code and many, like Sanofi, Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline, are planning to follow suit. 
    This is how it will work: Consumers will need to send the alpha-numeric code printed on the medicine strip through their mobile phone. 
They will then get an SMS confirming genuiness along with health tips and drug-refill reminders. 
    While there is no uniform figure to determine the penetration of spurious or misbranded medicines in the country — with industry and the government offering varying estimates — the health ministry recently announced that of the over 
48,000 drug samples tested between 2011 and 2012, nearly 5% failed the quality test, while almost one in three drugs (36%) were found to be "not of standard quality" from across the country. States like Maharashtra and Kerala are among the worst affected and have a larger proportion of sub-standard drugs, particularly in semiurban and rural areas. 
    Medicines may be substandard in quality or spurious when they are past their expiry date, contain incorrect quantity of ingredients or wrong ingredients, and when they have not been stored in proper conditions. Vaccines and anti-diabetic drugs, for instance, need cooling chains for transportation and storage. 
    Mostly, the drug's efficacy 
suffers but, in certain cases, it may cause serious side-effects and even be fatal. There may also be instances when these fake medicines offer no therapeutic benefits. 
    It is virtually impossible to tell the difference between real and fake medicines unless a laboratory analysis is carried out. Since that's may not be a practical solution, drug companies along with regulators have been trying to counter the menace through measures like barcoding, embedded holograms and RFID, but have met with little success. 
    Industry sources say the medicines that are faked most are of brands that are fast-moving and have a high turnover. 
    Certain companies are not rolling out the new packaging because of cost issues, and because many of their medicines are under price control. 

State has 1 govt doc for every 24K people 

New Delhi:On an average, a single government doctor serves more than 12,000 people in India while each government dental surgeon serves around 3 lakh. The WHO- recommended norm is to have one doctor for every 1,000 people 
    The latest figures on human resources, finalized by the Central Bureau ofHealth Intelligence and published in the National Health Profile 2011, show that the ratio of a doctor against an average population served is worst for Gujarat, followed by Tamil Nadu. One government doctor serves 25,168 people in Gujarat, 25,042 in Tamil Nadu, 24,540 in Maharashtra and 23,174 in Bihar. The figure is 17,811 for MP, 8,416 for Bengal and 3,933 for Delhi. However, when it comes to dental surgeons, the ratio is the worst in Bihar. A single dental surgeon in a government hospital serves 35.46 lakh people in Bihar and 20.57 lakh in Maharashtra. TNN


Saturday, September 22, 2012

1cr artificial heart brings hope to city

Mumbai: A mechanized device weighing 400 grams may soon give a new lease of life to over 4 million people in the country who die of heart failure every year. A city hospital has brought in the technology to implant an artificial heart that takes over the function of the original heart and promises to double the patient's life-expectancy. 

    Bandra's Asian Heart Institute recently completed training its team of doctors to implant the device in patients of heart failure. End-stage heart disease, wherein the heart loses its ability to pump oxygenated blood, currently almost means a death sentence for the patient. The lifesaver that runs on rechargeable batteries, will come at varying costs. At the AHI, it will cost a whopping Rs 1 crore. 
    Experts say with incidence of heart failure increasing by 2 million annually and heart transplants being a distant dream in the country, this technology could be the way forward. Vice-chairman and managing director of AHI Dr Ramakant Panda said, "Less than 1% of heart failure patients have any chance of getting an organ for transplant. This device, much smaller than the original heart, could be our solution to heart failure," he said. He explained that the artificial heart not only gives the patient a shot at life, it also allows the natural heart to recover. In 10-15% of patients, the original heart recovers and the device is then removed. 

An artificial heart does not replace the original heart, but takes over its functioning 
The device is placed below the diaphragm. It is attached to the heart and to an external system that includes batteries that need to be charged every 12-14 hours 
Among others, it can be a boon for those facing risk of death due to heart failure or those who cannot undergo cardiac transplantation 
The device is very expensive and there are fears of infection, thanks to the external charging point 
10K lives saved worldwide, artificial heart proves boon 
Mumbai: An artificial heart, a device now available in the country, will come as a boon for patientswho areidealfor a heart transplant but need assistance to stay alive till they get a donor. Globally over 10,000 people are believed to be living with the deviceconsideredthe mostsophisticatedto assist a failing heart. 
    Dr Ramakant Panda, vicechairman and managing director of Asian Heart Institute, said, "For those who don't even havetheoption of cardiactransplantation, this is probably the only waytostay alive." 
    Senior consultantcardiovascular surgeon Dr Prashant Vaijyanath, who is part of the team thatwillbecarrying outthe artificial heart transplants in AHI, said, "The device restores normal blood flow throughout the body, making it possible for the patient to breathe easily. All the fatigue associated with the condition goes away as organs receive morebloodthan earlier." 
    WhileAHIwillbethefirstfacility in western India to offer the transplant, Bangalore's Narayan Hrudalaya too got the green signal to start the programme. In 2008, it performed four artificial heart transplants, butthe programmewas aborted due to the global meltdown in 2009 thatcloseddown thecompany making the device. Cardiovascular surgeon Dr TRRajesh, who consults with Narayan Hrudalaya and performed the transplantsin 2008,said, "If a patient is given a choice between a transplant and getting the artificial heart, the patient chooses the latter. Post-operative managementissimpler," hesaid. 
    He said Narayan Hrudalaya would offer the device at Rs 50 lakh. "We will charge only for the device and waive off other fees," hesaid. 

AN ARTIFICIAL HEART The Left Ventricular Assist Device circulates blood through the body when the heart is too weak to do so. However, it doesn't replace the heart while assisting or taking over the left ventricle, the main pumping chamber 

Unlike a natural heart that expands and contracts while pumping blood, the device remains static while ensuring continuous flow of blood The continuous flow of blood means that a patient implanted with the device will have zero or a very faint pulse 

Patients who have suffered nonreversible left-heart failure 
Patients at immediate risk of death due to heart failure 
Patients considered candidates for cardiac transplantation can use the device till they find a donor 
It is also considered to be an option for candidates who cannot undergo cardiac transplantation due to other associated ailments 
    The prohibitive cost makes the device unaffordable for the masses 

    There are some chances of infection because a wire, to charge the device, protrudes out of the patient's body 

    It is yet to be proved efficacious for paediatric use


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Yogurt cuts risk of high BP, says study

Washington: Adding more yogurt to your diet may help lower risk of high blood pressure, according to a new research. 

    A study presented at the American Heart Association's High Blood Pressure Research 2012 Scientific Sessions found the long-term yogurt-eaters were less likely to develop high blood pressure and on average had lower systolic blood pressure than those who didn't eat yogurt. Systolic blood pressure is the top number in a blood pressure reading. It measures the force of blood against the walls of arteries when the heart is beating. 
    During the 15 year study, researchers followed more than 2,000 volun
teers who did not have high blood pressure at the start of the study. Participants were 31% less likely to develop high blood pressure if at least 2% of their daily calories came from yogurt, which would be like eating at least one six-ounce cup of low-fat yogurt every three days. PTI



‘Women more prone to Vit D deficiency’

Mumbai: Women in the age group of 12-35 years have a higher Vitamin D deficient value as compared to men across age groups, revealed a study by a national diagnostic chain between January and December 2011. 
    The study shows that 27,606 out of the 33,444 Mumbaikars, who were surveyed, had abnormal Vitamin D levels. What's worse, 65.84% of these were women. However, more men suffered from Vitamin D insufficiency. According to the parameters given in the study, anything below 10 units of Vitamin D is deficiency and between 10 and 30 units is insufficiency. 

    Dr Deepak Sanghavi, consultant pathologist at Metropolis Healthcare's clinical chemistry department, said, "Vitamin D deficiency is common among women and kids in India even though there is adequate sunlight, high day temperature and a humid climate here." 

    Besides bone-related problems, other diseases like heart ailments and diabetes too have been linked to lack of Vitamin D. Dr Pradeep Bhonsale, head of orthopedic department at civic-run KEM Hospital, said his unit sees at least 15 patients per day who complain of problems that actually turn out to be due to Vitamin D deficiency. 
    Vitamin D is required for utilization of calcium. "The deficiency is more in women as after menopause, their bodies lack certain hormones," said Dr Bhonsale. 


• Minimum 20 minutes of sunlight exposure, between 8am & 8.30am and 4pm & 4.30pm, is needed 

• Cod liver oil, salmon, tuna fish and mackerel, fortified milk and cereals, whole egg and certain types of cheese provide Vitamin D 

• Supplements should not be taken without consulting doctors


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Should an HIV test before marriage be made compulsory?

Even as the state government actively considers the move, BT delves into the issue

    Madhu's (name changed) life has just come crashing down. The 23-year-old, married for the past one-and-a-half years, has tested positive for HIV and she knows she has contracted it from her husband. Her family is distraught but there's little they can do. "Now, we realise the importance of getting an HIV test done before marriage," says her father. Madhu's is not the only case. Many such instances across the country are highlighting an urgent need to make HIV test mandatory before marriage. The State Women and Child Development department is actively considering the move. In fact, Varsha Gaikwad, Minister, Women and Child Development, recently said that her department had sought opinions in this regard from UNICEF and NGOs working for the welfare of HIV patients. But to bring about this rule, amendments to provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and other allied Acts, will be needed. And even though it looks like the need of the hour, it's not that simple. In the past, such a move has encountered a number of hindrances. 
Some argue that making this test mandatory infringes upon a person's right to privacy, which is a fundamental human right. Also, a big concern is that post-tests, an infected person may be ostracised in his/her community.
Ageneralised policy like this could adversely affect HIV control programmeitself, as fear of social discrimination could force people to flee rather than come forward to declare their HIV status. 
    That apart, there are people opposing it because of the veracity of HIV tests. A wrong diagnosis could cause havoc in a person's life. Besides, there is something called a window period, during which a person may test negative despite being infected. Says gynaecologist Dr Firuza Parikh, "The HIV test is not fool-proof. At the time of testing, a person may come negative but turn positive six months later due to the window period. That apart, there's also the question of who will bear the cost of the test. So, what are we trying to prove through these tests? Is it just promiscuity? Because in that case, a person could even cheat by getting somebody else's test result." 
    Sexologist and marriage counsellor Dr Shirish Malde, agrees. "People might resort to getting fake test reports. Also, asking for the test can give rise to trust issues," he says. But then there are many cases where a person has contracted the virus from his/her partner and often it comes to fore when the woman is pregnant, he says. "And the person who was already infected at the time of marriage tends to pretend or was actually unaware. So making such a test mandatory before marriage may help," he adds. 
In Mumbai, a large section of people, especially youngsters, feel the 
test must be made mandatory. "People are worried to ask a potential groom for a test, lest it upsets him and his family. But, it's as important as checking the kundalis in current times," says computer professional Tina Raina, 26. A thought echoed by may others. Dr I S Gilada, President of AIDS Society of India, who has been working in this field for almost three decades, emphasises, "This step may upset some people in our traditional society, who might even call off a marriage. It's mostly young unsuspecting women who suffer from this. Human rights activists may say that declaring HIV status of one person is violation of his/her privacy. But doesn't the potential spouse have a right to be protected from the disease? One's right to privacy cannot infringe upon another's right to life. In fact, if it is made mandatory, there will be more awareness and more people going in for regular check-ups." 
Instead of just HIV test, a couple, ready to tie the knot, could undergo a comprehensive health check-up that includes tests for diabetes, thalassemia, haemophilia and other sexually transmitted diseases. "This way we can ensure better medical compatibility between partners. Even if one tests positive for HIV, he/she can be rejected only as 'medically unfit' and won't have to carry the stigma of being an HIV/AIDS patient. Vice-versa, if they decide to go ahead with the marriage, it is with full knowledge and understanding, so they can't blame anyone," says Gilada. In the past, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Goa attempted to bring about such a rule, but could not succeed. Will Maharashtra manage to do it? Let's see...

If such a bill is being considered, I'm glad it is 
because we definitely need this, especially in areas where education levels are low. Many suffer because of not having knowledge and rather than that suffering, it's better you are aware of things beforehand.

There's no clear-cut answer. In principle it seems logical enough: both partners should make an informed decision. But by legalising the process, not only do you bring the state into the bedroom, you also stigmatise HIV further. After all, there are many conditions that must be ascertained before we enter a partnership. Why aren't those investigated?

Making the test mandatory could intensify the inhuman stigmatisation that HIV-positive individuals and AIDS patients grapple with. Brides and grooms must be encouraged to take the test before marriage, but it should be voluntary.

I totally agree with the government and feel everybody must go for a check-up every six months. Nowadays, people are indulging in all kinds of vices. Today, a wife doesn't know if her husband has been in a relationship with another man or woman!

In our country, where there is still a very prevalent arranged marriage system, a mandatory HIV test would be a boon. Due to our conservative society, these questions are barely asked.

Alarming statistics show how children suffer because of their parents being HIV positive and women who not find out if their husbands are HIV positive suffer. It's thus best to be aware.

Everyone should get an AIDS test; the government should organise this free of cost and have an awareness campaign on sex education. What is more of a concern, is how we treat those who are AIDS victims.

I totally support this move to have an HIV test before marriage; especially when one is beginning a family. It will also be a step towards removing the taboo attached with AIDS.

I agree with the move. Some families may not like it because they are traditional. I feel the issue is personal.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Long work hours ups heart disease risk

Working more than eight hours a day raises the risk of heart ailments by 80 per cent, say researchers

    The warning follows analysis of 12 studies dating back as far as 1958, involving 22,000 people from around the world. The analysis found that those who worked for more than the traditional eight hours had a 40 to 80 per cent greater chance of heart disease. 
    The study was conducted by scientists at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health. Lead researcher Marianna Virtanen said the effects could be due to "prolonged exposure to stress". Other triggers could be poor eating habits and lack of exercise due to restricted leisure time. In 2009, the same team discovered that long working hours increased the risk of dementia later in life. The effect was similar in magnitude to that of smoking. Middle-aged workers putting in 55 hours or more a week, had poorer brain function than those clocking up no more than 40 hours. IANS

TIRED OF WORK? Stress and long work hours can be harmful for your heart and increase chances of a heart ailment


Why you should eat zucchini

Shaped like a cucumber, with the outer skin either dark green or yellow, this vegetable has many health benefits

    Not many know that the zucchini is also known by other names like squash and summer squash. The vegetable, which belongs the Cucurbitaceae family and is related to the melon and cucumber, is like tomatoes — though used as a vegetable, botanically it is a fruit. Not used much in Indian dishes, zucchinis are an integral part of many foreign 
cuisines — traditional Italian, French, British, Spanish, Mexican and modern American. The best thing about zucchini is that it can be cooked as well as consumed raw. BT tells you why zucchini should be a regular part of your diet. 
    If you suffer from a vitamin C deficiency, zucchinis are great for you. Skin problems, like scurvy, that are caused due to vitamin C deficiency, can be kept at bay. It also contains antiageing properties — because of anti
oxidants — and anti-inflammatory properties. The vegetable is great for your skin. 
Phosphorus and magnesium found in zucchini are useful in maintaining healthy bones. It helps women to keep osteoporosis at bay. 
Zucchinis contain magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, copper, folate 
and riboflavin, making it highly nutritious. 
Other vital nutrients 
include zinc, protein, iron, calcium and vitamin K. 
Zucchinis contain vitamin A and a compound lutein, which help reduce eye problems. 
Regular intake of zucchinis can reduce painful symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. 
Suffering from constipation? Turn to zucchinis, as they contain fibre and also help to prevent the risk of colon cancer. 
Risk of heart problems and strokes can be minimised to an extent as consuming this vegetable regularly helps to lower homocysteine levels, which cause strokes. Also, eating them regularly is said to reduce the risk of multiple sclerosis.

Yellow zucchini

Green Zucchini


Take a deep breath... and relax! BT tells you how to calm the body and mind

 How often do you relax? And more importantly, do you know how to relax? Unfortunately, today, relaxation has become a luxury that we're increasingly finding tough to indulge in. With stress manifesting itself in alarming ways in our lives, our health takes the brunt of it all. The mind and body are like springs — stretch them as much as you like, but once you let go, they go back to their original position. But what happens when it is overstretched? You get burnt out. This is why relaxation is so essential. It helps the body bounce back. 

Have you become short-tempered, irritable or depressed nowadays? These are signs of stress and it's time to identify the source. Most often, people don't realise that they are stressed. Once you identify the reason for your tension, you must goad your body and mind for relaxation. No matter how busy you are, finding time for yourself — even 30 minutes daily — will work wonders. 
Breathing exercises are one of the 
best ways to relax. Start with slow breathing and concentrate on each breath. This is one of the best ways to calm your body. Sit in a relaxed position, close your eyes, inhale through your nose and exhale through the mouth. Inhale deeply as you count to five and exhale slowly, again to the count of five. Practise this a couple of times daily to reduce stress. Take time out to cycle, swim or walk outdoors. Go in for a massage once a month to rejuvenate and relax your body. 
Negative thinking puts stress on the mind more than anything else. So, one of the best ways to relax is to think positively, especially in stressful situations. Think of what or who makes you happy and concentrate on the thought. The idea is to think of something that makes you feel calm. Practising yoga and meditation daily is one of the best ways to calm the mind.

Relax your mind by thinking positively and spending time with people you love


Sunday, September 16, 2012

BITTER PILL Popular painkillers can cause hearing loss in women

London: Regular use of household painkillers including ibuprofen and paracetamol can lead to an increased risk of hearing loss in women, a new study has claimed. 

    The study of more than 62,000 women found that taking the drugs just twice a week increases the risk of hearing loss by up to 13%. Using ibuprofen six times a week makes women up to 24% more likely to develop some degree of hearing problem as compared with those who do not use the medication. Those using paracetamol up to five times a week increase the risk of hearing loss by 21%, the 'Daily Mail' reported. 
    However, the same effect was not seen for women who regularly take aspirin. Researchers who carried out the US study say they do not yet know why there is a link, or 
whether the damage caused is permanent. In the latest study, data was taken from the Nurses' Health Study in the US, a national survey of 116,430 female registered nurses conducted over 14 years from 1995 to 2009. The study identified more than 10,000 reported cases of hearing loss. PTI


Saturday, September 15, 2012

TALK TIME ‘Mental health helplines work like an emotional band-aid’

Tata Institute of Social Sciences Launched Helpline To Deal With Psycho-Social And Legal Issues Two Weeks Ago

 On the morning of September 4, iCALL, the psycho-social and legal helpline mounted by the Tata Institute of Social Services (TISS) was pressed with calls hours before the facility was formally launched. It indicated the urgent need for an accessible counselling service in a country whose mentalhealth requires immediate attention—according to the National Crime Records Bureau, more than one lakh persons committed suicide last year, an increase of 0.7% from the previous year's figure. 

    Research has shown that timely intervention is a crucial deterrent to suicide and a counselling helpline can help solve problems at a preliminary stage. "India does not have enough services or trained professionals to tend to its mental health," points out Professor Sujata Sriram, Chairperson, Centre for Human Ecology at TISS, under whose guidance the helpline was developed. "Where do people go if they have an issue? We set up this helpline 
with the aim of offering it as the first-level service. If callers need, we can refer them to other experts—medical practitioners, other counsellors, clinical psychologists, lawyers and so on." 
    While telephone helplines are supposed to serve as secondary support lines, TISS's press note points out that counselling helplines are of
ten the primary means of aid for people in distress. Indeed, Sriram calls them emotional first-aid. In a country where women and the elderly have few opportunities to seek help outside and where social attitudes to mental illness leave much to be desired, helplines are invaluable. Moreover, they don't ask for callers' names or phone numbers and allow them complete anonymity, should they choose it. This is usually an incentive for people to call. 
    Despite being operational for only two weeks, iCALL already receives about 15 calls a day, some of which last over an hour. Sriram makes it known that the call will last until the caller is satisfied and disconnects. "We're getting many female callers," says Anuradha Karigar, coor
dinator for iCALL. Karigar has some experience in the running of counselling helplines, having helped run SNDT's helpline on adolescent issues. "Indian helplines usually receive a larger number of men, so this development is encouraging," shesays. "We've had a woman call on behalf of her colleague who has marital problems; a mother of an alcoholic called in for counselling; another woman had concerns about the alimony she was getting and how it wouldn't be enough to ensure a good education for her children. We encouraged her to seek out employment but we also helped her with legal advice in the matter of her alimony," says Karigar, adding that the helpline is equipped to handle a range of psycho-social issues—domestic violence, sexuality-related problems, loneliness, substance abuse, parental pressure, ragging, suicidal tendencies and so on. 
    Interestingly, what sets iCALL apart from most helplines is its bi-disciplinarity: it addresses psycho-social and legal issues. Although the legal arm of the helpline will become functional only in early October, its counsellors are trained to respond to basic legal inquiries as well. Often, the three are interlinked-—psychological problems that stem from a social con
text and have legal ramifications. The counsellors are trained in clinical or counselling psychology and have former work experience. The legal advisors have been trained by TISS's School of Law, Rights and Constitutional Governance. 
    Aparna Joshi, a practicing psychotherapist and assistant professor at the Centre for Human Ecology, who has been involved with the project, says that iCALL is an essential service for those who cannot access or afford paid mental health services. "Even though India has a raft of mental health issues, it is deficient in necessary services," she says. "The number of trained professionals and the range of services available are disproportionate to the scale of the problem. Services 
that exist are largely biomedical in nature. But people also need counselling, support groups, advocacy, rehab services and information. Such facilities are scarce even in a metro like Mumbai." 
    The line, which is not yet toll-free (although permissions have been sought from the telecom ministry), hopes to soon have national influence although its spread is presently confined to Maharashtra. In fact, the helpline attends calls not only from Mumbai but from Nagpur, Pune and other cities too. Perhaps soon, with the reach of cellular services, people from villages will start calling in as well. 
    iCALL number: 25563291, from Monday to Saturday, 11am to 10 pm


Thursday, September 13, 2012

State makes retrieval of organs easier

Mumbai:In a major attempt to spur organ donations, the Maharashtra government has allowed "non-transplant hospitals equipped with an ICU and operation theatre" to retrieve organs and made it mandatory for them to officially identify brain dead patients. 

    The state on Thursday passed four resolutions based on the Human Organ Transplantation Act, 1994. The first mandates certification of "brain dead condition" by a "Brain Stem Death Committee". It's duty will be to confirm if a patient is brain dead and, if so, to inform the Zonal Transplantation Coordination Committee. 
    "The ZTCC, after obtaining relatives' consent to retrieve the brain dead person's organs, will arrange for them to be sent for transplantation as per the waiting list," said an official. 
Organ donations may get a boost 
Mumbai: The state has issued four government resolutions to spur organ donations, one of which details who will be in a Brain Stem Death Committee. The notification says the panel should comprise the doctor in charge of the hospital, a physician or surgeon, an interventionist, a neurologist or neurosurgeon, and the registered medical practitioner treating the patient. 
    "If a hospital doesn't have a neurosurgeon, it can avail the service of one from a different panel," a senior official told TOI. 
    Another resolution permits non-transplant hospi
tals with an ICU and an operation theatre to remove organs once a patient is certified as brain dead. At present, Maharashtra has 94 registered transplant centres, of which 27 are in Mumbai. The relaxation of rules is expected to go a long way in boosting cadaver (postdeath) organ donations. Officials said the public healthdepartment was earlier considering insisting on a minimum number of beds as the condition for enlisting hospitals—like Tamil Nadu-—but forewent it for ICU and OT facilities. 
    The last order makes it compulsory for hospitals registered under the Human Organ Transplantation Act to maintain records of trans
plant surgeries, the counselling department and the transplant coordinator. "It will also have to ensure positive publicity for successful cases," said another official. 
    Dr Sujata Patwardhan, the secretary of the Zonal Transplant Coordination Committee, welcomed the resolutions, saying they are likely to add to the pool of organ donors. "Currently, 29 hospitals in the city are registered with the ZTCC and thereby authorised to carry out transplants. But only eight of them are actively doing it." Dr Patwardhan cautioned that the logistics in transporting organs from retrieval to transplant centres are still to be worked out.



 If you are employed, chances are you often spend more time at office than home. And so, it's very important that you are happy and relaxed when at work. But that's easier said than done. A tyrant boss, backstabbing colleagues, poor pay packages, office politics, unequal distribution of work, favouritism — there are countless reasons to put one off work. Job stress can take a huge toll on your mental and physical health. Changing jobs constantly is not a solution, especially in today's economic scenario. So, here's how to make the most of what you have. 
Forget home-cooked food and that boring canteen fare. It's a great idea to step out for lunch with your colleagues. You will help you bond with them. If you hate going out, order some take-away. And if you are the kind who always eats out, get a home-cooked dish sometimes. Good food will uplift your mood. 

Whatever the nature and number of problems you face at work, they're not going to disappear at the snap of your fingers. You need to be optimistic that the situation will improve slowly and steadily. Do not fall prey to negative thinking. If you find it tough to be optimistic, fake it. With time, your fake positivity will turn real. All you need is a little practice. 

Even if you hate your job, make the most of it. Analyse how you can improve yourself —make fewer mistakes, increase your efficiency, etc. Whenever you leave a job, you should know that it has enhanced your skills, even if in a minor way. 

A friendly atmosphere makes a huge difference. If you're aloof, chances are you will feel left out at some point of time. We're not asking you to go shopping with them and share the details of your personal life, but be cordial. 

Typing furiously on the keyboard, slamming the phone, and pushing the drawers of the cabinet forcefully may help you vent anger, but think about how lucky you are. In the current market scenario, there are many unemployed people who would love to be in your shoes. 
Nobody likes to be bullied and harassed at work. If your detractors are under the impression that you can't speak up for yourself, it encourages them to trouble you even more. So, stand up for yourself. 

Slogging for 12 to 16 hours a day will leave anyone grumpy, stressed out and unable to concentrate. So, small 15-minute breaks are a must in between. Take a nap, read jokes or play games online, listen to music or chat with a friend. If napping and playing games online are prohibited, listen to some good music to pep up your mood. 

It's important to ask for a feedback from your boss. Good communication will give you a clear idea of what's expected of you. 
    Compiled by Lisa Antao


Monday, September 10, 2012

Shot in the arm in fight against dengue: First vaccine on its way

New Delhi: The world's first effective vaccine against dengue could be available by 2015. Scientists have announced a major breakthrough, with a candidate vaccine recording a 60%-90% protection rate against three main virus strains (DENV 1, 3 and 4) that cause the disease. 
    The vaccine, CYD-TDV, was also found to be safe, with no serious side-effects on 
those who received it. Currently, no vaccine is available for protection against dengue, and efforts to develop one have been hit by the fact that the disease is caused by four different related viruses—DENV 1, 2, 3 and 4. The disease, which is caused by mosquitoes and is endemic in ove r 100 countries, also appears to be unique to humans. Hence, scientists cannot use animal models to test prospective vaccine candidates. 
    The findings will be published in British medical journal, The Lancet, on Tuesday. 
Using GM mosquitoes to kill mosquitoes estern scientists have developed genetically modified mosquitoes which could be the new weapon in curbing mosquito numbers and fighting dengue. P 17 Dengue vaccine fails against deadly strain 
New Delhi:In three years, there could be a vaccine to fight dengue. One of the researchers, Dr Derek Wallace from Sanofi Pasteur, said, "Our study constitutes the first ever demonstration that a safe and effective dengue vaccine is possible. Further trials of CYD-TDV are currently underway in a number of countries and our hope is positive results of this trial will be confirmed by these larger studies in a wide range of epidemiological settings."
    Researchers based in France and Thailand said they had tested the effectiveness of CYDTDV on 4,002 Thai children aged between four and 11. Around 2,669 kids were given the CYD-TDV vaccine, while 1,333 
were given a placebo. The vaccination schedule was three doses given six months apart. 
    Secondary tests showed the vaccine was effective against DENV 1, 3 and 4, but not DENV 2, which appeared to be resistant to the effects of the vaccine. Dr A C Dhariwal, head of India's National Vector-Borne Disease Control Programme, said, "A vaccine will greatly benefit India where children are major victims of this disease. This candidate vaccine protects against dengue virus strain 1 which is the commonest and strains 3 and 4 which causes mild manifestations. However, it is the strain 2 that causes dengue hemorrhagic fever which is life threatening. And this vaccine does not protect against this strain."


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Vitamin A in diet can help fight cancer

London:Intake of vitamin A in diet could help treat several forms of cancer due to its ability to control the malignant cells, a new study has found. Scientists have hailed the discovery as a "new dawn" in cancer treatment after finding a link between malignant cells and lack of vitamin A. 
    Experts at the University of York found that cancer cells are under control of a derivative of the vitamin, known as retinoic acid, the Daily Express reported. 
    They believe that vitamin A can be used as new anticancer treatment and advised people to ensure they include adequate levels of the nutrient in their diets. 
    The study was carried out on prostate cancer cells but professor Norman Maitland of Yorkshire Cancer Research believes the treatment could apply to other cancers as well. Maitland, however, warned people not to rush out to buy vitamin A supplements, which could be toxic and even cancerous in high doses. 
    Instead he advised people to take vitamin A in their daily diet, including oily fish, carrots, liver, red pepper and dark leafy vegetables. 
    "We hope vitamin A will be used to prevent prostate 
cancer and that a derivative of vitamin A could help destroy prostate cancer cells or make them more treatable once they have started to spread," he said. 
    He said that retinoic acid is already used to treat a blood cancer and has been extremely successful in improving survival rates to 80%. The study is published in the journal 'Nucleic Acids'. PTI 

Exposure to Sun 
protects from 15 
types of cancer 

    Scientists have discovered that sun exposure may protect against some forms of cancer, despite increasing the risk of skin cancer. In a series of studies, lack of sunlight was linked to 15 types of cancer. In one, researchers assessed cancer cases in 100 countries along with ambient ultraviolet radiation rates. More sunlight was "consistently" tied to reduced rates of many types of cancer including breast, cervical, colon, oesophageal, gastric, lung and two forms of lymphoma, the Daily Express reported. Researchers said vitamin D, produced by sunlight, "may reduce the incidence or improve the outcome of cancer". PTI



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