Everyone needs a specialist to address their wellness needs. At Brunch we’ve brought together a few experts who have developed specific tips to combat some common and not-so-common ailments. Let the best doctors in business tell you how to keep heart trouble at bay, curb diabetes, manage asthma, resolve infertility, fight infections, keep your skin healthy and even stop headaches.
These tips go beyond the usual advice about drinking more water, exercising regularly, eating fruits and veggies and slathering on sunscreen. They are designed to help you make specific changes to your lifestyle and emerge healthier and wiser.
Dr Anoop Misra: Keep diabetes at bay
* Follow scientifically proven diets for diabetes prevention. Several meal plans promise to balance sugar levels forever, but only a few have been scientifically shown to succeed. Keep your doctor informed when changing your diet.
* Maintain your weight in normal limits of body mass index (BMI) and abdominal circumference. Excess weight makes it harder for the body to use insulin for controlling blood sugar. If you are overweight, shedding even a few kilograms can improve the body’s ability to use insulin and prevent the rise of blood sugar.
* Body Mass Index (the ratio, in metre-square, of how large you are with respect to your height) must be kept between 19-23. Waist circumference should be less than 90 cm in men and 80 cm in women.
* Exercise every day for 45-60 minutes. Get physically active and strengthen your body to handle blood glucose. This is the key to diabetes prevention.
* A total of 60 minutes of exercise is optimal: 30 minutes of scheduled exercise (walking, light sports, dancing or swimming), 15 minutes of walking or a similar activity at the workplace, and 15 minutes of resistance exercise with small weights of 1-5 kg.
* Even a 10-minute walk before dinner can help maintain the liver’s glucose outpouring at night.
* High-fibre foods (raw fruits, vegetables, whole grains and cereals. Include at least five to six servings of fruits and vegetables every day).
* Omega-3 fatty acids (fish, salmon, sardines), fish oil (cod liver oil), flaxseeds, walnuts, soybean or tofu, canola or mustard oil.
* Mono-unsaturated fatty acids (walnuts, peanuts, sesame seeds, olive oil, canola/ mustard oil)
* Have cinnamon in powdered form every day, but not more than a quarter or a half teaspoon since it causes irritation in the stomach. Fenugreek seeds can be consumed as powder or whole seeds, in consultation with a doctor (not recommended during pregnancy).
(Dr Misra is chairman, Fortis-C-DOC Centre of Excellence for Diabetes, Metabolic Diseases and Endocrinology)
Dr RR Kasliwal: How to prevent heart disease
Young people are dying of heart attacks these days, largely because of unhealthy lifestyles. Here are seven metrics you need to consider for ideal heart health . n Quit smoking. You shouldn’t smoke. If you do, quit as soon as possible. Over time, it can cut back your risk of a heart attack by as much as 50 per cent - so you’ll only be half as prone to an attack.
* Eat healthy, including more vegetables, fruit, fish and legumes, and less dairy and meat.
* Keep your blood pressure below 130/80 mmHg. In those older than 50 years, systolic blood pressure (the higher number of the BP reading) of more than 140 mmHg is a much more important heart disease risk factor than diastolic (the lower number). A systolic BP of 120 to 139 mmHg or a diastolic BP of 80 to 89 mmHg is pre-hypertension. It should be managed with lifestyle changes or medicines.
* Control cholesterol. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL or bad cholesterol) should be under 100 mg/dl. High-density lipoprotein (HDL or good cholesterol) should be over 45 mg/dl for men and over 55 mg/dl for women. If your LDL is still too high after about 12 weeks of diet and exercise, consider taking medication. For most people, the first choice is cholesterol-lowering statin drugs that reduce LDL by 18 to 55 per cent, trim triglycerides by seven to 30 per cent, and push up HDL by 5 to 15 per cent. Those with a metabolic syndrome – beer belly, high triglycerides and low HDL – are better off with vitamin B3 or fibric acids.
* Control weight. Target to have a body mass index less than 24, irrespective of your age. Extra weight means that your heart has to work harder to supply blood to your body. A weight loss of 10 per cent or more lowers blood pressure and triglycerides in the blood. In children, excess weight makes them three to five times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke before they reach 65 years.
(Dr Kasliwal is chairman, clinical and preventive cardiology, Medanta Heart Institute The Medicity) Dr (Major) Rajesh Bhardwaj: Fight ENT infections
Allergies are caused by exposure to allergens in the environment. Different persons react to different materials. The symptoms are usually nasal (sneezing, clear watery discharge from the nose, nasal stuffiness causing itching and redness in eyes) or in the throat (a feeling of a foreign body trapped there, a constant desire to clear ones throat, chronic cough).
How to prevent allergies
* Allergens in your bedclothes are the most common offending agents. Wash bedclothes frequently in hot water and put them out to dry in the hot sun.
* Use non-allergenic pillows, duvets and mattresses. Most furnishing stores stock them.
* Avoid furry pets – if you have them, at least make sure that they do not come into the bedroom/ sleep on your bed.
* To avoid dust flying in the house, substitute dusting with wet mopping and sweeping with vacuum cleaning.
* In case your house is on a main road or adjacent to traffic, keep doors and windows closed to avoid pollutants from coming in. Fit windows and doors with proper frames so that air pollutants do not enter.
* Avoid flowering plants indoors.
* If you’re on a two wheeler when out in the traffic, use a face mask. This can be either a large handkerchief or a rectangular piece of cloth tied behind your head with four strings – much like a surgeon’s mask.
Ear, Nose, Throat Infections
ENT infections are ubiquitous and affect everyone, from children to the elderly. Symptoms usually manifest themselves in the nose (thick nasal discharge with cheek pain, a drippy nose, headache, fever and a loss of your sense of smell), in the throat (pain or difficulty swallowing, fever, neck swelling) or in the ear (pain, discharge, fever, loss of hearing, swelling behind the ear).
* At the first sign of a cold, take some steam inhalation, so that the infected mucus is washed away.
* Use ear plugs while swimming to prevent getting ‘swimmer’s ears’ – an external ear infected.
* Early sore throats and throat infections can be managed with simple saline gargles. Mix half a teaspoon of salt in half a glass of warm water and gargle two to three times a day. This improves the local blood supply and helps to wash away the local infection.
* In case your immunity is low for some reason, avoid closed or crowded places where other infected persons may be coughing, spitting or sneezing. You are most likely to pick up an infection here.
* In children, treat a cold early, otherwise they may develop an ear infection.
* If you have a bad cold, avoid air travel since this can make the infection worse. It often ends up spreading to your sinuses or ears.
(Dr Bhardwaj is senior consultant ENT, Sitaram Bhartia Institute)
Dr Vikram Jaggi: Cope with asthma
Asthma cannot be cured, but it can be easily and completely controlled, so that the asthmatic can live an absolutely normal life.
* Accept. Patients don’t like to be told that they have asthma. Doctors also know this. So they couch the diagnosis in nicer sounding words like ‘bronchitis’ or ‘chest congestion.’ This only delays proper treatment. So my sincere advice is to accept the diagnosis and start looking for practical and doable solutions.
* Have the right attitude. A person with poor vision could choose to be angry that he has to wear glasses. Or he could be happy that spectacles are a simple solution. It’s all about attitude. It’s the same with asthma. Asthma medications and inhalers are easy to use and help patients breathe normally.
* Explore alternative healing. Alternative systems like yoga, homeopathy, ayurveda and naturopathy do have something to offer asthmatics. They don’t help all patients equally. If you have faith, you could try them. But my advice would be not to stop the normal treatment suddenly.
* Keep your expectations realistic. Adults rarely outgrow their asthma. This is largely determined by genes over which we don’t have control. Environmental control and diet regulation help. If a child is to outgrow asthma, it will happen over years and not days, weeks or months. With proper medications, the asthmatic is usually well controlled in the sense that there are no ongoing symptoms or limitations of activities. However, with change of season or with a viral infection, some symptoms will appear. This is not unexpected. A slight increase in medication will usually bring things back to normal.
* Care, don’t pamper. Mothers sometimes try to over-compensate the asthmatic child by over pampering. This never helps. In fact, it creates further difficulties in that the child starts using the asthma, sometimes sub-consciously, to get his way.
* Be a sport. The asthmatic gets out of breath easily and is usually not into sports. But with proper control of asthma, the person can and should have a normal life including participating in sports. Sports involving spurts of activity are usually better than prolonged exertion like long-distance running. Swimming is usually good.
* Watch your diet. Diet can affect asthma in many ways. Some foods like peanuts, chilled beer, seafood can immediately cause an attack. Others like fried snacks, preservatives, colours and certain ingredients in Chinese food promote allergy, . Some foods cause acid reflux and night-time symptoms. Examples are rice or curd at night, fried food and desserts.Foods that help fight asthma and allergy are antioxidants in fruits and leafy vegetables, vitamin C and magnesium.
* Master your emotions. Anger, frustration and depression are some common emotions that make asthma worse. Many patients of what is called ‘difficult-to-control asthma’ have underlying psychological issues. These have to be addressed. Asthma patients who are generally optimistic tend to respond better to treatment.
(Dr Jaggi is medical director, Asthma Chest Allergy Centres, New Delhi)
From HT Brunch, June 17
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