Some Health Quaries & Answers

Q: My neighbour has about 30 cats. They are strays who have congregated on his verandah because he feeds them cooked chicken and fish offal purchased from the market. The stench permeates everywhere and is repulsive. He recently developed cancer of the colon. Could it be because of the cats? You had mentioned in an earlier column that cats harbour cancer causing H. pylori.

A: Cats do carry H. pylori which is associated with cancer of the stomach, not of the colon. But more disturbing here is the large congregation of unimmunised cats. Any one of them might harbour the rabies virus. Also, the garbage will attract flies and rodents that are responsible for spreading their own set of infectious diseases.

It is best to inform the local public health authorities about the hygiene problem. There is usually a medical health officer who can be approached on such matters. The neighbours should immunise themselves against rabies (in case a person is accidentally scratched or bitten). This can be done by taking “pre-exposure prophylaxis”. The vaccine consists of three injections and will give protection against rabies for five years. The schedule is available with doctors. Also, as far as possible, avoid contact with the cats.

Chewing vs smoking:

Q: I have heard that chewing tobacco is safer than smoking. Is this true?

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A: No, that’s a myth. If you hold tobacco flakes or leaves between your gums and cheek for 30 minutes, your body receives the same amount of harmful chemicals as that contained in three cigarettes. Chewing tobacco is as addictive as smoking cigarettes. In addition, the chemicals in it can cause cancers of the gum and cheek. As the juice is often swallowed, the risk of cancers of the throat, larynx and oesophagus also increases. Teeth and gum problems abound, with inflammation and recession of the gums.

Rising BP:-

Q: Is there any way to control my blood pressure? I am on medication but it doesn’t seem to be helping.

A: You can buy an electronic blood pressure recording apparatus. You can then monitor your blood pressure. Other measures are to maintain an ideal body weight with diet and exercise, stop using tobacco, and reduce caffeine and alcohol intake. Sodium contained in table salt plays a role in blood pressure control and maintenance. There is a medical controversy about whether salt restriction should be recommended to all persons with high blood pressure. The recommended dietary intake of sodium is only half teaspoon (2.5gm) per person a day. Most of us consume more than this. One way to cut down is to avoid salty snacks, pickles, chutneys and preserved and canned foods. Also, do not sprinkle extra salt on your food.

Eyesight correction:-

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Q: I have poor eyesight and have been recommended surgical correction. I have heard the results are good, but no one is mentioning the side effects, if any. Is surgery advisable?

A: Technology is improving in this field rapidly. You can expect to achieve 20/20 (70 per cent) or 20/40 (90 per cent). The side effects are increased sensitivity to light, problems with glare, clouded vision, haloes around lights and intolerance to contact lenses. Before deciding on the surgeon, check for how many years he or she has been performing this operation and how good the results have been.

Collar not cool:-

Q: I suffer from neck pain. The doctor has diagnosed cervical spondylosis and has asked me to wear a collar for three months. However, I find this awkward and uncomfortable. Is there any other way out?

A: Cervical spondylosis usually occurs as part of the normal ageing process. The cartilage cushioning bones of the neck deteriorate with age. As the body attempts to repair this damage, extra spurs of bones are formed, pressing on the nerves and causing pain. Mild cervical spondylosis needs exercises to strengthen the neck muscles and either traction or a collar to relieve the discomfort. If you do not follow the doctor’s advice, the condition may worsen. Once that happens you may require surgery. A collar worn short term is definitely an easier option.

Baby’s day out:-

Q: I am pregnant and want to know when the baby is due.

A: You can calculate the due date if you know the date of your last menstrual period. The first day of that is taken as day 1. Add seven days and then nine months. If your period started on, say, March 7, 2008, your baby is due on December 14, 2008. If your cycles are not regular this date may not be accurate. A scan can also tell you the approximate due date. But all these calculations are only approximate. The best thing would be to have regular antenatal check-ups with a doctor. He or she will be able to advice you appropriately.

You may click to see:->Pregnancy timeline

Sources: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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