Category Archives: Health Problems & Solutions

Some Health Quaries & Answers

Touch the Grass

Q: I am 23 years old and have been reading a lot about exercising bare foot. I want to give it a try.

A: Barefoot running has really caught on. In fact, there is even a special barefoot shoe, which is similar to a glove. If you plan to run or walk long distances barefoot, make sure you do it on grass or soft soil. Tarred and cement roads or tracks with stones will hurt your feet. Also, make sure you acclimatise and harden your soles by doing short runs or walks at first. Running barefoot on the treadmill or skipping rope without shoes is, however, not a good idea.

Pee pain

Q: My 9-month-old son strains to pass urine. His face turns red and he cries every time.

A: Check to see if his foreskin balloons out when he urinates. If that happens it means that the skin around the meatus (hole through which the urine comes out) is tight. You need to consult a paediatric surgeon. They can dilate it. Otherwise they might suggest a small operation called a circumcision.

Sometimes children may strain to urinate owing to posterior valves in the urinary bladder, which obstruct the free flow of urine. Both the conditions need evaluation, diagnosis and surgical correction. So consult your doctor immediately.

Acne farewell

Q: I am being treated for acne and want to know if I can continue with the treatment after marriage.

A: Stop the treatment if you think that you might become pregnant soon after the marriage. Small quantities of products you apply on the skin can get absorbed and affect the foetus. Many common over-the-counter acne treatments contain benzoyl peroxide retinoids, minocycline and tetracyclines, all of which can potentially cause birth defects and need to be avoided during pregnancy.

Here are some safe, non medical ways to control acne:-

Wash your face using a wash cloth 3-4 times a day.

Do not apply talcum powder or greasy make up.

Shampoo your hair regularly.

Keep hair off the face.

Avoid picking and scratching acne

Bow legs

Q: My daughter is three years old and bow-legged. It looks awkward and we are worried that the deformity will persist and cause problems when she is an adult.

A: Children are normally born bow-legged. It may be more obvious in some than in others. It usually gets corrected by the age of 5-6. If the legs are curved more than normal, it may be due to rickets (a consequence of vitamin D deficiency), or Blount’s disease. It is better to have your paediatrician evaluate the child.

Prostrate trouble

Q: My father gets up several times in the night to go to the loo, where he spends a lot of time as he says the urine does not flow freely.

A: Your father needs to be evaluated for an enlarged prostrate. It seems the likely diagnosis as he is complaining of “an obstructed feeling”. Benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) or prostatic growth begins at approximately 30. Around 50 per cent of men have evidence of BPH by age 50 and 75 per cent by 80. It can usually be tackled with medication. However, you need to do scans and a blood test called PSA (prostate specific antigen) to rule out cancer. Appropriate treatment can be provided by a urologist.

Leg ache

Q: I develop a shooting pain down the back of my leg when I move suddenly. The doctor said it is sciatica and that I need surgery.

A: Sciatica is a generic term that describes a set of symptoms like tingling, pain or numbness in one leg. It is due to compression of one or more of the nerves coming out of the spinal cord. This may be due to the collapse of the lumbar vertebrae or herniation of the discs in between the bones. It needs to be evaluated with a CT scan or an MRI. If the symptoms are mild and there is no actual muscle wasting, traction and exercise can be tried. If the herniation is severe, surgery may be required.

Milk allergy

Q: My 6-month-old son had such a bad bout of diarrhoea that he lost a kilo. The paediatrician said he is allergic to cow’s milk and asked me to give him soya milk. I tried but my son does not like the taste. Can I use Nan or Lactogen instead? I have no milk so he has been on cow’s milk since birth.

A: Nan, Lactogen and other baby formulae are made by processing cow’s milk. So if your son is allergic to cow’s milk, he will be allergic to these tinned products also. Since your son is six months old, in addition to soya milk, you can start giving him solid food. You can give khichdi, potatoes, carrots, idlies and bananas. The ready-to-serve weaning foods available in packets and tins often contain milk powder so they are better avoided. If you want to use them, check the packaging label.

Source : The Telegraph ( Kolkata, India)

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Some Health Quaries & Answers

Fight that fever

Q: I read in the newspaper that there is a lot of flu around. I am worried as I get sick every winter.

A: There is an epidemic of influenza. It is especially dangerous in the paediatric and geriatric age groups. Medication called Tamiflu is available to treat flu once it has developed. If you have been prescribed this medication, please remember to take the entire course. Ideally, it should be given twice a day for five days.

Flu can be prevented with a readily available vaccine, which needs to be taken as a single injection and provides protection for six months. Hopefully by that time the flu season will be over.

Ankle ache

Q: I twisted my ankle a year ago. After that I found that if I skid while walking, I tend to sprain it repeatedly. This is very painful.

A: There are ligaments around the ankle joint that should hold it firmly in place. Once you sprain your ankle, the ligaments become stretched and weakened. A slight slip will cause injury and pain. You need to go to a physiotherapist and learn ankle-strengthening exercises. It may make sense to wear an ankle support for a couple of months to prevent slips and strains.

Best exercise :

Q: What is the best exercise to do? There is so much conflicting advice that I am confused.

A: Ideal exercise really depends on how much time you have on your hands. Theoretically you need to do an hour of running or jogging and 20 minutes of stretching. Most people cannot spare that much time. If you are confined to a limited space and cannot go outdoors you could do the same amount of exercise using a stationary exercise cycle, rowing machine or treadmill. But, to make whatever exercise you do more efficient, increase the intensity for 6 minutes and then decrease it for 6. A slow one-hour stroll will improve your health significantly but these variations and additions will add benefit.

Sports physicians have come to the conclusion that the “Burpee” is the best exercise. It involves a squat, followed by a push-up and a leap into the air. Doing about 20 of them is ideal.

Clotty truth

Q: I am going to have cataract surgery and I am on 75mg aspirin once a day. The doctor asked me to “stop it before surgery” but did not specify for how long I should do so. Also should I take clopidogrel instead?

A: Aspirin and clopidogrel have similar actions. Both prevent platelets from sticking together and increase the time taken by blood to clot. You need to stop both for a week before surgery.

Kids and TV

Q: How much television should I allow my children to watch?

A: Television is a free baby sitter. You can place your child in front of it and have some quiet time for yourself. However, more and more studies have shown that television is detrimental for the social and cognitive brain development of the child. The rapidly flashing images deplete brain chemicals. Memory becomes poor and school performance suffers. The educative programmes and channels too have the same effect. Children learn far more from playing with their peers and having books read to them.

Hookah harm:


Q: I found a hookah bar near my college. My friends said it is smokeless tobacco and hence not harmful. Is it true?

A: Hookahs use specially treated flavoured tobacco and then pass the smoke through water. This does not do much to reduce the health risks. The cancer causing chemicals and nicotine are still present in high concentrations. Also since the smoking sessions last longer (an hour or so) the total amount of these poisonous substances inhaled may actually be proportionately greater. The risks for throat and lung cancer remain the same.

Jogging in pregnancy

Q: Is running during pregnancy safe? Recently I read an article about a woman who completed a marathon and then delivered. But my parents worry even if I walk.

A: The marathon woman obviously was a regular runner with a well-conditioned physique. The dangers in exercising vigorously are dehydration (which will adversely affect the baby) and falls, which may result in injury. If you have not been advised to take bed-rest then try walking for a half hour in the morning and evening. It will build stamina, strengthen your leg muscles and help you have an easy delivery.

Groin pain

Q: I have pain on the right side of my groin if I cough or sneeze. Do I need to worry?

A: You might be developing a hernia. You need to consult a surgeon.

Sources: The Telegraph ( Kolkata, India)

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Let’s Talk About Schizophrenia

People sometimes change inexplicably in their late teens – they behave bizarrely, argue unnecessarily with everyone, imagine events, become suspicious or withdraw into a shell. This is actually a disease called schizophrenia and these forms are classic, delusional, paranoid and catanonic. The word itself means “split mind ” in Greek as it was confused with a multiple personality disorder by earlier physicians. Today, these two illnesses are classified separately.
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Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that is likely to affect one in 100 men and women (0.5-0.7 per cent respectively). It strikes people usually in their late teens and twenties. It is rare for schizophrenia to set in after the age of 40 and children are rarely diagnosed with it. They can, however, go on to develop it as adults if they have some other mental illness such as autism.

The onset of schizophrenia is so gradual that it mostly goes unrecognised and untreated, especially in developing countries with inadequate healthcare. In addition, people baulk at the idea of admitting they or a loved one is suffering from schizophrenia though no one has a problem saying they have an incurable chronic illness like diabetes or hypertension.

Schizophrenic patients may be delusional or hallucinate — that is see and hear things that are not real. Their speech may be disconnected, dressing and behaviour may be socially inappropriate and they may cry and laugh for no reason at all. Sometimes the person may be “catatonic” or unresponsive to any external stimulus.

Unreasonable behaviour and a quarrelsome nature may affect relations with friends, family and colleagues. The person may be unable to keep a job. Insomnia and morning drowsiness affect efficiency. The appetite may be poor.

The diagnosis of schizophrenia is difficult as the symptoms evolve gradually over a period of months or years. It is often difficult to pinpoint the exact date at which the changes were noticeable. The symptoms should be present for a month for schizophrenia to be suspected and remain for six months for the diagnosis to be established. The patient or a caretaker can report the symptoms. They should be substantiated by evaluation by a qualified medical professional.

PET scans also do not strictly conform to normal parameters. The brains in schizophrenics have smaller temporal and frontal lobes. The levels and ratios of certain brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine and glutamine are altered.

The exact reason for these behaviour altering brain changes is not known. However, seven per cent of persons with schizophrenia have a family member who suffers from a similar disease. Many have been born to mothers who suffered several viral illnesses during pregnancy. Environmental factors also play a role — the incidence of the disease increases in persons who are financially insecure or from dysfunctional families with a history of childhood abuse.

Schizophrenics tend to gain weight because their lifestyle is sedentary. Patients also have a predilection for addiction — to tobacco products, alcohol and drugs like cannabis. They are often unwilling to check the addictions to control lifestyle diseases like diabetes or hypertension. Also, they do not adhere to diet modifications or medications needed to keep their disease in check; so this shortens lifespan. They eventually die 10-15 years earlier than their peers. They are also 15 per cent more likely to commit suicide.

Gone are the days when schizophrenics were locked up, immersed in cold baths or given electrical shock therapy. Today there are a plethora of drugs that can be used singly or in combination to control the symptoms of schizophrenia and help the person function fairly normally. These drugs act by correcting the enzyme and chemical imbalances in the brain. Response to medication may be slow and this may be frustrating for the patient as well as caregivers but medication can be increased only gradually to optimal levels. Drugs, combinations and dosages have to be individualised and vary from person to person.

The side effects of medication are weight gain, menstrual irregularities and drowsiness. Some people become very stiff and have abnormal smacking movements or grimaces but doctors are able to tackle this with other medications.

Rehabilitation is important. Once the symptoms are controlled, patients can function in society and even hold down jobs. They need to be trained to handle money and in personal care and hygiene. Medication needs to be continued even when the symptoms have disappeared. The involvement of the whole family helps as the person is then more likely to follow medical treatment and less likely to relapse.

People often ask for a “miracle drug” — a single tablet to treat all diseases. The only universal ingredient to improve health in all diseases (even mental problems) is physical exercise. So go take a walk.

Source : The Telegraph ( Kolkata, India)

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A Herald of Diabetes

The young woman who walked in for a consultation had a scarf wound around her neck. “I came to show you this,” she said, taking it off. There was a dark patch on the back of her neck with ridges and bumps, the skin raised and velvety. “I have already tried fairness creams,” she said. “They only make it worse.”
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The diagnosis was easy. She had a peculiar skin lesion known as acanthosis nigricans.

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The cosmetically disfiguring and aesthetically displeasing lesions usually occur on the neck (where they are clearly visible), armpit, groin, knees or elbows, in short areas with skin folds. Very rarely, it can be found on the fingers or around the lips or in the nipple area. It can occur at any age and in both men and women. It is seen in children and even in babies. The lesions appear gradually and do not itch or pain. This means that they remain unnoticed until they have spread over a large area. Initially it looks like dirt so people try to scrub it off, damaging the skin in the process. Others try to camouflage it unsuccessfully with talcum powder and make up.

Nearly 20 per cent of the population has acanthosis nigricans and the numbers are rising rapidly because obesity is the commonest risk factor. More and more people are becoming overweight in India and the world.

An inactive lifestyle causes weight gain and these two factors together cause relative insulin resistance, which results in elevated glucose levels, an abnormal lipid profile and high blood pressure. These changes are grouped together as the “metabolic syndrome X”. Acanthosis nigricans is one of the early markers of this syndrome. The American diabetic association classified it as a risk factor for the development of diabetes in 2000. In children and adolescents, symptoms of syndrome X or frank diabetes begin to appear within two years of the appearance of acanthosis nigricans.

The disease can also be hereditary and in typical inherited acanthosis nigricans, skin lesions are confined to one half of the body. They spread and increase till a certain age and then remain stationery or regress. In other families the lesions, though present in almost all family members, are not really hereditary. The biggest difference is that they are present on both sides of the body. The family usually has an inactive lifestyle, members are obese and go on to develop diabetes.

Medications can also cause these skin changes as a side effect. The most common offenders are hormones — like oral contraceptive pills (OCP), hormone replacement therapy (HRT), insulin, pituitary extract, growth hormone or systemic corticosteroids. Unfortunately, pituitary extract or steroids may be added to unregulated “natural herbal supplements” or “tonics” so the person may not even know that he or she is ingesting such substances. Sulpha drugs (antibiotic)and nicotinic acid (for high cholesterol) can also cause these.

Certain types of acanthosis nigricans are peculiar to women. It is associated with the polycystic ovary syndrome and appears at adolescence. Such girls are obese and have irregular periods and facial hair.

If you develop acanthosis nigricans, it is worthwhile consulting a physician. Although you may be obese, and that is the commonest cause of these skin changes, some investigations and tests need to be done. This is because the skin changes can (though this is rare) be associated with cancer, particularly in the abdomen. It can appear before any other obvious sign of a tumour. It can also be a part of the spectrum of autoimmune diseases like systemic lupus erythematosus, scleroderma, Sjögren syndrome, or Hashimoto thyroiditis.

There really is no specific treatment for the skin changes in acanthosis nigricans. The disease itself is harmless. The main danger lies in the complications associated with obesity and insulin resistance. Tackling the underlying problem makes the skin lesions fade. Here is what you can do to tackle it:

• If it is due to medication or health supplements, stop taking them.

• Reduce your weight with diet and exercise. Try to reach your ideal body weight (height in meter squared multiplied by 23).

• Eat more protein, fresh fruits and vegetables. Starches and sugars provide empty calories and aggravate insulin resistance.

• Sweat trapped in the folds can make the lesions malodorous. Bathe twice a day with a medicated soap like Neko if that is the case.

Evening primrose oil or fish oil supplements may help.

• Some prescription creams or lotions help lighten the affected areas. These contain modified vitamin A products and are often prescribed for acne.

• Fairness creams do not help.

• Surgical dermal abrasion can be done.

Source:  The Telegraph ( Kolkata, India)

 

Some Health Quaries & Answers

When the bee stings....CLICK & SEE
Q: I live near a park and have often been stung by bees. Apart from being painful, I have heard that bee stings are also dangerous. How should a sting be treated?

A: The bee sting has a venom sac attached. If this sac breaks, chemicals are released into your body that cause pain, redness, local swelling and also allergic reactions. If you get stung, pull out the sting using your fingernail or a stiff card. Take care not to damage the venom sac. Wash the area with soap and water and apply ice. If the area is red and irritated, apply calamine lotion or hydrocortisone ointment. If there is swelling, see a doctor. You might be prescribed antihistamines.

Xanthoma ...CLICK & SEE

Q: I have yellow deposits near my eyelids. They are soft and painless but look very ugly.

A: These are called xanthomas. They are caused by deposits of fat under the skin. Although they can occur anywhere —such as the elbows, knees and buttocks — eyelids are the commonest place. Xanthomas are harmless but indicative of high cholesterol, diabetes, liver cirrhosis or certain cancers. The pills you take to lower cholesterol may cause xanthomas to shrink. You can have them surgically removed, but if you do not get high cholesterol or diabetes treated (the reason they appeared in the first place), xanthomas can recur.

Teething trouble

Q: My daughter is a year old and has no teeth. My sister’s daughter was born with two teeth. Is there reason for worry?

A: One out of 2,000 children have “natal teeth” at birth. Usually teeth appear between six and 12 months but teeth can appear as early as one month or be delayed beyond the first birthday and that is normal. However, in rare cases, the delay can also be due to Down’s syndrome, thyroid disease or bone disease. You need to consult both a paediatrician and a dentist.

Painful jog ...CLICK & SEE

Q: I recently started jogging and have developed knee pain. My friends have all advised me to stop. They say all runners develop knee pain. Is this true?

A: Runners are not more prone to osteoarthritis of the knee but they do tend to develop pain around the patella (knee cap). This is due to failure to warm up adequately and stretch properly before and after exercising. The quadriceps (the big muscles in front of the knee) also require to be strengthened.

If you develop pain after jogging, apply an ice pack. It will reduce inflammation and pain.

Party pooper

Q: I frequently develop diarrhoea after I eat at social functions. I cannot refuse to eat without giving offence. Is there a preventive tablet that I can take?

A: You may not be able to tolerate the oil or the colouring and other condiments added to the food. The mineral water provided might also not be of ISI standard. You can avoid diarrhoea, if you stick to vegetarian food, avoid fried items and not drink any water. The safest food is curd rice.

If you do develop diarrhoea, take equal quantities of rice and moong dal and cook it in a pressure cooker with salt. Eat only this for 24 hours.

Idiot box blues

Q: My son used to do well in school (he is in Class VII). Now he complains of inability to recall what he has studied and poor mathematical ability. He does his homework in front of the television.

A: Why do you allow him to do homework in front of the television? He cannot possibly solve maths problems correctly while watching serials or cartoons. The rapidly flashing images also deplete the brain chemicals responsible for attention, learning and memory.

Physical activity for an hour a day improves memory. Encourage your son to play outside for an hour and then start his homework in a quiet room with no television. I think you will notice a vast improvement.

Keep walking

Q: I am 86 years old and active. Unfortunately my family members keep telling me to “take rest”. They feel that since I worked hard all my life, I should now just sit quietly. I think if I sit long enough I will die.

A: You are right. Walking and other physical activity keeps you mentally agile and physically fit. It also prevents blood clots from forming in your legs and causing strokes and heart attacks. So keep moving as long as you are able to.

Yellow liver

Q: I heard that jaundice causes liver cancer. Is this true?

A: Jaundice” just means that the blood has high levels of bilirubin. It can be due to several reasons — infection, blood destruction, gall bladder disease etc. One of the causes is primary cancer of the liver or secondary tumour deposits there.

Jaundice because of hepatitis B infection can also cause liver cancer. This can be prevented by immunisation with three doses of hepatitis B vaccine.

Source: The Telegraph ( Kolkata, India)

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Some Health Quaries & Answers

If the shoe fits
Q: I want to buy a sports shoe but they seem to range in price from less than Rs 500 to Rs 10,000. How do I know which one to buy?

A: When buying a sports shoe it is important to consider what you will be using it for. Is it to walk, run, for serious aerobics or just as a fashion statement?

If it is for exercise then you need to go to a sports store and ask for a shoe designed specifically for the particular activity you wish to do.

Look at a few shoes. Before selecting a shoe:

Look at it head on to make sure it is perfectly symmetrical.

See if the tongue is laced with the shoe. That way it will not slip around placing the eyelets in contact with your foot. That is potentially injurious.

Make sure the sole “gives” by bending the shoe.

There should be a little space between your toe and the tip of the shoe. Shoes do not “loosen” with use. Your foot will get damaged before that happens. Nor will you “grow” into a shoe that is too large.

Buy your shoe in the evening when your foot is slightly swollen from the days activity.

The colour is the least important criteria. With use, all shoes eventually become the same colour.
You may click to see : How to Choose Sports Shoes

Grey smoke
Q: My hair is prematurely grey — I am only 29 years old. My mother says it is because I started smoking in college. Is that true?

A: Your mother is right. The nicotine in cigarettes does cause premature greying. That is however the least of the problems it causes. It also weakens your bones, precipitates heart attacks and causes cancer.

Stroke effect
Q: My father had a stroke (brain attack) and now he mumbles his words. Food drools out of the side of his mouth when he eats. He also cannot close one eye.

A: Your father has lost the use of one side of his body. Paralysis of the eyelid muscles prevents him from closing his eye fully. Similarly, the muscles for speech and swallowing are affected.

He will improve to some extent with physiotherapy. You need to make sure that he does not have a second stroke by treating any pre-existing disease like diabetes, hypertension or high lipids that caused the first stroke.

You need to protect his eye by closing it manually, placing a gauze piece over it and taping it shut with medical tape.

Facial paralysis
Q: My forty-year-old aunt developed isolated paralysis of one side of the face. She opted for ayurvedic treatment and recovered. She is not diabetic nor does she have high blood pressure. What was wrong with her?

A: She seems to have developed a condition called Bell’s palsy, paralysis of the facial nerve. Quite often it is due to an infection with the Herpes virus. In 80 per cent cases recovery is spontaneous and complete. This is probably the category to which your aunt, fortunately for her, belonged.

Lens safety
Q: I want to use a pair of contact lenses to change the colour of my eyes. Is it safe?


A: These are called novelty lenses as they only have cosmetic value. If novelty contact lenses are not properly fitted or if care instructions are ignored, they can cause corneal damage and loss of sight. Eye infections can occur if the lenses are not thoroughly sterilised prior to each use.

This seems a high price to pay for an altered appearance. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Shampoo time
Q: How often should I wash my hair?

A: It depends on how dirty your hair becomes, but three times a week is about average. There is no need to use a lot of shampoo. About a Re 1 coin sized dollop is sufficient.
You may click to see : How often should I wash my hair?

Fast food
Q: My son loves instant noodles. He eats them 3-4 times a day. He is 4 years old.

A: Noodles are a good snack once or twice a week, but they should not substitute for good wholesome home cooked food. Some times the instant variety of noodles contains preservatives or ajinomoto. Both these ingredients are best avoided in children’s food.

Rash shave
Q: I got a shave at a barber shop and now, after two weeks, I have developed boils and rashes all over my beard area.

A: This is a very common infection which is either due to the bacteria S. aureus, or a fungus or due to ingrowth of thick beard.

It responds well to hot fomentation, cleansing with a bactericidal soap and local application of ointment. A dermatologist can usually determine accurately whether the infection is fungal or bacterial and prescribe the appropriate ointment. Applying steroid cream will worsen the condition. It usually clears up in a few weeks but can recur. It is probably better to shave at home.

Source : The Telegraph (kolkata, India)

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Some Health Quaries & Answers

Ouch! My back hurts:

Q: I am 69 years old and have a pain in my lower back which, when I stand, radiates down both my legs. I am a housewife and the pain makes it very difficult for me to do housework. The orthopaedic I consulted said I have spondylolisthesis but none of the tablets I was prescribed seem to work.

A: Spondylolisthesis can be congenital but usually, especially if it occurs after the age of 50, is due to degeneration of the spinal vertebrae. One vertebra then tends to slip over the other and presses on the nerves (in your case the ones going to the legs) causing the pain.

This condition can usually be managed without surgery. A few days of bed rest should be followed by physiotherapy, concentrating on exercises that help with flexion of the spine and strengthening of the “core” muscles. You should also walk or take up a similar aerobic activity for 40 minutes every day. A lumbosacral brace should be worn at all times, except when lying down or exercising. If you are overweight, you will need to reduce.

Warts and all:

Q: I have had a wart on my finger for some time. Now another one has appeared near it. Both have a repulsive cauliflower like appearance.

A: Warts are a viral infection spread by contact from person to person. They are more likely to occur in children and young adults. They are harmless and not cancerous. They usually disappear on their own without treatment in six months to two years.

Dermatologists also remove them with cryotherapy (freezing), laser and cauterisation. Sometimes they may advise repeated application of medication.

Tread right:

Q: I want to buy a treadmill but do not know how effective exercise on it will be. Also I do not know what type of treadmill to buy.

A: Manual treadmills do not use a motor and move only when the person moves. Electric treadmills use a conveyor belt and motor. There is no wind resistance in a treadmill so unless the incline of the platform is set at 1 per cent, the calorie consumption is 10-15 per cent less than running the same distance on the road. The gait on the treadmill is also more bouncy because of the platform. This leads to bad running form and difficulty when returning to running on the road. Using the treadmill also tends to get repetitive and monotonous so that more mental effort is needed to persist. In short treadmill is expensive, occupies space and is less efficient and interesting than running on the road.

Life after work :

Q: I looked forward to retiring for 30 years, but once I did retire, I feel more stressed and depressed. My wife, who is a housewife, seems to have more to do than me. Also she is stressed because I am around all the time and in her way.

A: The retirement age in India is 58-60 and that is really too early! Most people are healthy, active and still in their prime. If you just sit around the house watching television, eating and sleeping, you will soon deteriorate mentally and physically. To ward this off, try getting a part-time job, starting a small business, joining socially relevant political peoples movements or doing volunteer work. You will feel needed and everyone (including your wife) will be happy.

Salt control :

Q: I have high blood pressure and am on enalapril to control it. My doctor told me to “control salt intake” but was not very specific about how exactly that is done. What should I do?

A: You need around 2.5gm (half a teaspoon) of salt a day if you are less than 50 years old and 1.5gm (quarter teaspoon) if older. This includes hidden salt intake from pickles, pappads, chips and other salty snacks. A rule of thumb is to take half a teaspoon of salt per day per person in the household and use it for cooking. People in the family who do not have high blood pressure can add extra salt if needed.

Down at heel :

Q: A severe pain shoots up my leg whenever I put my foot down in the morning. The doctor took an X-ray and said I have a calcaneal spur. He said I need surgery but I am not really willing to go for it. Is there any other remedy?

A: A calcaneal spur is an extra growth of bone under the heel. It can cause agonising pain. Before you consider surgery, try a few simple measures.

Soak your feet in salted hot water morning and evening. Rock your feet gently in the water.

• Always wear soft footwear. Do not go bare foot even in the house.

• Go to a physiotherapy centre. Ultrasound treatment often helps.

Lose weight if you are obese.

Light therapy:

Q: What should you do if an insect enters your ear?

A: Immediately place your ear near a bright light and turn off all other lights. The insect will usually fly back out again.

Source: The Telegraph ( Kolkata, India)

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Some Health Quaries & Answers

‘My child is too thin’ :

Q: My daughter is two years old and very thin. She is picky about her food and I feel she does not eat enough. Her weight is only 9kg. Is it a good idea to give her appetite stimulating tonics?

A: Normally, a child weighs triple its birth weight at the end of the first year and adds 2kg the next year. So your daughter may be in the normal range. It is better to try to discover why she does not eat and treat the cause rather than use tonics. Appetite stimulants can have severe side effects. Some of them contain large amounts of iodine, steroids or cyproheptadine (a banned chemical). They are best avoided.

What you can do is reduce her milk intake to 400ml a day. Give half after breakfast and the rest at tea time. Figure out what she likes to eat.

Also, get her dewormed; your paediatrician will tell you how. And remember, some children are just difficult when it comes to food.

Digital spasms :

Q: I get sudden painful spasms in my fingers and toes, especially at night. I am 34 years old.

A: Calcium deficiency can cause this. If you are not on calcium supplements, starting them may help. Consult a physician to help with the diagnosis and dosage of calcium.

Pressure pills :

Q: Is there a natural way to reduce blood pressure? Currently I am on a lot of medication for it.

A: You can reduce your dependence on tablets by achieving ideal body weight (height in metre squared multiplied by 23), walking an hour a day, reducing salt intake to 2.5gm a day, avoiding salted snacks, sleeping at regular hours and reducing stress with yoga and meditation.

Fit and fine :

Q: My son is one and a half years old and has had fits twice. The doctor says it is “fever fits”. I am worried that he may become epileptic. What is a fever fit?

A: A febrile seizure (fever fit) usually occurs in children under the age of 5 during an episode of fever. Only one third of the affected children have a second seizure. A certain percentage of children will develop epilepsy but the incidence is not greater in those who have had febrile seizures. Also, these children do not develop mental retardation nor is their intelligence affected. But a febrile fit can be frightening to watch. To prevent such seizures, fever has to be tackled immediately. Buy a digital thermometer and check the temperature by placing it in the child’s armpit (remember, your hand is not a thermometer). If the temperature is greater than 100°F, give the child 10mg/kg of paracetemol. Remove the child’s clothes and sponge him down with tap water. Turn the fan on full speed. After four hours check the temperature again. If it has risen, repeat the above process. Contact your doctor.

Feet first

Q: I have cracked feet. Not only does it look ugly, when water enters the cracks they become painful and inflamed.

A: You could try soaking your feet in hot water to which rock salt and liquid soap have been added. After 10 minutes, scrub the foot gently with a small plastic brush. Then apply baby oil. After a few weeks, you will see a vast improvement.

Source : The Telegraph ( kolkata, India)

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Some Health Quaries & Answers

Go back to nature


Q: I use a treadmill to exercise regularly. I always get a pain in my calves and thighs afterwards. It is very discouraging and makes me want to stop.

A: Treadmills are excellent machines to use for exercise. Unfortunately, the movements are different from natural movement on the ground because the surface you are running on moves along with you. This results in slightly different groups of muscles in the leg being used and a different running style from the natural form. This may account for the pain you develop. The pain can be tackled by doing warm-up exercises before you hit the treadmill and cool down exercises such as flexion and stretching afterwards. Alternatively, you can go back to the natural form and run on the road.

Cosmetic cure?

Q: Although I am only 30 years old I look much older. My face is wrinkled and pimply and I have a prominent jawline. I am ashamed of the way I look. Should I go in for cosmetic surgery?

A: You are very young and I do not think cosmetic surgery or Botox is the answer. In another 10 years the same things will recur, making the cosmetic surgery a waste of time and money.

You need to jog, cycle or at least walk for an hour a day. Then do 20 minutes of yoga. Stress levels will decrease and you will be able to cope with the demands of your work. The exercise will also improve the muscle tone of your face and the rest of your body. Also, practise smiling whenever you are sitting and do not let your mouth and face droop down.

Ovarian cancer

Q: I get an itchy white discharge soon after my periods. I am afraid it may be a sign of cancer. My mother died of ovarian cancer.

A: Ovarian cancer is rare and accounts for only 1.5 per cent of cancers in women. The incidence increases to 6 per cent if there is a first degree relative with the disease. What you have described sounds more like a yeast (monilia) infection, which is common and can be easily treated with both topical applications, pessaries and /or oral tablets. Consult a gynaecologist. Get an ultrasound scan of the pelvis done to reassure yourself about the size, position and function of the ovaries.

Black mark

Q: The skin of my neck, armpit and elbow are black in colour. It does not itch nor is it painful. It just looks as though I have not had a proper bath.

A: That is probably Acanthosis Nigricans, velvety black, non-itchy lesions which can occur in the neck, arm pit, groin and elbow. It is associated with obesity and diabetes . Get yourself tested for diabetes. If you are overweight, try to exercise and lose weight. Avoid using powder or cream . It will get aggravated.

Period problem

Q: I do not get my periods even after a year unless I take tablets. Recently I noticed a milky white discharge from both breasts as well. My parents want me to get married. My grandmother says everything will become alright if I have a baby.

A: You obviously have a problem and that is why your menstruation is not spontaneous and there is discharge from the nipple. You need to consult a gynaecologist and / endocrinologist. They will check your hormone levels — LH, FSH, prolactin and thyroid.

Shampoo right

Q: I have oily hair. I shampoo it every day but now the hair has become very brittle and is breaking off. It seems to be coming out by the handful.

A: Oil on the scalp protects it from injury. If you use harsh shampoos the hair will get damaged. There is a right way and a wrong way of shampooing. A small quantity of a mild shampoo should be taken in the palm of the hand. The two palms should be rubbed together and the shampoo applied on the surface of the head. It should be washed off immediately and a conditioner for greasy hair should be applied on the surface of the hair. The conditioner should be left in for about five minutes before being washed off.

Hair loss can occur owing to hormone imbalance, iron, zinc or calcium deficiency.

Source : The Telegraph ( kolkata, India)

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Some Health Quaries & Answers

Walking Shoes:

Q: I bought a new sports shoe, even though it was a little tight. The salesperson told me that it would loosen with use. Now I have a pain in the second toe and the nail has become black in colour.

A: The shoe salesman reinforced a common misconception that a tight shoe will eventually become loose. By the time that occurs though, you may have corns and calluses on your feet. If the shoe is tight, there may not be enough space for the second toe. After wearing the shoe, press down with your finger and see. If the toe is jammed up against the front of the shoe, the nail may be damaged during exercise.

Always buy shoes in the evening as your feet are then slightly swollen from the day’s activity. The shoes should be comfortable the minute you try to walk.

Hepatitis attack

Q: I had jaundice last month. I am worried since my wife is pregnant. Do I need to take any precautions?

A: Jaundice is a generic term, which means that the yellow pigment (bilirubin) in your blood has increased and is probably being excreted in your urine, discolouring that too. From your letter I think you meant that you had infective viral hepatitis. This too is of several types A, B, E etc. Hepatitis E is dangerous for pregnant women while hepatitis B can be passed on to the baby. You can prevent hepatitis A and B with immunisation. Consult your physician and your wife’s obstetrician so that steps can be taken to safeguard her health and that of your baby.

In mom mode

Q: I delivered a baby three months ago and have not had my periods as yet. When can I expect to start menstruating again?

A: Menstruation can start one and a half months after delivery or be delayed for a year. Mothers who breastfeed their children tend to start menstruation later. However, ovulation can occur even without it. If you do not wish to become pregnant, use contraception regularly even if you are feeding the baby and have not yet had your periods.

Sugar swings

Q: I have diabetes and am on medication. Sometimes my blood sugar is very low and on other days it is very high. Is there a way to control this?

A: Once you have been diagnosed with diabetes and started medication, it is important that you make a few lifestyle changes. You should not abandon your prescribed diet. You need to avoid fasting even on auspicious days. The tablets will work provided your food intake is regular and according to the diet chart provided by your doctor. You need to exercise for 40 minutes a day to increase your body’s efficiency in reducing blood sugar.

Chew   tobacco?

Q: Is it safer to chew tobacco instead of smoking it?

A: The harmful chemicals in tobacco are released into the mouth when you chew it. In fact, the risk increases when tobacco combines with the acidic lime in paan. It causes cancer of the throat, mouth, esophagus and stomach. Tobacco in any form — chewed, smoked or as snuff — is harmful.

Source: The Telegraph ( Kolkata, India)

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