News on Health & Science

Even a Little Caffeine May Harm F-oetus

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Pregnant women who consume caffeine even about a cup of coffee daily are at higher risk of giving birth to an underweight baby, researchers said.


The new findings published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) also linked any source of caffeine, including that from tea, cola, chocolate and some prescription drugs, to relatively slower foetal growth.

The findings are the latest in mounting evidence indicating the amount of caffeine a person consumes may directly impact one’s health, especially when pregnant.

In January, U.S. researchers found that pregnant women who drink two or more cups of coffee a day are at twice the risk of having a miscarriage as those women who avoid caffeine.

Babies born underweight are more likely to develop a range of health conditions when they grow older, including high blood pressure, diabetes and heart problems. Women who drank one to two cups of coffee daily, or between 100-199 milligrams, had a 20 percent increased risk of having a baby of low birth weight, the study found.

This was compared to women who consumed less than 100 milligrams daily. “Caffeine consumption during pregnancy was associated with an increased risk of foetal growth restriction and this association continued throughout pregnancy,” Justin Konje at the University of Leicester in Britain and colleagues wrote.

“Sensible advice would be to reduce caffeine intake before conception and throughout pregnancy.” Konje and his team – which included researchers from the University of Leeds — looked at 2,645 women at an average age of 30 who were between 8 and 12 weeks pregnant.

The women reported an average caffeine consumption during pregnancy of 159 milligrams per day, lower than new recommended limits of 200 milligrams in Britain. The likelihood of having a low birth weight baby rose to 50% for women who consumed between 200 milligrams and 299 milligrams each day, about two to three cups of coffee.

The impact was about the same as from alcohol and the association with low birth weight was maintained throughout a woman’s pregnancy, the study found. Even small amounts may prove harmful but Konje said in a telephone interview the best advice was to limit caffeine consumption to below 100 milligrams a day. “We couldn’t say that there was a lower limit for which there is no effect,” he said. “My advice is if possible to reduce caffeine intake to a minimum. You have to be realistic because you can’t ask people to stop taking caffeine.”

Sources: The Times Of India

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News on Health & Science

Sow the Seeds of Good Health


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In some studies, moderate use of alcohol is linked with higher HDL (good) cholesterol levels. But take it easy there, Dino. People who consume moderate amounts of alcohol (an average of one to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women) have a lower risk of heart disease, but increased consumption of alcohol can bring other health dangers, such as alcoholism, high blood pressure, obesity, and cancer.

Johnny B good
A B vitamin called niacin reduces LDL (bad) cholesterol at the same time it raises beneficial HDL. In fact, niacin can be more effective at treating these things than popular cholesterol-busting drugs, which tend to act more generally on total cholesterol and gross LDL. (Be careful, though. While the niacin you get from foods and over-the-counter vitamins is fine, super-high doses of niacin can have serious side effects and should be taken only under a doctor’s supervision.)

Time for some tea.
Three recent studies confirm that drinking green tea can help lower your cholesterol level and reduce your risk of developing cancer. In a 12-week trial of 240 men and women, researchers at Vanderbilt University found that drinking the equivalent of 7 cups of green tea a day can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels by 16 percent. Seven cups a day is a lot of tea, but even 1 or 2 cups a day could have a beneficial impact. Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Rochester recently determined that green tea extract can help prevent the growth of cancer cells, and Medical College of Ohio researchers found that a compound called EGCG in green tea may help slow or stop the progression of bladder cancer.

Go for the grapefruit.
If you want to make one simple dietary change for better health, the best thing you can do is eat a single white or ruby grapefruit every day. Grapefruit is gaining ground as a power food. New research shows that it can fight heart disease and cancer, trigger your body to lose weight, and even help you get a better night’s sleep. A grapefruit a day can lower your total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels by 8 and 11 percent, respectively.

Gain with grains and beans. Researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto had people add several servings of foods like whole grains, nuts, and beans to their diets each day. One month later, the test subjects LDL (bad) cholesterol levels were nearly 30 percent lower than when the trial began. In another study, this one at Tulane University, researchers found that people who ate four or more servings a week had a 22 percent lower risk of developing heart disease (and 75 percent fewer camping companions) than less-than-once-a-week bean eaters.

Don’t let your tank hit empty.
A study in the British Medical Journal found that people who eat six or more small meals a day have 5 per cent lower cholesterol levels than those who eat one or two large meals.

Refrain from fries.
In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the exercise and nutritional habits of 80,000 women were recorded for 14 years. The researchers found that the most important correlate of heart disease was the women’s dietary intake of foods containing trans fatty acids, mutated forms of fat that lower HDL (good) and increase LDL (bad) cholesterol. Some of the worst offenders are french fries.

Sow your oats.
In a University of Connecticut study, men with high cholesterol who ate oat bran cookies daily for 8 weeks dropped their levels of LDL cholesterol by more than 20 percent. So eat more oat bran fibre, such as oatmeal. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that two servings of whole-grain cereal a day can reduce a man’s risk of dying of heart disease by nearly 20 per cent.

Rise and dine
In a study of 3,900 people, Harvard researchers found that men who ate breakfast every day were 44 percent less likely to be overweight and 41 percent less likely to develop insulin resistance, both risk factors for heart disease.

Fortify with folic acid
A study published in the British Medical Journal found that people who
consume the recommended amount of folic acid each day have a 16 percent lower risk of heart disease than those whose diets are lacking in this B vitamin. Good sources of folic acid include asparagus, broccoli, and fortified cereal.

Order a chef’s salad Leafy greens and egg yolks are both good sources of lutein, a phytochemical that carries heart disease fighting antioxidants to your cells and tissues.

Be a sponge
Loma Linda University researchers found that drinking five or more 8-ounce glasses of water a day could help lower your risk of heart disease by up to 60 per cent — exactly the same drop you get from stopping smoking, lowering your LDL (bad) cholesterol numbers, exercising, or losing a little weight.

Give yourself bad breath
In addition to lowering cholesterol and helping to fight off infection, eating garlic may help limit damage to your heart after a heart attack or heart surgery.

Researchers in India found that animals who were fed garlic regularly had more heart-protecting antioxidants in their blood than animals that were not.

Snack on nuts
Harvard researchers found that men who replaced 127 calories of carbohydrates decreased their risk of heart disease
by 30 per cent.

Source: The Times Of India

Healthy Tips

Ways To Keep Healthy Heart

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A chat with Dr.Devi Shetty, Narayana Hrudayalaya
(Heart Specialist) Bangalore was arranged by WIPRO for its employees.
The transcript of the chat is given below. May be useful for most of us

Qn: What are the thumb rules for a layman to take care of his heart?

1. Diet – Less of carbohydrate, more of protein, less oil
2. Exercise – Half an hour’s walk, at least five days a week; avoid lifts and avoid sitting for a longtime
3. Quit smoking
4. Control weight
5. Control blood pressure and sugar

Qn: Is eating non-veg food good for the heart?

Ans: No

Qn: It’s still a grave shock to hear that some apparently healthy person
gets a cardiac arrest. How do we understand it in perspective?

Ans: This is called silent attack; that is why we recommend everyone past the age of 30 to undergo routine health checkups.

Qn: Are heart diseases hereditary?

Ans: Yes

Qn: What are the ways in which the heart is stressed? What practices do you suggest to de-stress?

Ans: Change your attitude towards life. Do not look for perfection in everything in life.

Qn: Is walking better than jogging or is more intensive exercise required to keep a healthy heart?

Ans: Walking is better than jogging since jogging leads to early fatigue and injury to joints.

Qn: You have done so much for the poor and needy. What has inspired you to do so?

Ans: Mother Theresa, who was my patient.

: Can people with low blood pressure suffer heart diseases?

Ans: Extremely rare

Qn: Does cholesterol accumulates right from an early age
(I’m currently only 22) or do you have to worry about it only after you are above 30 years of age?

Ans: Cholesterol accumulates from childhood.

Qn: How do irregular eating habits affect the heart?

Ans: You tend to eat junk food when the habits are irregular and your body’s enzyme release for digestion gets confused.

Qn: How can I control cholesterol content without using medicines?

Ans: Control diet, walk and eat walnut.

Qn: Can yoga prevent heart ailments?

Ans: Yoga helps.

Qn: Which is the best and worst food for the heart?

Ans: Fruits and vegetables are the best and the worst is oil.

Qn: Which oil is better – groundnut, sunflower, olive?

Ans: All oils are bad .

Qn: What is the routine checkup one should go through? Is there any specific test?

: Routine blood test to ensure sugar, cholesterol is ok. Check BP, Treadmill test after an echo.

Qn: What are the first aid steps to be taken on a heart attack?

Ans: Help the person into a sleeping position , place an aspirin tablet under the tongue with a sorbitrate tablet if available, and rush him to a coronary care unit since the maximum casualty takes place within the first hour.

Qn: How do you differentiate between pain caused by a heart attack and that caused due to gastric trouble?

Ans: Extremely difficult without ECG.

Qn: What is the main cause of a steep increase in heart problems amongst youngsters? I see people of about 30-40 yrs of age having heart attacks and serious heart problems.

Ans: Increased awareness has increased incidents. Also, sedentary lifestyles, smoking, junk food, lack of exercise in a country where people are genetically three times more vulnerable for heart attacks than Europeans and Americans.

Qn: Is it possible for a person to have BP outside the normal range of 120/80 and yet be perfectly healthy?

Ans: Yes.

Qn: Marriages within close relatives can lead to heart problems for the child. Is it true?

Ans: Yes, co-sanguinity leads to congenital abnormalities and you may not have a software engineer as a child

Qn: Many of us have an irregular daily routine and many a times we have to stay late nights in office. Does this affect our heart? What precautions would you recommend?

Ans: When you are young, nature protects you against all these irregularities. However, as you grow older, respect the biological clock.

Qn: Will taking anti-hypertensive drugs cause some other complications (short / long term)?

Ans: Yes, most drugs have some side effects. However, modern anti-hypertensive drugs are extremely safe.

Qn: Will consuming more coffee/tea lead to heart attacks?

Ans: No.

Qn: Are asthma patients more prone to heart disease?

Ans: No.

Qn: How would you define junk food?

Ans: Fried food like Kentucky, McDonalds, samosas, and even masala dosas.

You mentioned that Indians are three times more vulnerable. What is the reason for this, as Europeans and Americans also eat a lot of junk food?

Ans: Every race is vulnerable to some disease and unfortunately, Indians are vulnerable for the most expensive disease.

Qn: Does consuming bananas help reduce hypertension?

Ans: No.

Qn: Can a person help himself during a heart attack (Because we see a lot of forwarded emails on this)?

Ans: Yes. Lie down comfortably and put an aspirin tablet of any description under the tongue and ask someone to take you to the nearest coronary care unit without any delay and do not wait for the ambulance since most of the time, the ambulance does not turn up.

Qn: Do, in any way, low white blood cells and low hemoglobin count lead to heart problems?

No. But it is ideal to have normal hemoglobin level to increase your exercise capacity.

Qn: Sometimes, due to the hectic schedule we are not able to exercise. So, does walking while doing daily chores at home or climbing the stairs in the house, work as a substitute for exercise?

Ans: Certainly. Avoid sitting continuously for more than half an hour and even the act of getting out of the chair and going to another chair and sitting helps a lot.

Qn: Is there a relation between heart problems and blood sugar?

Ans: Yes , a strong relationship , since diabetics are more vulnerable to heart attacks than non-diabetics.

Qn: What are the things one needs to take care of after a heart operation?

Ans: Diet, exercise, drugs on time , Control cholesterol, BP, weight.

Qn: Are people working on night shifts more vulnerable to heart disease when compared to day shift workers?

Ans: No.

What are the modern anti-hypertensive drugs?

Ans: There are hundreds of drugs and your doctor will chose the right combination for your problem, but my suggestion is to avoid the drugs and go for natural ways of controlling blood pressure by walk, diet to reduce weight and changing attitudes towards lifestyles.

Qn: Does dispirin or similar headache pills increase the risk of heart attacks?

Ans: No.

Qn: Why is the rate of heart attacks more in men than in women?

Ans: Nature protects women till the age of 45.

Qn: How can one keep the heart in a good condition?

Ans: Eat a healthy diet, avoid junk food, exercise everyday, do not smoke and, go for health checkup s if you are past the age of 30 (once in six months recommended) …


The unconquered enemy

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We humans think of ourselves as intelligent and rational. We have successfully evolved, subdued the lower animal species and conquered the world. We could not be more wrong.

The simple, single-celled bacterium has been around longer than we have, and has effectively survived the ice age, floods, drought and the chemical onslaught of antibiotics.

The medical community thought that it had finally conquered bacteria and infectious diseases after Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928. Doctors couldn’t have been more naive.

Bacteria have offensive, defensive, stealth fighter and commando manoeuvres that no human army can match. They hide in areas like pus, thick layers of skin, bone and cartilage that antibiotics can’t penetrate. They adapt and change faster than a speeding bullet. They are not bound by narrow-minded considerations like race or ethnicity; they join forces enthusiastically with bacteria of other species. When all else fails they copulate, and during the process, exchange genetic material that provides resistance to antibiotics.

Immunisation is a powerful weapon that boosts the body’s own defence mechanism

Unfortunately, human beings are collaborating in this warfare, unwittingly aiding bacterial victory. Fifty per cent of the total antibiotic production is used for animals. Farmers rearing cows, sheep, goats, chicken and fish often use animal feed fortified with antibiotics to keep their livestock healthy. Sometimes the antibiotics are administered as regular supplements. These antibiotics contaminate the environment. The sub-optimal quantities administered to the animals aren’t enough to kill all the targeted bacteria. Genetic mutations occur and resistant bacteria emerge. These eventually find their way into the human community. Treatment with the antibiotic recommended for that particular infection will then fail, requiring more potent and expensive drugs.

Sometimes doctors may be at fault. They may fail to calculate the correct dosage, particularly in case of children where it is based on the body weight. Sometimes the dosage intervals may be incorrect and the next dose is administered later than required, after the drug has been totally eliminated from the body. Also, in the absence of investigations, the chosen antibiotic may be inappropriate for that particular infection. Instructions to patients may be incomplete, without specifications on whether it is to be taken before or after food, as food may help or impede absorption.

Surgery or ICU admissions raise the spectre of post operative infection, although this should not be the case if proper sterilisation techniques are followed. To prevent this, antibiotics are administered prophylactically prior to, during and after surgery. This aids the development of resistance, as the targeted organism may not be the same as the infecting one.

Often patients, too, have unrealistic expectations. They are not willing to accept the fact that antibiotics do not work against viral infections. They find it difficult to follow a “wait and watch” policy. They fail to realise that it is antipyretics (like paracetemol) and not ad hoc doses of antibiotics that reduce fever. They tend to “doctor shop” till they find someone who will prescribe the antibiotics they want.

Diseases that compromise host immunity allow bacteria to gain a foothold and thrive. In such a scenario, higher and longer doses of antibiotics have to be used. Some of these diseases, like diabetes, can be controlled with a little effort, diet control and exercise.

Our drug control policy is somewhat lax. Pharmacies freely dispense unprescribed schedule H antibiotics in irrational combinations OTC (over the counter). Although this is illegal, their activities cannot be faulted, as “supply meets demand.”

As educated responsible citizens, we should not self medicate and perpetuate this menace. Immunisation is a powerful weapon that boosts the body’s own defence mechanisms. As soon as the invading bacteria launch an attack, the sentries and foot soldiers (white blood cells and immunoglobulins) sound the alarm, engulf and annihilate the bacteria. Immunisation is available against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), H. influenzae (meningitis, ear infections, bronchitis), Pneumococcus (pneumonia, ear infections, meningitis), Meningococcus (meningitis) and typhoid.

Researchers are trying to discover newer and stronger antibiotics to combat the menace of bacterial resistance. They cost crores to discover and test before they can be finally used. We therefore need to conserve and use what we already have. Once the rate of discovery ceases to keep pace with the mutation in the bacteria, we have lost the battle to the microbes.

So, I strongly believe that people should rely more on alternative therapy like yoga,meditation,herbal medications etc. for maintaining a good health unless there is any medical emergency .

Source:The Telegraph(Kolkata,India)


Cholesterol Levels in Women

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What are HDL and LDL?
HDL and LDL are two different kinds of cholesterol that are measured as an index of a patient’s risk for cardiovascular disease. HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein and LDL stands for low-density lipoprotein. Total cholesterol measures the combination of HDL and LDL, along with several other factors. The levels of “fats” in the blood-total cholesterol, HDL (a subset called “good cholesterol”) and LDL (“bad cholesterol”) and triglycerides have been used for years to predict the risk of heart disease in men. Higher cholesterol, LDL, triglycerides, and/or low HDL all are associated with increased risk of heart diseases in men.

What do the numbers mean?
Many studies found that women with higher total cholesterol levels also had higher rates of a form of heart disease called coronary artery disease. That is where the arteries to the heart become clogged. This leads to heart attacks. For cholesterol, levels of about 200 or less are generally not associated with much increased heart disease. Women with total cholesterol levels of 265 or more have been found to have this disease two or three times as often as women with levels of about 200. Even mildly elevated levels, of about 235, had about 70% higher rates, than normal.

Men in the same situation are put on a diet and drugs to lower their cholesterol. The goal was to increase HDL, and lower LDL and total cholesterol. Little was done to lower elevated triglyceride levels. The men’s rates of disease dropped. A closer look at the problem in women found something different. Low HDL (“good cholesterol”) levels were the strongest predictor of heart disease in women. These are generally levels less than 50 (mg/dL). Low HDL and high cholesterol go hand in hand for many, which led to the confusion about what was important. Women with total cholesterol levels as low as 200 who also had low HDL levels still had high risks of heart disease. In fact, the best predictor for women, according to one study, was the ratio of cholesterol to HDL. If a woman’s total cholesterol is about 4 times or so of her HDL level, her risk of heart disease skyrockets to up to five times that of her normal counterpart. If her triglycerides are high, her risk goes up, too. Again, that happens even if she has a low total cholesterol level.

Unlike men, a high LDL (“bad cholesterol”) level is not as strong a predictor of future trouble, although there is still considerable debate on this. Some experts believe LDL is not to be worried about for most women, except for particular sub-groups of women who are affected. As one might expect, until we clarify the importance of LDL for women and factor in the additional significance HDL has for women, the HDL/LDL ratio’s significance is muddied.

The Bottom Line

Total cholesterol in and of itself does not matter so much. Look at the other factors and ratios: especially HDL, triglycerides, and the cholesterol to HDL ratio. The significance of LDL and ratios with it are uncertain. Most of all, keep checking for new research. This area is rapidly changing for women.