Is Heat Stress taking a toll on you? Here is how to keep cool…

Held after a gap of three years due to COVID-19, Danda Mahotsav held in Panihati, North 24 Pargana, West Bengal in June 2022 saw crowds of over 10 lakh devotees. The festival also known as Chira Dadhi Utsav, is a 500 year old festival of Vaishnav faith associated with 15th century saint Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and his disciple Raghunath Das. However the week-long festival was closed on its second day itself after 125 people fell sick and three died due to heat exhaustion.

Large crowds gathered in narrow lanes, exposure to direct sunlight and dehydration could have led to the deaths. The administration has said all the three were above the age of 60.

There have been 90 deaths in 2022 due to the heatwave in India and Pakistan based on media reports, the actual deaths is expected to be much higher. For the last three months, most of India has borne a scorching summer with a record number of heat waves. In March, the temperatures in Delhi and the northern Indian plains was the highest recorded in its 122 years of recorded temperatures. Even April was the hottest in 72 years with average temperatures being four degrees higher than normal.

Global warming has worsened the impacts of the heat wave and scientists have warned that climate change is going to make heat waves a regular occurance. Even one degree increase in ambient temperature puts stress on human beings causing various heat related illnesses and even deaths.

Heat also indirectly affects by lowering productivity, impacting transmission of diseases, health service delivery, increasing emissions and reducing available water and energy supply.

We give you some tips to identify signs of heat illness and ways to prevent health illness.

Who is vulnerable to heat?

Higher temperatures impact all populations but some groups are at a higher risk due to their socio-economic condition, profession or physiology.

According to WHO, the elderly, infants and pregnant women are especially at risk

Also those who work outdoors like farmers, construction workers, hawkers, auto rickshaw drivers, mechanics, police personnel and even athletes are vulnerable to heat.

Certain drugs like beta blockers, vasodilators, antipsychotic drugs and those with preexisting conditions like blood pressure, diabetes, heart conditions and history of alcohol abuse are at increased risk.

Poor and marginalised populations are also more at risk because their houses lack devices like coolers and air-conditioners.

Heat-related illness and ways to manage them

When our body heats up, we sweat and the body cools down. When temperatures are high due to heat waves or when the humidity is very high, our body cannot cool down, leading to an increase in its core temperature.

This causes different illnesses including heat cramps, syncope (fainting), heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Heat cramps occur in people doing physical exertions in high temperatures and humidity due to loss of electrolytes. If you get heat cramps, stop the activity, move to a cooler place and consume sports drinks or ORS. Seek medical attention if cramps last for more than one hour.

Syncope is fainting or due to overheating. It occurs when a person is standing outdoors for a long time or gets up suddenly. The blood vessels in the skin widens to help the body cool down but this causes lower supply to the brain leading to dizziness. Move to a cool area and drink water when you feel dizzy. Also avoid alcoholic drinks that can cause dehydration.

Heat exhaustion occurs with symptoms like sweating, clammy skin, fatigue, dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting and weak pulse. When facing symptoms of heat exhaustion, move to a cooler area, wear loose clothes, sip water and use cool cloth on your body.

Heat stroke occurs with symptoms like temperature above 103 degree F, hot skin, headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, confusion, passing out and strong pulse. When dealing with a person with heat stroke, it is essential to move the person to a cool place, reduce the body temperature by using cool cloth, avoid giving any fluids to drink and rush to the doctor once the person is stable.

Heat stroke, if not treated on time impacts organs and can cause brain damage.

Tips to prevent heat exhaustion?

Dress right: Wear loose clothes in breathable fabrics and light colour that allows your body to perspire and cool down. Avoid the sun, apply sunscreen and cover your head when outdoors.

Keep the vulnerable safe: Like we said earlier, babies, pregnant women and elderly are vulnerable to heat illnesses to ensure they are protected from heat.

Hydrate: Drink enough water and fluids like rice water, lentil soup, lime water, salted buttermilk throughout the day to maintain adequate urine output and till thirst is quenched.

Keep your room cool: Keeping your living space cool is important according to WHO. Use drapes and curtains to limit sunlight during the day time. Keep the windows open early morning and night to conserve electricity. The daytime temperatures should be around 32 degrees C and night time temperatures should be around 24 degrees C. This is especially important for babies and elderly with chronic conditions.

Take breaks: Avoid going out in sunlight if you can If you can’t avoid it, work during cooler hours like early morning. Work in shaded areas and avoid direct exposure. Take frequent breaks and hydrate yourself.

7 Diabetes Myths you shouldn’t believe

Diabetes is a household name these days. Almost all families have at least a member with diabetes in it. Changing diets and sedentary lifestyles have led to an explosion of diabetes in the country. There are 74 million diabetes patients in India, second to only China. The incidence of diabetes is increasing in both urban and rural parts of the country.

As common as it is, there are still many misconceptions about diabetes, from what causes it to how to manage it. We bust the most common myths about diabetes so that you can break the cycle of misinformation.

Diabetes is caused due to eating sugar

Given that it is called “madhumeha” in Sanskrit, literally translated as a condition that causes sweet urination, diabetes is attached to eating sugar in most people’s minds. This is not entirely true. When we eat carbohydrates, they are broken down as glucose. Our body then produces the hormone insulin so that this glucose is available to the cells for their energy needs. In diabetics, the body doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use the insulin well leading to excess glucose in the bloodstream. Over time, the excess glucose in the bloodstream causes issues with the kidneys, heart, vision etc. This is why diabetics are asked to avoid foods that are sweet and high in simple carbohydrates which will be converted to glucose quite easily.

Diabetes isn’t that serious

Many believe since many have the disease, diabetes is something that comes with age and has to be lived with. Complacency is a wrong approach to have because diabetes harms indirectly through complications. Longer that you have diabetes and the more uncontrolled the diabetes, the higher is the risk for complications. Some of the most common complications of diabetes are cardiovascular problems, nephropathy or kidney damage, neuropathy or nerve damage, retinopathy or eye damage and foot damage that can cause amputations.

In 2015, 3.46 lakh Indians died of complications related to diabetes. This is why regular follow up with the doctor, managing blood sugar and regular check ups are important.

Diabetics should avoid sweets

Like we said earlier, diabetes isn’t caused just by eating sugary foods or sweets, but sweets do increase blood sugar drastically, so they need to be eaten once in a while and with consideration. For example, fruits also contain a lot of simple sugar, but they also contain fiber, various antioxidants, and vitamins that are good for the body. On the other hand, cakes, loaves of bread, and biscuits do not contain fiber and hence are broken down quickly increasing blood glucose level so they have to be eaten once in a while as a treat. Also recent research shows, it is not just what you eat, the order in which you eat also impacts the glucose spike. The recommended order is vegetables, followed by protein and fat and starches and other carbohydrates in the end. This also ensures that you remain full longer.

Herbal medicines can cure diabetes

People are attracted to herbal remedies because they are promised they are free of side-effects and can cure disease. However most herbal medicines that promise to cure diabetes have not been pharmacologically tested, do not have quality assurance and some are even toxic in nature. Yet, many believe these “cures” rather than relying on tested and evidence-based medicine that has been proven to work for decades often leading to serious harm. Remember, before you replace your diabetes medicine with something “herbal” or natural, speak to your doctor first.

Those who take insulin are more serious than those on oral medicines

Those who have type 1 diabetes need to take insulin as their bodies do not produce the hormone anymore. Others with type 2 diabetes may also need insulin shots as their disease progresses and is not controlled by oral diabetes medicines alone. Not taking insulin does not mean your diabetes is milder either, your doctor may choose to manage diabetes with whatever treatment option is the most suitable for you.

If your parents don’t have diabetes, you will not have it

While having diabetes in your family increases your risk for it, not all diabetics have a family history. Other risk factors for diabetes are: obesity, age, prediabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome, gestational diabetes, and race (Indians have a higher likelihood of diabetes than Caucasians).

Only those who are fat are prone to diabetes

While excess weight gain and obesity do increase the risk for type 2 diabetes, it is not the only risk factor for diabetes. In India, diabetes especially happens at a much younger age and in people with lower body mass index. In diabetes, as with other metabolic diseases, abdominal fat is a more important marker than just your weight. So going for an annual health check which includes a blood glucose test is a good idea in your 30s.

Also, there is a condition called prediabetes where your blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as Type 2 diabetes. This condition is a precursor to diabetes. However, you can still make lifestyle and dietary changes to prevent diabetes at this stage.

Diabetes may not be curable, but it is manageable with regular health checks, the right kind of medication, a diet plan, exercise, and a change in lifestyle. At HCL Healthcare, we offer a complete care consortium to HCL employees and their dependents, through our health and wellness facilities right on your campus as well as in the comfort of your home.

“Diabetes is a great example whereby,
giving the patient the tools,
you can manage yourself very well.”
― Clayton M. Christensen.

Tips to Build Stamina and Conquer your Fitness Goals

It is one thing to be accurate in your line and length and another to bowl at 150 km per hour. For South African pacer Dale Steyn, both came easy. Called one of the best and the “most complete” fast bowlers of his generation, Steyn dominated the number one spot in ICC Test rankings for a record 263 weeks between 2008 and 2014 in his peak. Whatever the weather conditions or the pitch; Steyn’s bowling was accurate, lethal and a pleasure to watch.

What gave him an edge when other fast bowlers suffered near constant injuries?

“What bowlers should be doing is making sure they can train their muscles for taking part in battle for a long period. You want your quick bowlers bowling at 140km/h at the start of the day and just as quick in the late afternoon,” Steyn said in an interview once. He said rather than building muscles, bowlers need to train their muscles to bowl with endurance and durability rather than bursts of power.

What Steyn hinted to was building stamina which gives you the ability to sustain any prolonged physical or mental activity. It is not just fast bowlers who need to have good stamina to perform at their best. All of us need stamina in our day to day lives–be it to play with your children, shop for hours, not pant when taking the stairs or going for a hike.

Stamina is a combination of endurance (ability to endure a difficult activity without giving up) and strength (ability to lift heavy loads). With time and effort, you can build your stamina and watch your overall performance improve.

Here are some tips that can help you-

Long Walks:

One of the simplest ways to improve your stamina as a beginner is to go on long walks. Walking for 30 to 60 minutes improves your cardiovascular health, fitness, puts less strain on your muscles and can improve your mood. Start by walking for 20 minutes for a few days and keep increasing the time by 10 minutes after every few days. Do a light stretch before you begin walking and walk at a medium pace to get proper exercise.

Interval Training

Interval training which combines high energy bursts of speed with slow, recovery spaces is a powerful way to improve endurance and stamina. Interval training ( for example take small sprints of 30 seconds every 3-4 minutes and walk) twice a week helps you burn more calories, avoid injuries by repetitive movement and helps you increase training intensity without burnout. Some tips to begin interval training: assess your fitness level, start slowly, warm up before you start and keep a steady but challenging pace throughout.

Play Sports

A cool way to increase your stamina is to play sports. It also helps to break the monotony of workouts in the gym or running. Playing sports involve different movements for example playing badminton involves running, picking up the shuttlecock and hitting with the racquet. This kind of intermingling uses different muscle groups and improves your stamina.

Lift Weight

It may seem counterintuitive but weight training also improves stamina. A meta analysis of various studies has shown that lifting weights improves endurance and speed and economy of your workout (improves the time taken and energy required to finish your workout). If you have never lifted weight before, start with working out with a trainer who can assess your form and gradually increase the weights you lift. Also consult a doctor before weight training if you have pre existing diseases, injuries or illnesses.

Dance

Another fun way to break the monotony of workouts is to dance regularly. Dancing helps improve your cardiovascular health as well as improve your muscle strength. Dancing improves mobility, balance, increases agility, strengthens bones and reduces stress. What’s more, you can dance together with your family or friends and it would be a great activity to do together and de-stress.

Listen to music when you exercise

What pumps up your mood when you go to the gym or come home tired from home? Usually it’s the music. Listening to high-energy music while exercising helps you workout more, distracts you from the strain of the workout, changes your perception of fatigue and makes exercise feel easier. So keep a fast-paced playlist ready when you are lifting weights in the gym or go for a run.

Eat healthy and get adequate rest

Eating healthy food with an adequate portion of protein, fats and good carbohydrates is important to find the energy to workout. Also getting 7-8 hours of sleep is crucial for your body to rest and recover after a workout so do not scrimp on sleep. Also undergoing vitamin deficiency tests will also tell you if there are vitamin deficiencies that are making you feel lethargic and tired all the time.

With these tips, you will improve your stamina in no time and conquer your fitness goals.

Are you fatigued weeks after COVID? You may have Long COVID

Are you fatigued weeks after COVID?
You may have Long COVID

In the last two years of the pandemic, more than 517 million were infected with COVID-19. Most of them recovered from the infection but some continued to face health issues even after months of testing negative. These symptoms are part of post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 (PACS) which is commonly known as Long COVID. Those who suffer from Long COVID often call themselves ‘long haulers’.

Almost 40% of COVID survivors suffer from long-term impact of the infection one month after the infection, according to a University of Michigan study published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases on 22 April 2022. According to its findings, it is estimated that there are more than 200 million people who are suffering from Long COVID across the world.

Who is likely to suffer from it?

Various studies show that those who have been hospitalised for COVID-19 had a higher chance of suffering from Long COVID. Also those who suffered from severe COVID-19 are more likely to suffer from it than those who had a mild infection. Similarly some studies suggest unvaccinated individuals are more likely to suffer from Long COVID than those who are fully vaccinated.

The Michigan study, mentioned earlier, reviewed 50 studies from 17 countries and found that Asians (49%) followed by Europeans (44%) and those in North America (39%) had more likelihood of suffering from Long COVID. It also found that women (49%) had a higher likelihood of suffering from it than men (37%).

Pre-existing conditions like Asthma increased the likelihood of Long Covid. Other risk factors identified in the study were initial illness, older age and underlying conditions like obesity and hypothyroidism.

The most common symptom in the review was found to be fatigue which was found in 23% of the survivors followed by memory problems (14%), shortness of breath (13%), sleep problems (11%), and joint pain (10%).

How long do the symptoms last?

Across the world, prevalence of Long COVID was 37% after 1 month of diagnosis, 25% at 2 months, 32% at 3 months and 49% at 4 months according to the Michigan study.

Another study published in the medical journal The Lancet in July 2021 showed that 91% of Long haulers took 35 weeks or about 9 months to recover. Researchers surveyed nearly 4,000 sufferers with confirmed or suspected COVID from nearly 60 countries, with illness of a month or longer. During their illness, survivors experienced symptoms across nine organ systems. The most frequent symptoms after six months were fatigue, post exertional weakness and cognitive dyfunction like memory loss, problems with attention span and problem solving.

What are the symptoms?

Long Covid can be varied and can impact different people differently. In the Lancet study, participants experienced anything from ear numbness, vision loss, reduced sensitivity to medicines, new allergies, suicide ideation and facial paralysis.

According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, following symptoms are reported by long haulers.

General symptoms

  • Tiredness or fatigue that interferes with daily life
  • Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental effort (also known as “post-exertional malaise”)
  • Fever

Respiratory and heart symptoms

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Chest pain
  • Fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations)

Neurological symptoms

  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes referred to as “brain fog”)
  • Headache
  • Sleep problems
  • Dizziness when you stand up (lightheadedness)
  • Pins-and-needles feelings
  • Change in smell or taste
  • Depression or anxiety

Digestive symptoms

  • Diarrhoea
  • Stomach pain

Other symptoms

  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Rash
  • Changes in menstrual cycles

Source: US CDC

POTS

Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome or POTS is a condition where heart rate increases by at least 30 beats per minute after a person moves from sitting or lying down to standing. This is because their autonomic nervous system is unable to control their blood pressure and heart rate to make for your change in posture. There is recent evidence that those who have had COVID-19 are vulnerable to be POTS.

Long COVID in children

It is now emerging that even children are affected by Long COVID. Some of the symptoms that children show are different from adults. Usually children have complained of chest pain, cough fatigue, joint pain, loss of smell or taste and memory fog.

Living with Long COVID

Treating Long COVID is not straightforward or simple since it manifests differently for different people. Some of the symptoms may get better with time and others would require medical assistance. With growing awareness, there are doctors and clinics that specialise in helping people with Long COVID manage their symptoms.

Some general tips:

Modify the way you work: You may need to take breaks between your work days to take care of your fatigue. Find what time in the day you feel most refreshed and aim to finish a major chunk of your work at that time. Speak to your colleagues and boss if you need more time to finish work and ask for help whenever you need it.

Get good sleep: In order to recover, you need to give your body good 7-8 hours of restful sleep. Use a fitness app to track your sleep to monitor if you are getting deep sleep. Reduce stress, keep away gadgets in the evening and exercise to maintain good sleep hygiene.

Seek help: Long COVID can leave you feeling tired, frustrated and lonely but know that help is available. Speak to a doctor well-versed with treating post COVID symptoms and ask for help. Seek help from a psychologist if you feel low. Get a physiotherapist’s help to begin working out gradually. Speak to your friends and family and tell them about how you are feeling, their support will be crucial in your recovery.

Get a health check up: If you find yourself suffering from any of the symptoms mentioned above long after your infection, it is a good idea to go for a full body health check up that can give you a status update on the health of your body and help your doctors pinpoint the exact cause that is causing the symptoms.

Resources

To join the Long COVID India Survivors group on telegram:

https://t.me/+3SHOL_cmzpkyYzdl

Follow @LongCOVIDIndia on twitter for latest news

For more information on Long COVID, go to

https://www.wearebodypolitic.com/covid-19

Want to Quit Tobacco but are struggling?

Check out a few easy steps here!

‘Smoking is injurious to health’, says the cigarette packet itself. It is quite clear to smokers that their habit is harmful but that is not enough for them to quit their habit. That is because most have started smoking or using tobacco in their teenage years and the younger you begin using tobacco, the more challenging it is to quit it.

If you need one more reason why you should quit smoking, listen to this – bidi or cigarette smokers die 6 to 10 years earlier than non-smokers. It is not just smoking that is harmful, chewing tobacco in the form of gutkha, paan masala, khaini, mawa, etc. are equally harmful. Smokeless tobacco kills over 230,000 Indians each year and is responsible for 90% of oral cancers in India.

Altogether, more than a quarter (27%) of all cancers in India are due to tobacco use. Yet, 29% of adults in India use tobacco making it the second leading consumer of tobacco in the world.

If you have thought about quitting tobacco consumption earlier but failed, don’t worry, we give you some tried and tested ways of quitting tobacco backed by evidence. With these measures, you can reliably quit tobacco.

Set a date

After you have decided to quit smoking or chewing tobacco, set a date for quitting. Make sure it is not too far in the future, it can be a special day like your birthday or that of your loved ones or any random day.

Prepare for the day by planning for the triggers for smoking or chewing tobacco–is it post-dinner? During tea-time? Find activities that you can do at those times to distract yourself.

Clear your cigarette or tobacco stash including lighters, ashtrays, etc. before the day comes. Clean your coats, your jackets that have lingering smells of tobacco. Keep substitutes handy like sugarless gums, hard candy, and cinnamon sticks that you can keep in your mouth when you feel like smoking. A squeeze ball can also keep your hand busy which is used to hold a cigarette.

Cold Turkey

Rather than gradually reducing the number of cigarettes, it has been found that quitting cold turkey is more effective in quitting smoking in various studies.

A study showed, those who quit abruptly had more success (49%) than those who quit smoking gradually (39.2%) after a month. Similarly at six months, those who quit abruptly (22%) had more chances of keeping away from smoking than those who quit gradually (15.5%).

This may not be true for all. It depends on your preference or your age also. In a French retrospective cohort study of more than 62,000 smokers in the national cessation services database, researchers found that older participants more than 45 years of age and heavy smokers (who smoked more than 21 cigarettes per day) were more likely to quit gradually than abruptly.

Ask for support

Make sure you tell your friends, family and colleagues that you have quit smoking or chewing tobacco so that you can rely on their support. Tell them to check up on you and distract you when you feel low. Also tell the friends who smoke, to not smoke around you or offer you a cigarette. It is also a good idea to quit smoking with a friend or a partner so that you can keep encouraging each other and keep each other accountable.

Treatments

For those for whom willpower alone isn’t enough to quit smoking, nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is a good option. NRT is available as skin patches, chewing gum, nasal or oral sprays, inhalators, lozenges, or tablets. These are used to reduce withdrawal symptoms that come with stopping smoking by releasing nicotine in the bloodstream. There is now strong evidence that all forms of NRT improve the person’s attempt to quit smoking by 50-60%. NRT does not require prescription by doctors and is available off the counter in pharmacies.

For those whom NRT also doesn’t work, there are prescription drugs. There are certain drugs like bupropion and varenicline that work by targeting the nicotine receptors in the brain, reducing the pleasure you get from smoking. These drugs improve your chance of sticking to your resolution to quit smoking.

Benefits start immediately

It is never too late to quit tobacco even if you have been using it for a long time. In just 20 minutes after smoking your last cigarette, your blood pressure and heart drop, and temperature of your hands and legs increases; in eight hours, your blood has more oxygen and less carbon monoxide; in just 24 hours, your risk for heart attack decreases, says Cleveland Clinic.

In the next couple of months of quitting smoking, your energy levels will increase, and you can tolerate more exercise. Soon, your sinuses will be clear, you can breathe easily and cough less. In a year, your risk for heart disease reduces by half as compared to those who haven’t quit smoking.

Don’t forget, as new research suggests, it may take smokers as many as 30 attempts before they successfully quit smoking so be kind to yourself and don’t give up.

Is Sitting the New Smoking?

The short answer to the question whether sitting is the new smoking is– No.

Studies conclusively show that while both sitting for long durations and smoking are harmful, smoking is a great deal, much worse.

Researchers from Canada, the US and Australia said that while excessive sitting (more than 8 hours a day) increases the risk of premature death and some chronic diseases by 10-20%, it is nowhere close to smoking. Smoking increases the risk of premature death from any cause by 180%. The findings published in American Journal of Public Health in 2018, finally put to rest the myth that got popular in media and health circles in recent years.

Hence, it is not fair to compare a sedentary lifestyle with smoking, but it is important to know that sitting has many harmful effects on the body.

Sitting increases risk for diabetes, impacts heart

Sitting for long, harms your heart and increases risk for diabetes. A study found that men who watched more than 23 hours of TV a week, had a 64% higher chance of suffering a heart disease compared to those who watched only 11 hours of TV a week.

There is more, a systematic review and meta-analysis of 18 studies found sitting increased the risk for Type 2 Diabetes by 112%, increased the risk for heart attack and stroke by 147%, and risk of death due to heart problems by 90%.

Increases risk for Cancers

Increased sitting increases the risk for cancer. A 2020 study published in JAMA oncology of over 8000 individuals showed that sitting increased the risk of death by cancer by 13%. It further showed that those who are extremely sedentary had as much as 80% more risk of dying by cancer than those who sit the least.

Weakens your muscles

When we sit for the whole day, the muscles in the lower body get weak increasing the chance of injury and pain. For example, sitting causes the hip flexor muscles to shorten, causing lower back pain and difficulty in mobility. Similarly, when we sit at work, we slouch forward to look at the screen that causes weakening of the chest muscles.

Weight gain

Sedentary behaviour affects the body’s ability to process fat. It reduces the production of lipoprotein lipase, the enzyme that helps break down fat. This causes the body to store fat instead of burning it.

What can you do?

Even a little exercise helps counter it: The JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) study that showed sedentary lifestyle can increase the risk for cancer also showed that for individuals that exercised for 30 minutes instead of sitting, the risk of dying from cancer fell by 31%. Even if they substituted exercising with gentle strolling, housework, gardening or light-intensity activity, the risk of dying from cancer fell by 8%.

Another research showed that 60-75 minutes of moderate–vigorous intensity activity everyday was necessary to counter all the harms of sitting. Given how difficult it is to do half an hour of activity every day, it is important to keep yourself active throughout the day rather than relying on exercising alone.

Take breaks: There is evidence that taking frequent breaks (once every 30-40 minutes) helps. A 2017 study shows walking between prolonged sitting or light exercise helps reduce inflammation that can lead to heart problems and increase good cholesterol. Breaking your posture also improves blood circulation and prevents weakening of muscles.

Find reasons to move: One way to prevent prolonged sitting is by moving more while working and during leisure. This means walking up to your colleague for a chat instead of sending an email, taking a short walk break during lunch break or teatime, having standing meetings and stretching in your seat whenever time permits. When you are at home, it is important to not spend all the time watching TV, lounging, or scrolling your phone–play with your kids, play a sport, stroll a garden, take walks, and help around the house to get in more activity.

Don’t forget the evils of smoking

Let us again remind you that sitting may be harmful, but smoking is much worse. While smoking is becoming unpopular in rich countries, 80% of smokers today are from low and middle income countries where it is expected to kill half of the smokers prematurely. Those who smoke have a doubled risk of dying from any cancer and heart disease and they have 23 times more chance of getting lung cancer than non-smokers. Smoking not only impacts those who smoke but also has a harmful impact on those around them through second hand smoke.

So, quitting smoking and getting more activity throughout the day could be the kindest thing you can do to your body.

Power to the Patient

How can employees make better health decisions?

After two years of the COVID pandemic, we do not need to reiterate how important it is to take care of one’s health. All of us have witnessed enough health scares around us to know that just age or weight are not the factors that can indicate the status of our health. Like we pay attention to our workplace deliverables and our finances, we need to monitor our health parameters and take preventive steps so that we stay fit and healthy.

In this article, we discuss how to take control of your health so that you remain on top of your health game and use the facilities provided, to the optimum. A little proactiveness and three words – Know, Access, and Act – can help you take charge of your health and thus your life. Read more to find out how:

KNOW

  • Annual Health Check-up: One of the first steps to taking control of your health is to know your health parameters and the easiest way to do that is to undergo regular health check-ups. “Only if a person goes for a health check-up, will the doctor be able to guide the patient to prevent health issues in the future like to quit smoking, go for vaccination or make dietary modifications,” said Dr Amit Kumar Gupta, Senior Consultant and Head, Medical Services and Quality, HCL Healthcare. Most employers provide annual executive health check-ups that cover most of the basic tests that tell you the status of your heart, liver, kidneys, blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, other blood profile parameters, etc. Remember, it is common to feel anxious and want to avoid health check-ups but keep in mind, that it is better to know about your health issues now than suffer later.
  • Health Insurance: A sudden hospitalization can strain your finances and cause unnecessary worry. Thankfully, most employers provide health insurance cover for their employees and to some extent their families. This means you can make the best decision for your health without worrying about how much it will affect your bank balance. But just knowing you are covered is not enough, go through your employer’s health insurance documents to know what is covered, if there is any waiting period, what are the limits? If you think that the cover is not sufficient, you should invest in a personal health insurance cover that provides the additional protection you need for the health of you and your loved ones. Remember to inform your family also about these arrangements in case of emergencies.

 

ACCESS

  • In-house services: Once you know how your health parameters are, you should access the health services and expertise that are available to you. For example, HCL Healthcare provides virtual doctor consultations by specialists including internal medicine specialists, gynaecologists, paediatricians, dermatologists, dentists, physiotherapists, and dieticians. For seeking consultation and guidance, you can book appointments with these experts by using the registered number given on their website.
  • Health management plans: It is important to know that chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and thyroid issues require constant monitoring and customized planning. Therefore, you should opt for disease management plans which will give you doctor consultation, regular follow-up, detailed health examinations, and diet advice. Being proactive about managing conditions will help you prevent complications that follow these chronic conditions.
  • Emotional wellbeing: Do not forget your emotional well-being when you think about your health. Like any other condition, it is important to seek help from trained counsellors, psychologists, and psychiatrists if you have mental and emotional issues. These experts have a neutral perspective, have great listening skills, and can offer skills that will help you feel better.

ACT

After getting to know your health status and getting a consultation from the doctor, it is now important to act and implement those lifestyle changes and medicines if advised. We give you a list of things you need to pay attention to irrespective of your age and health status.

  • Sleep: The importance of getting a full night’s (7-8 hours) sleep cannot be stressed enough. Those with sleep deficiency have a greater risk of many health complications including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and obesity according to the US’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. A good night’s sleep is also important for memory, cognitive functioning, and mood regulation. Experts recommend getting sun exposure during the daytime, reducing screen time exposure during evenings, having a fixed sleeping schedule, and taking melatonin supplements to sleeping better at night.
  • Diet: In order to improve your fitness level, you have to improve your diet. Few tips include avoiding packaged foods, including green leafy vegetables and fruits, and increasing protein intake. There is growing evidence that a low-carbohydrate diet can help manage diabetes, reduce weight, control blood pressure, decrease bad cholesterol and improve good cholesterol.
    HCL healthcare has in-house dieticians who can guide employees wanting to make modifications to their diet.
  • Exercise: It is important to spend at least 30 minutes each day in some form of exercise. Physical activity has been proven to prevent cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, hypertension, obesity, depression, osteoporosis, and premature death. To be consistent, choose a form of exercise that you will enjoy, be it sports, swimming, dance, or gymming. To start small, start by walking 10 minutes each day and increase it to reach 30 or 60 minutes in about a month. It would be a good idea to seek consultation from a physical trainer or physiotherapist before you begin any new workout.
  • De-stress: It is important to counter stress from day-to-day life by spending time doing activities you enjoy, be it art, spending time in nature, cooking, playing, or indulging in another hobby. Meditation is also an excellent way to counter stress. If you are short of time, try finding at least 10 minutes each day in mindfulness practice. Mindfulness has been shown to increase cognitive ability, improve working memory, counter stress, and improve focus.

 

With these steps, you can proactively take measures towards making a healthier ‘You’ and live your life to the fullest.

New Variant of Covid-19

On 6 April 2022, India reported the first case of XE COVID-19 variant when a 50-year-old South African lady was found to be positive in Mumbai. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, which reported the case, said the patient does not have any severe symptoms and has tested negative on RT PCR. The Union Health Ministry has said further tests are required to confirm whether the variant indeed is XE.

The news caught media attention because the World Health Organisation (WHO) last week said that the XE variant is more transmissible than previous variants of Omicron.

Even though it is not clear yet if it is indeed XE, it still is a matter of concern given that the number of COVID-19 cases has been at its lowest in the last couple of weeks and COVID-19 restrictions and mask mandates have been relaxed in many parts of the country including Delhi and Mumbai.

If you are wondering about the variants and their precautions, here is a primer on all that you need to know about the new COVID-19 variant so that you are not caught off-guard.

What’s new about this variant?

Almost 90 percent of all the infections reported in 2022 were of the Omicron variant. It has two main sub-variants–BA.1 and BA.2. In India, BA.2 was the most common during the third wave, reported Indian Express.

BA.2 was found to be more transmissible than BA.1, even though it was not found to be more dangerous. According to WHO at the moment, 94% of all samples sequenced across the world were of BA.2.

XE is a recombinant –which means it contains the mutations present in both BA.1 and BA.2. XE was first found in the United Kingdom in January 2022 and has been reported in 623 cases in the country. Recently, Thailand and New Zealand have also found XE variant in their samples.

What is recombinant?

Recombinant variants occur when an organism is infected with two variants of the virus and their genetic material mixes together or through DNA technology in the laboratory.

Other than XE, there is also XD which is a recombinant variant of BA.1 and Delta and which is found in Belgium, Denmark and France and XF which is a recombinant variant of BA.1 and Delta and found mostly in the UK.

Is XE more dangerous?

It does not seem so, yet.

The WHO on 29 March reported that XE has a “10% transmission advantage” as compared to BA.2 which means it spreads 10% faster than BA.2 variant. This finding requires further confirmation, it further said.

Now, XE is being tracked as part of the Omicron variant till significant differences in its transmission and disease characteristics, including severity, may be reported, the global health agency said.

“There was no evidence, yet that XE was any more serious in disease severity, with all Omicron variants so far shown to be less severe”, the WHO said.

What are the symptoms caused by the XE variant?

Symptoms caused by XE are the same as those by Omicron including fatigue, dizziness, headaches, sore throat, fever, heart ailment, and palpitation. Some also experience loss of taste and smell.

What can you do?

Completing your COVID-19 vaccination doses, and getting a booster dose if you are eligible, will help in protecting yourself against severe disease.

At the moment, it would be wise to follow all the existing COVID-19 appropriate behavior including wearing a facemask when outside, maintaining physical distance, avoiding crowded places, seeking medical help, and testing yourself if you experience any of the symptoms.

Remember, this is not a time to lower your guard, “People think it is summer which hinders infection but that’s not true, these viruses are now perennial.

Especially those with respiratory allergies and long-term diseases are more prone to infection-related complications, so they must take extra care,” said Dr. Amit Kumar Gupta, Senior Consultant and Head, Medical Services and Quality, HCL Healthcare.

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