Do you think Indian authorities’ strategy is moving towards the right direction in handling Covid-19? What more can be done?
A: India acted early and took bold and decisive steps while implementing core public health measures to detect, test, trace, isolate and treat Covid cases. The country has been scaling up capacities of health workers, hospitals, laboratories and focusing on local production to meet essential medical supplies such as PPEs, masks etc. The focus now is on areas with clusters of cases. Our measures should be guided by sub-national or even community-level risk assessment which should be based on epidemiological factors, healthcare capacities and public health capacities. Public health and social measures should be adjusted to protect the vulnerable population. The adjusting of public health and social measures, including large-scale movement restrictions, should be done to minimize the risk of COVID-19. We are already eight months into the pandemic. Though there is no medicine or vaccine yet for Covid-19, there is enough evidence that the tools in hand can help curtail Covid transmission.
Q: When will the cases start declining ?
A: It is hard to predict. Also, we cannot assume that the downward trend in the disease, wherever it has happened, has occurred naturally. It was only possible with tough public health measures put in place to break chains of transmission in communities. The cornerstone of response to Covid-19 pandemic is to find, isolate, test and care, trace and quarantine contacts. Aggressively implementing these core public health measures, promoting hand hygiene, cough etiquette and social distancing is every country’s best defence against Covid-19. We are in for a long haul and cannot let our guards down.
Q: How many challenges India has to face in the coming days?
A: The pandemic has put immense strain on health systems across the world. The previous disease outbreaks have shown that disruption to essential services caused by an outbreak can be more deadly than the outbreak itself. We must fast-track efforts and do all we can to avoid that happening, while continuing efforts to break Covid-19 transmission chains. Hence, maintaining essential health services and accelerating resumption of those services hit by the pandemic, is a priority for all countries now.
Q: When do you think India will get a vaccine? What strategy and protocols need to be followed in supply after getting a vaccine?
A: Traditionally, it takes 5-10 years, or even more for a new vaccine to be developed before it can be used in humans. Despite accelerated efforts, the availability of Covid-19 vaccines would depend on the outcome of the clinical trials that are still ongoing. While several candidate vaccines have progressed to clinical trials phase, including some that are undergoing trials in India, it cannot be said with certainty what the results of these trials will be – both in terms of efficacy and safety – and by when we will have a vaccine available for use in populations. Once developed, a Covid-19 vaccine must be considered a global public good, that can be accessed by all of humanity. To facilitate this, WHO has co-launched the access to ‘Covid-19 Tools Accelerator’ and is supporting the COVAX Facility. Both these mechanisms are expected to help all countries, including low- and middle-income countries gain rapid and equitable access to safe and effective vaccines.
Q: Who should get the vaccination first?
A: This was discussed extensively at a recent International Symposium on Novel ideas in Science and Ethics of Vaccines against Covid-19 pandemic, in which leading experts from across the globe participated. The allocation framework for Covid-19 vaccines that is under development also aims to help countries prioritize at-risk populations as they develop in-country vaccination strategies. It is proposed that the initial tranche of doses should be made available to all countries to ensure health and other essential frontline workers can be immunized first, followed by other high-risk populations.
Q: Do you think Russian vaccine ‹Sputnik V’ can be trusted ? If not then why?
A: WHO is aware that a Covid-19 vaccine has been registered in the Russian Federation’s national medicines registry. WHO welcomes all advances in Covid-19 vaccine research and development. At the global level, WHO has been involved in guiding and accelerating R&D efforts since January 2020. Accelerating vaccine research should be done following established processes through every step of development, to ensure that any vaccines that eventually go into production are both safe and effective. Any safe and effective pandemic vaccine will be a global public good, and WHO urges rapid, fair and equitable access to any such vaccines worldwide. WHO is in touch with Russian scientists and authorities and looks forward to reviewing details of the trials.
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PREVENTION: HOW TO KEEP YOUR HEART HEALTHY AT AGE 40
An individual becomes more concerned about their health as they reach a certain age. As the most vital organ of the body, the heart requires extreme care as its chances of developing cardiac diseases increase with age.
Among older people, heart disease is the leading cause of morbidity. To reduce the risk of CVD in middle age, it is recommended to maintain or increase physical activity. Dr AnbuPandian, Medical Advisor, Agatsa, shared some tips to keep the heart healthy at 40 with us.
The most effective way to prevent heart disease at 40 is to adopt a healthy lifestyle. If you work nine hours in an office job, take short breaks every two hours. Taking the stairs instead of the lift, walking short distances instead of using a vehicle or public transportation. Exercise, meditate, swim, play basketball, dance, and do yoga—whatever you love.
Physical exercise has been shown to have a positive effect on heart health in comparison to sedentary lifestyles in various studies. A great quality of life is dependent on a healthy heart. Maintaining a regular exercise routine will keep the heart healthy for years to come.
Regular Heart Health Check-ups
A heart health check-up is essential at every stage of life, but becomes especially crucial after age 40. There are several factors that determine how often a person should get a check-up, including smoking, alcohol consumption, heart disease in the family, being overweight, and diabetes. Blood sugar and cholesterol levels should also be monitored closely. Heart diseases can be better treated if they are detected early. Once a person crosses the age of 40, a yearly checkup is mandatory. The physician may recommend more frequent check-ups if heart disease is detected.
As age increases, metabolism tends to decrease by 5 % every decade after 40. Hormonal imbalance and bone density are two other significant changes that the body registers while getting old. Increase the intake of fruits rich in Vitamin C. All citrus fruits, for that matter, have a bonus heart-healthy benefit. The best diet for preventing cardiac disease is one that is full of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fish, poultry, and vegetable oils. Individuals who follow their dietary pattern have a 31% lower risk of heart disease than those who consume junk food.
Remote Monitoring Machines
Remote monitoring machines have been around for years but have gained significant prominence recently, thus resulting in high demand. Such devices are used on a daily basis to monitor diseases such as heart attacks, hypertension, and diabetes. These devices are very portable, user-friendly and capture patients’ health parameters via cables and sensors. These devices are cost-effective for patients because they reduce medical care costs and provide more timely intervention for chronic conditions. No one can slow down the ageing process. However, with proper care, one can be more fit, look younger, and lead a more energetic and active life. Life doesn’t end, but begins afresh again at 40!
The author is a Medical Advisor at Agatsa.
Why heart attacks are on the rise among women
Even though heart ailments are on the rise among women, a lack of awareness has prevented many from getting timely treatment and diagnosis of the disease.
Heart diseases are no longer a “men’s problem” and women too are equally prone to them. According to a recent report published by the National Family Health Survey, it was found that the overall prevalence of undiagnosed hypertension in women of the age group 15–49 years is 18.69% in India, which busts the myths that heat conditions are most prevalent among men.
Several other international studies have also indicated that heart ailments are now a leading cause of death among women, resulting in ten times more fatalities than breast cancer. Even though heart ailments are on the rise among women, a lack of awareness has prevented many from getting timely treatment and diagnosis of the disease.
Why are heart diseases going undetected in women? While ensuring the well-being of their loved ones, women in India tend to ignore their own needs and often neglect their health. For instance, if a woman has mild chest pain, she would rather ignore the symptoms and focus on managing the work/household chores rather than visiting a doctor. The patriarchal setup of our society also expects women to keep the well-being of others at the forefront rather than taking care of themselves, which results in late diagnosis and is one of the primary causes of increasing heart ailments among women in the country.
As the symptoms of a heart attack are different in both men and women, many women often don’t know if they have already suffered one or two heart attacks in the past until eventually, they visit a doctor. While in men, a heart attack usually results in extreme and sudden chest pain and breaking out in cold sweats, whereas in women, the symptoms are usually mild and heart attacks can be frequent and smaller. The symptoms in women can range from jaw pain to fatigue to pain in the neck and back to sweating or just heartburn, indicating the need for them to undergo regular health check-ups and take proactive measures to ensure overall well-being.
Which age group is most susceptible to heart attacks and what are the major concerns?
Women of the age group 45–55 years are at a high risk of experiencing a heart attack due to low levels of estrogen post menopause, work and family-related stress, loneliness, and lack of physical activity. More women in this age group may go undiagnosed and have atypical symptoms compared to men.
The second most affected age group is 60 years of age, where the biological deterioration makes both men and women more susceptible to heart attacks. High cholesterol, blood pressure, obesity, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, and diabetes are also some of the main concerns that make women more prone to cardiovascular diseases.
How can women take care of themselves and keep heart attacks at bay?
There are several steps that women can take to prevent heart ailments, such as:
- Educate yourself and increase awareness about the risk factors that can lead to blockages.
- Avoid smoking or the use of tobacco.
- Engage in physical activities like yoga, dancing, running, and walking for 30–45 minutes every day to maintain heart health and overcome obesity.
- Avoid junk food, aerated drinks and adopt a balanced diet. Healthy heart diets that include complex carbohydrates, legumes, fruits, vegetables, and less sugar, salt, and fat can have a positive impact on heart health.
Lastly, it is important to note that gender has nothing to do with heart attacks, and the condition affects both men and women equally. However, adopting a healthy lifestyle and undergoing regular health checkups can help you get the gift of good health.
The author is a Senior Consultant at Interventional
Cardiology, Aster CMI
HEALTHY LIFESTYLE: Role of nutraceuticals in heart health
The never-ending work of the heart and the constant workload necessitate healthy dietary patterns and lifestyles.
The growing evidence of cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) in both developing and developed nations over the last 20 years has made CVDs a global healthcare priority. As per the WHO, heart attacks and strokes account for 85% of all CVD deaths. It is responsible for an estimated 31% of all deaths worldwide, with 17.9 million deaths yearly. More than 75% of all cardiovascular events occur in low- and middle-income countries. CVDs are the leading cause of death worldwide, with more people dying from them each year than from any other cause.
Role of diet in the maintenance of a healthy heart:
The never-ending work of the heart and the constant workload necessitate healthy dietary patterns and lifestyles. One of the most important factors that can be changed to promote heart health is diet. An unhealthy diet high in saturated fat and carbohydrates is linked to abnormal blood lipid levels, which increases the risk of heart disease.
Nutraceuticals in heart health:
Nutraceuticals refer to substances that are either food or a component of nutrition that help in the prevention, protection, and/or treatment of chronic diseases. Nutraceuticals can maintain health, slow the progression of lifelong or chronic diseases, and slow aging. Nutraceuticals are considered superior to chemical medicines due to their lack of side effects and ease of access.
• Omega-3 fatty acids: They possess a beneficial effect on the heart as it helps in reducing the risk and advancement of cardiovascular disease. Clinical studies have found that omega-3 fatty acids lower serum triglyceride levels, increase fatty acid degradation, and clear plasma triglycerides. They also help to lower systolic and diastolic pressure in hypertension patients. Foods which are rich in omega-3-fatty acids are flax seed, mackerel, salmon fish, cod fish, etc.
• Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10): Clinical data revealed that a high dose of CoQ10 helps maintain a healthy heart by reducing lipoprotein oxidation and forming atherosclerotic lesions. Foods such as oily fish (salmon, tuna), grape seed, soyabean, avocado, broccoli, peanuts, and soybeans contain a high amount of CoQ10 in them.
• Carotenoids: Carotenoids such as lycopene can reduce the risk of atherosclerosis by prohibiting endothelial dysfunction and lowering LDL levels. Tomato, red cabbage, beet root, papaya, and watermelon are good sources of carotenoids.
• Polyphenols: Polyphenols present in fruits and vegetables improve lipid metabolism, reduce blood pressure and delay the progression of heart diseases. Almonds, cherries, berries, black olives, cloves contain a high concentration of polyphenols.
• Use of micronutrients: Supplementation with micronutrients such as zinc, selenium, magnesium, selenium, vitamin C, and vitamin E exerts a protective effect on the heart by reducing endothelial cell damage, production of nitric oxide, and inhibiting LDL-c oxidation.
Due to the modern lifestyle, it is imperative to maintain a healthy heart. Regular consumption of nutraceuticals will help to prevent cardiovascular diseases and help to follow a healthy lifestyle.
The author is MD, Clinical Pharmacologist and
Nutra-ceutical Physician, Founder and CEO IntelliMed Healthcare Suctions.
Kashmiri ASHA worker serves as inspiration by donating blood 28 times
A 32-year-old woman named Bilqees Ara, an ASHA worker, has donated blood 28 times since 2012. She has served as an inspiration to others across the nation.
Bilqees, who is from the Handwara Tehsil in the Kupwara area of North Kashmir, stated that she understands the “importance of blood”.
She said that by donating a pint of blood, she not only saves a precious life but an entire family.
She began donating blood in 2012 and has since given 28 pints.
She expressed her gratitude and pride at being the saviour of so many patients in the Kashmir valley.
I’ve seen people cry helplessly as they try to get blood to save their loved ones, but I’m proud of myself because I’ve arranged blood for them as well. “I felt an inner joy after that,” she said.
In Kashmir, she is known as the “Blood Woman of Kashmir”.
She is a registered blood donor. Whenever a need arises, the officials at the Blood Bank at Handwara hospital call her and, within the shortest span of time, she makes herself available to donate blood.
Women should come forward and do this as there is nothing to be afraid of. This is to be done for society, she said. She also said that she wondered who else would do it if she refused.
If a person has blood and courage, why can’t he give it to someone else in a time of need? She asked.
Covid facilities to reduce in Delhi amid drop in cases
The Delhi government has closed 11 Covid care facilities because to a consistent reduction in cases. Two Covid Care Centers are operational at Ambedkar Nagar Hospital, which has 50 beds, and Balak Ram Hospital, which has 25 beds, according to a government report. Only five admissions were registered at Ambedkar Nagar Hospital over the past three months, while there were none at Balak Ram Hospital.
The number of patients has steadily decreased at the remaining CCCs as well, according to reports.
According to officials, the Delhi Disaster Management Authority on Thursday decided to scale back the medical staff and infrastructure that had been deployed for COVID management in a planned manner. The health department will now formulate an action plan in response to this decision.
“The deven CCCs were closed and dismantled by Delhi government and one by the Centre and three others with total 4000 bed capacity- Radha Saomi Satsang ,Chattarpur, Sawan Kirpal, Burari , and Sant Nirankari, Burari- were closed but not yet dismantled”, officials said.
We Women Want: Focus on menstrual health
This week on We Women Want, we talk about menstrual health and awareness with Madan Mohit Bharadwaj, founder of She Wings, an organisation that works to end period poverty by working with rural women, teens, the homeless, and low-income people. We also had She Wings employees Savita and Mamta, as well as Gurvani, Chief Communication Officer, and Shubhendra Rajawat, Chief Planning Officer of She Wings, to tell us stories from the ground.
A former journalist, Madan founded She Wings once he realised the lack of awareness and also the lack of basics such as sanitary pads amongst low-income women. The foundation is doing a lot of good work in that they not only distribute pads amongst the poor but also educate women on the basics of menstrual hygiene. She Wings volunteers and workers also spend time with the men folk trying to deal with the biases and social taboos against menstruation.
As Madan said, it is a natural cleansing process and not something to be shunned and ostracised. He also recalled how a woman died due to a septic infection from a rusted hook while she was using an old blouse as a sanitary pad. That is when he realised the dire emergency of the situation for something as basic as menstrual hygiene and sanitary pads.
Both the audience in the studio and the entire team at We Women Want were very appreciative of the work that the She Wings team is doing, and indeed, it is efforts such as these that should be applauded and celebrated on the show. The show was moderated by NewsX Senior Executive Editor, Priya Sahgal, and will be on air this weekend on the channel.
Catch fresh episodes of “We Women Want” every Saturday at 7:30 PM on NewsX. The programme will also be streamed live on major OTT platforms-Dailyhunt, Zee5, MX Player, ShemarooMe, Watcho, Mzaalo, Jio TV, Tata Play, and PayTm livestreams.
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