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Health & Wellness

PLANT-BASED OR ANIMAL-BASED? CHOOSE YOUR PROTEIN WISELY

Let’s understand the benefits of plant-based protein diets over animal protein diets.

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In recent years, the requirement of protein in the daily diet has gained significant popularity. Using alternative forms of protein has burgeoned and more people are fueling themselves with healthier supplements, i.e., plant-based protein diets such as soy products like tofu or soybeans. People are increasingly moving away from conventional animal-based proteins and are opting for plant-based alternatives.

When compared to an animal-based protein diet, these plant-based alternatives are best consumed in either whole-food or minimally processed form. Vegetables, fruits, legumes (beans), nuts, seeds, tubers (potatoes, for example) and whole grains make up most of the plant-based diet. The term “animal-based” refers to a diet high in animal products such as meat, dairy, eggs, and so on.

The existence of plant-based proteins has created a platform to start cutting the amount of meat on your plate in half and replace it with them instead. Provided below are some of the benefits:

Plant-based proteins are complete proteins

It’s a common myth that plant protein is inferior to animal protein. To ensure an adequate amount of protein intake in one’s daily diet, it isn’t necessary to consume meat. If one doesn’t want to give up on animal-based protein completely, maybe consider switching to a “flexitarian” diet, i.e., eating more plant-based foods but also include animal proteins in a minimal amount. Being on a plant-based diet is more of an eating philosophy than a specific diet. Instead of keeping track of calories or hitting daily macronutrient targets, it just boils down to consuming plant-based foods.

Plant-based proteins are more sustainable

Climate change and depleting natural resources make it all the more important than ever to consider the planet’s well-being when deciding what to eat. It’s not all doom and gloom, and shifting to a healthy, plant-based diet is an important part of the answer. Plant protein is more resource-effective and efficient to produce than animal protein, making it a more sustainable choice. Foods such as beans, peas, and lentils are some examples of low-resource crops.

Plant-based proteins keep the body healthy

Vitamins, minerals, fibres, antioxidants, and other compounds are abundantly rich in plant-derived proteins. A large number of healthy fats can also be included in certain ways. Plant proteins such as beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains include a certain amount of healthy fat and are high in nutrients. Plant proteins also help in balancing the body weight and keep it in control. An effective way to begin weight-loss attempts is to try a diet that excludes added fats and animal products. Adding more plants to your diet is a great way to achieve your ideal weight.

Embracing plant-based protein diets can also help in lowering blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and body mass index and reduces the risk of stroke and heart attacks. Owing to its advantages, doctors and nutritionists prescribe a plant-based diet to most of their patients.

Plant-based proteins are budget-friendly

Plant-based protein products are extremely cost-effective. Beans, lentils, and peas are some of the most cost-effective and great sources of protein from the plant. Other high-protein alternatives that might cost a little more (nuts and seeds, for example) can be of a good nutritious value. They also include healthy fats and other vital nutrients, allowing you to get more bang for your buck.

Switching to plant-based protein alternatives is beneficial to one’s health and replaces some (or all) animal protein in one’s diet. Plant-based protein has several advantages, including higher fibre intake, a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and some forms of cancer, and weight loss benefits. This changing image represents a shift in how we think about nutrition: whatever the diet choice is, one should know which food to avoid and which food to seek out.

The writer is Director, Veggie Champ.

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Health & Wellness

COVID CONTROL VIA BETTER PUBLIC AWARENESS AND BOLD INSTITUTIONAL RESPONSE

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From the unusual anatomical challenges of Covid-19 swiftly exhausting the common man’s savings, followed by acute depression, and anxiety-ridden days in two spells, people have had enough in the last 15 months. The existing gap in the number of deaths vis a vis rapid reduction in confirmed cases after 55 days, makes it apparent that the role of science appears subdued. Instead, the psychological dimensions are assuming a greater role. After the first anniversary of the Janta Curfew on 22 March 2020, we have a choice of at least eight vaccines (four in India) as compared to none earlier.

These are the fresh developments:

(a) Alpha (B.1.1.7) to Delta (B.1.617.2) variant switch leading to most devastating spike from 99,181 cases on 10 September (fell to 88,198 on 2 April) to a rise to 93,249 on 4 April and again to 4,14,188 cases on 7 May 

(b) Findings of Indian scientists of NCDC and IGIB, that prior infections and one dose vaccination are insufficient against the virus, need to be flagged first. Thus, light on the necessity to have upgraded public awareness, conduct, and behaviour may have to be thrown. It will have to be supported by a robust public health response.

‘FOREIGN’ MUTATIONS AND VARIANTS

From a period of disturbing developments between the first week of 13 April to 14 May, showing creeping up 24-hour cases, positivity, CFR, and active case rates, there was a downward trend but a slow reduction in the number of casualties disturbs. One of the English dailies hinted at 771 Covid variants, whereas another daily had presented a very grim picture of Maharastra and Kerala on one hand and Punjab and Chattisgarh on the other. These were all having cases of Alfa, now renamed to Delta by the WHO, these are cases of Californian, the U.K. type, South African, and the Brazilian variant. In a vast, congested, and casual India, fresh Covid awareness and appropriate conduct are very much necessary. 

Interestingly, one study of AIIMS had indicated that the common cold virus may have saved many Indians. Further, cross-reactive T cells from coronavirus that cause common cold may not protect from Covid but by responding to SARS-CoV-2 protein, they may restrict the severity of the disease. Also, immunity from Indian food habits may have been a contributing factor.

Whatever it may be, longer resistance or distance of about seven feet cannot always be enforced or guaranteed by the executive, each time an announcement is made regarding lockdown or Covid curfew.

BETTER CARE AND CONDUCT A MUST

As opposed to blanket 68 days of lockdown of the first wave, the liberal measures of the second wave lockdown (54 days) and slowly emerging concessions, have not boomeranged exactly but the government can always be ‘taken for granted’.

While the desire for a change or ‘breathing out’ after a long spell may be imagined, if not appreciated, a close look at people’s habits and reactions in the last few weeks even while rushing for vaccinations are not at all encouraging. 

FAITH OR FEAR

Unconvincing and inconclusive debate on this issue has been on since the beginning of Maha Kumbh. Despite meticulous planning, mobilisation of large manpower and sizeable expenditure, not only hundreds of pilgrims died but very aged heads of eight Akharas also expired. Hence, taking a chance itself proved to be a ‘sin’. Further, threats emerged from apparently essential festivities, weddings, death ceremonies, unwanted urge for window shopping, recreating networking, away from home offices and whatnot. 

MEGA SPREADERS

The mega spreaders were three day Holi celebrations and five weeks of the election process in four states and one Union Territory that made a mockery of all Covid protocols. Not only the election-bound states together with the Election Commission of India avoided adopting strict measures, Covid data collection, its analysis and final report to the Centre too suffered. And as yet, a very modest number of cases and casualty figures are being reported from otherwise tension causing and volatile states of Bihar, West Bengal, and Assam.

NORTHEAST SCENE

Though Northeast states of Sikkim, Manipur, Mizoram, and Meghalaya did not undergo elections, they are reporting case-fatality ratio (CFR) and positivity rates higher than the national average for a month, mainly on account of the public non-cooperation.

Incidentally, the above-indicated parameters were within limits during the first wave and the first quarter of 2021. This speaks of a clear compromise on Covid awareness and prescribed protocols.

SOME REMEDIES

According to a study of Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad while there is an immediate need to avoid crowded places and hygiene will have to be ensured and the earlier practice of carrying sanitiser may have to be insisted upon. Taxi and TSR drivers must refix plastic sheets. One should carry minimum cash and valuables while leaving home.

NATIONAL SCENE

We are taking pride in being the world leader in vaccinations(almost 23.11 crore doses so far) but one forgets the loss factor, at a time when some of the countries are yet to begin even the first round. The average 10% loss of vaccines in Andhra Pradesh, Telengana, and Uttar Pradesh is something unpalatable.

60 PLUS DESERVE CARE 

Also, slow coverage of 60 plus category is a matter of extreme concern. Not more than 50 % achievement has been recorded. Thus one can imagine the time to be taken for vaccinating over 20.2 crore people in this group. Not always official callousness may cause misery. Experience of many states has shown that people are in double mind even after registration and taking the first dose. Another threat comes from the listeners/viewers picking up a few shortfalls quickly and circulating the same without realising the consequences. But genuine success stories are mostly ignored.

NEGLECT OF VILLAGERS

Another disturbing development is very little focus on rural areas. Not only precious time is lost but rural folks are also manoeuvred easily by the negative news. Further, carelessness can be fatal in future, irrespective of ongoing summer and freak weather conditions.

Measures like night curfew, 33 % office attendance, restarting metro with 50% occupancy, and partial building activity etc. may not help at the moment. The behaviour pattern of relatively well-off citizens looks incorrigible while the poor continue to suffer. The desire to have fresh air gets multiplied day after day.  While a thorough review of institutional mechanism should be on cards, the Central government will also have to extend the present lockdown and reconsider the decision to delay the second dose of the vaccine.

In the public domain, it is not always an ideal-typical scenario. Life is full of compromises, especially in a happening place like India. For right-thinking individuals, the dictum of self-help being the help may also work. More and more casual behaviour will prove counterproductive. Also expecting everything from the government may not be fair.

The writer is the ex-Chief Secretary, the Government of Sikkim. The views expressed are personal.

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Health & Wellness

HEALTHCARE BEYOND CORONAVIRUS

Christina A. D'Souza

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Covid-19 has dominated the health discourse for over a year now but it doesn’t feel like a ‘Happy Anniversary’. Newspaper headlines aren’t going to change much in the next few months; public attention is focused on more possible lockdowns, rising Covid-19 numbers and higher mortality. 

Meanwhile, another crisis may be brewing just below our national radar.

Covid-19 has had significant effects on healthcare workers, the healthcare infrastructure and healthcare systems. Most of all, the pandemic has had a serious impact on patients that fall into two categories:

• First, interruptions in treatment, testing and monitoring on patients – particularly those with non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like diabetes, cancer and heart disease – are expected to raise long-term risks

• Second, many medical experts also believe Covid-19 will have even more serious effects on patients with NCDs

Both impacts need deeper analysis.

The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare’s (MoHFW) Health Management Information System data reported that inpatient admissions declined by 45% in the first quarter of FY 2020-21 (April to June), compared to the same period in the previous year. Anecdotal reports suggest that things haven’t improved since then, though we will have to wait for more updated information.

Outpatient visits declined by 43%, including treatment of cancer and acute heart disease. Doctors fear that the delays in treatment can have longer-term effects; patients’ conditions could have become much more dangerous. A large number — 28% — of patients with kidney disease have missed at least one dialysis session. 

Before the pandemic, NCDs were already the biggest cause of deaths globally; they killed 41 million people each year, or 71% of deaths (in India that number is 61.8%. According to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Global Burden of Disease study, more than 182 million people in India suffer from NCDs. In a rapid assessment of service delivery for NCDs reported in June 2020, the WHO found that health facilities in rural India received 30% fewer patients with acute cardiac emergency patients in March 2020, compared to the previous year.

Mortality rate analysis could provide other clues on the pandemic’s impact on NCD patients. The Consumer Pyramids Household Survey (CPHS) covers the same 232,000 households three times a year and captures data on mortality (but not cause of death). An analysis by Renuka Sane and Ajay Shah of the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP) showed that it almost doubled in 2020 over 2019. Covid-19 couldn’t fully account for the increase, but death from one or more NCDs could at least partially explain the significant jump in mortality.

From the currently available information, how long the pandemic will persist, is not clear, but it is not expected to be permanent. NCDs, however, are going to be around for a long time. The Covid-19 pandemic shows us the urgency of addressing gaps in our healthcare system that could significantly reduce national health risks over the long term. 

WHAT CAN WE DO?

The first challenge is to improve access to healthcare services; this is partly addressed by telehealth/telemedicine, but more is needed. Providing access to medicines, vaccines, and services even to the most remote locations is necessary. The healthcare system should be able to respond to situations like Covid-19, quickly and effectively. How? Private-public partnerships: and solutions should increase both the scope and scale of access.

Second, the spirit of Atmanirbharata or self-reliance will have to be real. Nowhere is this more critical than in the domestic manufacturing capacity of APIs, or active pharmaceutical ingredients, a key input in drug-making. Almost all our entire API needs are met by imports; this is unsustainable. Government can create self-reliance with the right policy incentives.

Third, as the world’s pharmacy, we have to get bigger and better. In short, Indian pharma companies need to innovate, invent, and discover new drugs and therapies. This is a long-haul affair, but even the longest journey begins with the first step. Investing in research and development needs both initiative, and a supportive and stable policy environment. Drug companies say they have the inclination and can make up for the lost time.

US President John F Kennedy once pointed out that the Chinese word for crisis is made up of two characters: one represents danger and the other opportunity. We are living through the danger; let’s also take on the opportunity and press down on the accelerator pedal. 

The writer is Healthcare Practice Lead at SPAG.

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Health & Wellness

HOW TO MANAGE STRESS IN HYPERTENSION PATIENTS

Psychological issues in Covid-19 times may take a toll on health in already-at-risk hypertensive patients. Read and find out the reasons and ways to cope with it.

Dr Sandesh Prabhu

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The Covid-19 pandemic poses a significant effect on physical and psychological stress. The whole world is witnessing a high rate of morbidity and mortality. It is common to have mental issues, including fear, anxiety, and depression during such a scenario. However, it is necessary to manage these conditions, especially in people with cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension. Psychological issues may take a toll on health in already-at-risk hypertensive patients.

IMPACT OF THE PANDEMIC ON CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH

The pandemic has affected the life at every quarter including the physical and mental health of an individual. Several studies have revealed an increase in psychological stress in the people who have recovered from Covid-19. People who are living in an environment filled with fear and uncertainty also experience stress.

Hypertensive patients with advanced age and other conditions such as previous heart problems, diabetes, obesity, and chronic kidney disease have a poor outcome from Covid-19 infection. Such patients must take care of their physical and mental health.

Psychological stress due to the pandemic may occur at any age. However, the symptoms of poor psychological health vary with age. Stress in adults includes lack of interest, lethargy, increased irritation and shouting, emotional outbursts, alteration in the sleep cycles, and depression. 

Various reasons contribute to poor mental health due to the pandemic in patients with hypertension. Some of them are:

Fear: There is an unparalleled fear in the environment. The fear of losing oneself and the loved ones’ lives 

Reduced Physical Activity: Studies revealed a significant reduction in sleep quality, mental health, and physical activity in people with hypertension due to the pandemic. Low physical activity results in poor control of blood pressure 

There is evidence of poor mental health in the people categorised into high-risk groups. Patients with chronic conditions such as hypertension and heart problems experience a high level of anxiety, stress and depression. Mental health further takes a toll when such people contract Covid-19.

Lack of Social Interaction: Hypertension occurs more commonly in adults and the elderly. However, the increased risk of serious illness due to Covid-19 have confined them within the home boundaries. It has affected blood pressure control and cardiac health 

Negativity in the Environment: Social media, newspapers and news channels are continuously delivering information about Covid-19. Further, people are also receiving information about the severe illness or death of their relatives. It creates a negative environment around patients with cardiovascular disease, thereby impacting their cardiac health.

Admissions in the Hospitals: The healthcare system is working at full stretch, and people are searching for beds, oxygen, and ventilators. Patients admitted to the hospital witnesses death and panic resulting in mental stress.

Increase in Domestic Issues: The incidences of domestic violence and family fights have increased during a pandemic. It may be due to spending more time among family members in close contact. Irritation due to job losses and financial constraints further compounds stress, anxiety, and depression.

Functional Limitations: Functional limitations in hypertensive patients due to lockdown had increased mental stress. Cardiac patients may have severe illness due to Covid-19, which results in extended recovery time. Confined to bed also causes psychological stress.

COPING STRATEGIES FOR MANAGING PSYCHOLOGICAL STRESS

There are various ways to manage stress in hypertensive patients during Covid-19. Some of them are:

Physical Activity: Indulging yourself in physical activity may reduce stress and anxiety. Make exercise part of your daily routine. Various online exercise classes will help to maintain physical activity.

People with chronic diseases require a regular follow-up that reduces the probability of deterioration. All people should strictly follow the universal Covid-19 protocols. Minimising media exposure, practising relaxation technique, and monitoring blood pressure helps in reducing stress.

Minimise Exposure to Media Coverage: Limit your media exposure. Overburdening yourself with Covid-19 information throughout the day may result in poor mental health outcomes. Do not believe in fake information and educate yourself from the trusted sources.

Maintain Good Sleep: Pandemic had caused a disturbance in the sleep cycle. You may experience difficulty sleeping or problem waking up. Keeping a healthy sleep routine improves immunity and helps in managing blood pressure control and maintaining a good cardiac condition 

Practice Relaxation Techniques: There are various relaxation methods available that may help you in managing psychological issues. You may practice yoga or meditation. 

Monitor Your Blood Pressure: You must have your blood pressure under control. Take medicines strictly as prescribed by your doctor. Do not skip scheduled appointment and seek video consultation if possible. Monitor your blood pressure.

Seek Support: Do not hesitate to share your feelings with your family and friends. It is a powerful stress buster. If you have a persistent fear of getting infected, share your feelings.

Follow Passion: Indulge yourself in the activities you love. It may be gardening, cooking, painting, music or dancing. It will divert your mind from all the negativities and improve your cardiac health.

Instil Positive Attitude: Fear and a negative attitude may worsen your cardiac health. Many patients suffering from Covid-19 had deteriorated their condition due to sadness, depression, and hopelessness.

Taking care of physical and mental health during the pandemic is critical, especially in people suffering from cardiovascular disease. It will help in coping with psychological issues and taking care of cardiac health

The writer is a Consultant – Cardiology & Electrophysiology, Manipal Hospitals Whitefield, Bengaluru.

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Health & Wellness

SMOKING AND COVID-19 CAN OVERBURDEN YOUR LUNGS

As the lungs of a smoker are already in a bad shape, Covid-19 can further worsen its condition. Therefore, it is advised to quit smoking and take all precautions to safeguard the lungs.

Dr. Hirenappa Udnur

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The lungs were not given the importance as they ought to be until the second wave of Covid-19 surfaced. Lungs are often taken for granted. The wellness of the lungs is given priority only when any complication arises. Lungs are the vital organ in our body that converts the oxygen from the air which we inhale and transfer to the bloodstream. For many years healthcare professionals have stressed the importance of maintaining healthy lungs and advising people to quit smoking. However, many have not paid heed to this advice. 

All of us are aware that the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19 disease obstructs the respiratory system majorly affecting the lungs. This infection is certainly testing our lungs. As lungs play a major role in the overall working of the body, it becomes crucial to ensure lung health to put up a fight against this infectious disease. 

Covid-19 can cause lung complications like pneumonia, acute respiratory distress, and in some fatal cases, total collapse of the lungs. In cases of pneumonia, the air sacs in the lungs are filled with fluid and the valves of the lungs get inflamed resulting in difficulty in breathing and severe cough. Many people recover from pneumonia without much effect on the lungs. But in cases of pneumonia due to Covid-19, people face severe breathing difficulties which take a longer time to recover putting an extra burden on the lungs. If pneumonia progresses it can lead to acute respiratory diseases in which more of the air sacs will get filled up with the fluid leaking from the blood vessels in the lungs. This can lead to severe shortness of breath. 

As Covid-19 infection takes the respiratory route to enter a person, the burden on the lungs is phenomenal. This burden on the lungs increases among people who smoke. As the smoke moves into the respiratory tract, more soluble gases are adsorbed and particles are deposited in the airways and alveoli. This in the long run can lead to severe problems related to the lungs. Smoking can increase the chances of COPD among people leading to a faster decline of lung functioning. The chemicals in the cigarettes can also cause irreversible lung damage. In addition, smoking can destroy the cilia or tiny hairs that are present in the airways. These hairs keep dirt and mucus out of your lungs. When these cilia are destroyed, one can develop a chronic cough that is often seen in long-term or daily smokers.

Though there is no proof that smoking can make a person vulnerable to develop Covid-19 or the severity of the infection increases if the person is smoking, it is a known fact that both smoking and Covid-19 infection is putting an extra burden on the lungs. As the lungs of a smoker are already in a bad shape, Covid-19 can further worsen its health. Therefore, it is advised to quit smoking and take all precautions to safeguard the lungs. 

Two functions determine the overall health of lungs — Lung capacity and lung function. While lung capacity is depending on the genes, making the lungs function properly is up to us.

Here are a few tips you can follow to have healthy lungs:

Exercise — At least 30 minutes of daily exercise is imperative for adults to avoid any lung distress. Indulge in a physical activity that makes you breathe heavily. It increases the flow of oxygen in your bloodstream that increases airflow to your muscles, heart, and lungs. Running, brisk walking, cycling, and swimming are the few suggested exercises. 

Diet — Choice of food is crucial for lung and immune system health. It is being noticed that people with underlying ailments have been affected badly due to Covid-19. It could be due to chronic inflammation. Many foods assist the body with decreasing inflammation in the airways. Consume proper nutritional food, particularly food high in antioxidants like fruits and vegetables.

Quit smoking —It is not only lung cancer but inhaling anything other than air into your lungs causes them to become inflamed. This can lead to mucus build-up that impacts the lung’s ability to process oxygen into the bloodstream. For a person already having lung damage, treatment becomes a factor and the recovery may get delayed. 

Oral health —Maintain good oral health. Avoid the buildup of plaque and infection in the mouth. These infections could also affect the lungs. 

With Covid-19 second wave affecting both the young and older generation, the number of cases of Covid-19 and people needing oxygen support has increased. We are at a juncture where paying attention to our lung health and working towards its betterment gains utmost importance.  

The writer is a Consultant – Pulmonologist, Columbia Asia Hospital, Hebbal (A unit of Manipal Hospitals).

Covid-19 infection takes the respiratory route to enter a person so the burden on the lungs is phenomenal. This burden on the lungs increases among people who smoke. As the smoke moves into the respiratory tract, more soluble gases are adsorbed and particles are deposited in the airways and alveoli. This in the long run can lead to severe problems related to the lungs.

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Health & Wellness

IMPACT OF MATERNAL MENTAL HEALTH ON FOETUS

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Pregnancy brings in a mixed bag of feelings, at one end it gives unending happiness as it is an exciting time for every woman. On the other hand, don’t be surprised if you experience some emotional change at this time.

Studies have shown that maternal mental health issues can begin during pregnancy and persist for longer with far more significant consequences for children than most people understand. Therefore, mental health and wellbeing during pregnancy are just as important as your physical health. A mentally fit woman is in the best position to manage the challenges of pregnancy and life with a new baby.

MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLBEING

As you prepare to have a baby come into your life, it’s normal to have some worries and fears. While many people feel unusually stressed thinking about the big change in their lives and that they can’t fully prepare for or control, it’s also an exciting time and when handled with care it gives utmost satisfaction.

At the same time, pregnancy can be stressful and along with dealing with hormonal and physical changes, you may feel the additional burden of antenatal tests and particularly if you’ve had a prior bad experience, such as a miscarriage.

For these reasons, there is a likelihood of developing a mental health condition during pregnancy.

MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES DURING PREGNANCY

Both women and men are likely to experience mental health issues during the pregnancy i.e., antenatal period, as well as after the birth, postnatal period. Some of them experience depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder (less common) during pregnancy.

While antenatal depression is seen in up to 1 in 10 women and 1 in 20 men, antenatal anxiety is also common and many people even experience anxiety and depression at the same time.

Some studies suggest that pregnant women have higher anxiety and a greater psychological impact in the Covid-19 outbreak. Therefore, it is important to identify high-risk women to suggest early psychological interventions and prevent some pregnancy stress-related complications.

BABY BLUES AND POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION

Postpartum “baby blues” after childbirth commonly include mood swings, crying spells, anxiety and difficulty sleeping. Baby blues usually begin within the first two to three days after delivery and may last for up to two weeks.

While some new moms experience baby blues that may last for a few days, few may experience a more severe, long-lasting form of depression known as postpartum depression. prompt treatment can help you manage your symptoms of postpartum depression and help you bond with your baby.

Rarely, some women may develop an extreme mood disorder called postpartum psychosis after childbirth.

Tips to manage your mental wellbeing:

• Be realistic and don’t expect too much of yourself

• Avoid major changes at this time, like moving house or changing jobs

• Keep physically active, consult your doctor before you start an exercise program.

• Stay away from drugs and alcohol to deal with stress.

• Eat healthy meals at regular intervals

• Ask for help if you need it

• Eat healthy meals at regular intervals

• Stay away from drugs or alcohol to deal with stress

• Mingle with other expectant parents to support each other

The writer is Gynaecologist, Obstetrician and IVF Expert, Nurture IVF.

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Health & Wellness

PHARMA INDUSTRY: PROVIDING IMPETUS TO COUNTRY’S PUBLIC HEALTH

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India is grappling with the second wave of Covid-19 and its healthcare infrastructure is under considerable stress. The unprecedented sharp spike in cases in the last two months created a huge demand-supply gap of critical requirements including a few Covid-19 drugs. Since then, Indian pharma companies have taken steps to ramp up the production of Covid-19 drugs such as Remdesivir to manage the demand for essential medicines in Covid-19.

In this context, the progress of the Indian pharma industry has an influence on Indian healthcare. Over the last two decades, the pharma industry has significantly contributed towards improving public health outcomes, both in India and across the globe. During the onset of the pandemic, the industry quickly mobilised its resources to tackle the supply chain disruptions. As a result, no drug shortages were reported from India. However, this win was soon overpowered by the second wave of coronavirus in the country. The lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic have shown the significance of the pharmaceutical industry and hinted at the possibility of its growth. However, certain limitations require long-pending due diligence.

Over a period, the pharma industry is oscillating between stringent regulations and meeting diverse patient needs. Nonetheless, the pandemic opened doors to the possibility of collaboration and cooperation. We witnessed the government and pharma industry taking a united stand to fight the current pandemic. It’s time to cushion the health system from the aftermath of the second surge and protect the most vulnerable population by strengthening local pharmaceutical manufacturing and building resilient supply chains.

THINKING BEYOND THE PRESENT CRISIS 

We must act prudently to safeguard and strengthen the existing healthcare system. The pharma industry has played a pivotal role in supporting the healthcare ecosystem of the country. However, the responsibilities will increase with the rising patient pool and disease burden. 

With the increasing load of Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the current scenario, the focus should be on reducing healthcare inequalities. A recent report stated that NCDs are responsible for at least 65% of deaths in India. The financial burden of chronic diseases is soaring, and India needs to continuously strive to improve the accessibility and affordability of quality medicines. Despite an increase in the cost of raw material, there is less or no increase in formulation costs given that the drug pricing is governed by NPPA rules. 

The pharma industry is working round the clock to meet the growing requirements. The pharma companies have shown a lot of agility in maintaining the supply chain and have been meeting the escalating requirement of Covid products like vitamins, antibiotics, painkillers, and blood thinners. Along with ramping up the production, companies are also working towards dovetailing production and supply chain. 

PLI SCHEME: FIRST STEP TOWARDS NEW POSSIBILITIES 

The new PLI (Production Linked Incentives) scheme is expected to have a positive impact to drive India’s efforts towards self-sufficiency. It will also help the industry to improve on APIs and intermediates. Effective implementation of the scheme is crucial, and it will take some years to achieve the objective of the scheme in terms of accelerating domestic manufacturing. 

ROLE OF PHARMA SECTOR IN PROVIDING EQUITABLE ACCESS TO QUALITY MEDICINE

No one can deny the fact that the pandemic exposed the issue of inequality to access healthcare in India and even globally. This calls for immediate attention towards healthcare reforms to promote universal access to affordable care. This is an opportunity for the Indian pharma industry to contribute towards equitable and sustainable healthcare. The industry has been continuously working to provide an uninterrupted supply of medicines. Fostering public-private partnerships can also play a crucial role.

The pharma industry can play a critical role in addressing the gaps in Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP). Units in both sectors can synergise for better channelisation of their efforts in R&D, capacity building, experience, and expertise to ensure availability, affordability, and quality of medicines procured through the PMBJP.

FOCUS ON PREVENTIVE HEALTH 

India has a complex healthcare system with various socio-economic factors at play. Hence, focussing on preventive health and self-care can help us achieve certain short-term goals. The high expertise of the pharma industry can enable people to prevent and manage diseases better by proving information that rolls beyond products and services on relevant platforms. For instance, initiating a comprehensive disease management program including useful resources, information on medical experts, and more can be a wise decision. 

Covid-19 has brought the Indian healthcare system under the scanner of the general population. A well-rounded approach from all stakeholders will help in decoding the obstacles and improve the accessibility of medicines at affordable prices for the patients in need. To take a high leap, it is imperative to align the entire ecosystem including the government, academia, hospitals, and regulators towards a shared goal – better public health outcome.

The writer is a public health expert.

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