Top doctors and healthcare experts Dr Rakesh Mishra, director of CSIR-CCMB, Dr Padma Srivastava, senior neurologist from All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences, and Dr S.K. Sarin, director of ILBS, told this paper why they think India is witnessing a massive surge in Covid-19 cases now and how this surge can be controlled. Excerpts:
Q. What explains the sudden surge in Covid-19?
Dr Rakesh Mishra: The most logical reason for the surge in Covid cases is that 2-3 months ago, things were in control, but gradually we started to become careless and common people thought that coronavirus is now gone and normal life can be resumed. We are seeing the consequence of that carelessness. When the number of cases rise, it picks up like a chain reaction. Political activities, farmers’ protests, marriage parties, local trains, schools reopening, restaurant opening, bars opening, malls opening and all such things mean lots of exposure to people in public and these things led to the sudden increase in cases. Also, over a period of time, more variants have emerged and this has affected a large number of people.
Q: In Punjab, we are seeing a lot of people been infected by the UK variant?
Dr Rakesh Mishra: You can actually link that very nicely if you see the data of the UK variant. It means that these are the travellers who initially came from the UK and then participated in some activity where a large number of people came together and then they went to smaller cities and villages and started to spread the virus. But the reason for spreading is only one which is when people are not careful. When people are in close proximity without protection to an infected person, who is also not protected, this is bound to happen. It doesn’t matter which variant it is.
Q. What would you like to say about the sudden surge?
Dr Padma Srivastava: Again, as Dr Mishra said, it is not really sudden. About 100 years ago, there was a very similar pandemic. There was also a second wave which was steeper and worse and then a third wave and then probably, it just vanished. So, what we are seeing today is not an unexpected development. What has happened now, as professor Mishra said, is the presence of variants. To add to it is Covid-inappropriate behavior, which may be due to Covid fatigue as well as overconfidence following the arrival of Covid vaccines. So, people threw caution to the wind at a time when mutants were present and active. Historically, we are going to hit waves and waves again. And for safety, vaccination and Covid-appropriate behaviour are the best bet.
Q: The situation in India is worsening, what are the steps we should all take now?
Dr S.K. Sarin: First, we have to accept that we have a difficult situation and we are actually having more infections now than we anticipated. This is likely to probably overshoot last year’s numbers; so first, we have to accept that we are down in the dumps, we are in trouble and, therefore, if we accept that, then certainly, we have to manage at least this wave of severe and rapidly spreading infection and then, the second step would be to think about how we can prevent a subsequent wave and not let these waves keep on coming and disturbing our economy and lives.
As Dr Mishra and Dr Padma have already said, in my opinion, this was anticipated even in January when things opened up very rapidly. We had the first mutant coming and the UK variant had come or at least was detected at that time and from then on, everyone knew that like in UK, in three months, it would lead to a major proportion of people getting infected. We are not doing as many sequencing as we should for the virus types, but it is anticipated that in a few weeks, this may become a major problem of viral variants infecting Indians. Of course, other variants are there; the virus has a life cycle of about 12-16 weeks until the time it has a major mutation.
So while they are occurring, we should be aware of mutants coming and infecting the population in different cities where it was not there. What is worrying is that we had opened up almost all our transport systems and our offices back in January thinking that the virus has gone away; also, we thought that now that the vaccine has arrived, all of us will be vaccinated soon. These two things have probably help the spread of the virus now. The worry now is the number of deaths piling up in the next 2 to 4 weeks’ time when the infection becomes deeper and more and more people get infected. I think the situation is difficult, but all of us have a collective responsibility.
Q: How can we check such waves?
Dr Rakesh Mishra: Genome sequencing let you explore the aspects of the virus–what kind of changes it is acquiring and if there is any particular area where a particular variant is increasing in number. We have to keep in mind that we are only generating the mutants by allowing the virus groups to spread across a large number of people and mutations are a natural process of any life form. Genome sequencing provides valuable information which gives us some hints about what might be happening, but to control the spread of the virus, we all have to be extremely careful and behave in a Covid-appropriate manner.
Q: Do you think lockdown is one of the useful options?
Dr S.K. Sarin: Once you finish two to four weeks of lockdown, people tend to think that the virus has gone and they start doing multiple times the level of activities they did earlier; so lockdown sometimes is not a very positive way of managing such things.
As Dr Padma said we have to get things like hospitals, ICU beds, drugs, protocols and healthcare workers in order; however, testing and tracing has to be as strict as possible. Lockdown has to be self imposed–you have to see that you actually lock yourself down compared to others to stop the transmission of the virus. The virus is like a villain, it will go away and then show up again and again.
We need to vaccinate our population faster; we have just done 7% vaccination of our population which is much less, especially with respect to areas where the virus is spreading fast like in Maharashtra or maybe Karnataka and Delhi. I think the age bar should be removed and mass vaccination is required as fast as possible. In the history of medicine, there has never been an occasion when the whole world has to be vaccinated and that too fast. So, there are challenges, challenges of making vaccines available, challenges of side effects, challenges of getting people to vaccinate and most importantly, getting people to accept a vaccine. Having said that, through the media, it is very important for us to communicate that there are two types of vaccines available: one is your mask and the second is the available vaccine and we have to employ both of them. Get your shot, do not be hesitant because there are advantages of getting a vaccine. Some people say he got two shots of vaccines, still he got infection, so what is the use of getting vaccination? But it is important to understand that if someone got vaccine shots and even then that person got infected, the infection will be milder. The severity of the disease is reduced as also the severity or possibility of transmitting the virus to others.
The other advantage of vaccines is that you will have antibodies which will at least last for six months to a year; but that should not make you abandon all the Covid-appropriate behavior. Also, once you have a vaccine, you can become and work like a frontline worker. No doctor, nurse, or healthcare worker should work if they have not received both doses of the vaccine. In fact, if there is a possibility, there is a support, we should test the immunization because vaccination is not equal to immunization; immunization means we have a high level of protective antibodies; we have not come to that stage yet. If you are over cautious that a certain vaccine may have side effects, we will lose more lives. Take whichever vaccine is available; they’re safe as millions have taken them.
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The Power of Seva
If I were to ask you as to what differentiates the human species from other species, your response would probably be that humans are bipedal, have the power of language, are self-aware, can think, but what really differentiates us is our capacity to do “seva”, our ability to help others. Only the human species has this capacity for helping all life forms, which we call altruism, prosocial and philanthropic behaviour. But the essence is captured in the word ‘seva.’
Seva is a Sanskrit word meaning selfless service and is perhaps considered the most important part of our existence. It asks us to serve others with no expectation of outcome. A parallel western concept is volunteerism/help/service/community/social service, philanthropy, and the more contemporary and chic Corporate Social Responsibility and Institutional Social Responsibility.
Seva is a motivational state that a person possesses with the goal of increasing the welfare of another living being. While Seva, on the surface, seems to benefit others, it is actually the individuals engaged in Seva who also benefit. Seva is positively correlated with happiness, health, and well-being. People who did Seva showed greater satisfaction in life and exhibited reduced rates of depression and anxiety. So when you feel depressed, lonely, or anxious, go out and do seva. It could be working with animals, humans, the environment, etc. It is therapeutic and all-consuming and leaves no room for negativity.
While many of us feel drawn to helping others, our ego tends to drop in and voice our own thoughts. We use it to promote ourselves, our brands, and flaunt our service, which makes it counterproductive. Ego can also judge how we serve others. It may tell us that some types of service are more noble than others. “Oh, you help your neighbour once a week with her groceries? Well, I run events that serve 500 people.” “Oh, you help animals. Why don’t you help old people or children? “ This is not seva but the ego at work, because the aim of seva is to silence the ego, dissolve the ego, as all mental diseases emanate from the ego and its fears.
When we serve with the essence of seva in mind, we begin to see the myriad ways the ego, the source of all our troubles, is standing in front of the heart. When we transition from the head to the heart, then Seva becomes a practice of purification, a spiritual act. It is also in listening to the heart that we begin to understand that our innermost nature is a giving one. While the ego mind may tell us we need to focus on ourselves and even when we serve, it is when we shift into the spirit of seva that we realise we are naturally kind. In other words, we are naturally moved to serve others. It is when we do seva that we realise that all life is connected and working for others is the only path to mental fitness, wellness, and wellbeing and the royal road to spiritual growth.
The question you need to ask yourself for your happiness is, “Did you do Seva today?”
Dr Chavi Sharma Bhargava is the founder and CEO of Indic Center for Psychological Wellness and Holistic Health and Conversationists-Talking Cures.
Dr Vishali Gupta becomes first female Asian President of global Uveitis body
In a rare feat, a female ophthalmologist from Asia has become President of the International Uveitis Society Group and has been able to mark PGIMER at the global level. Uveitis is a field of medical science in which rare specialists are found and trained so far. The Daily Guardian had a one-on-one conversation with Dr Vishali Gupta on this and talked about the responsibilities she would have as president of this prestigious society.
What is this society all about? What is Uveitis?
The International Uveitis Study Group was formed in 1978 by a small number of clinicians who shared a common interest in Uveitis. Over the next almost 40 years, the group has increased in size to over 180 Uveitis specialists from all over the world.
What is uveitis?
Uveitis is the name given to inflammation inside the eye that, in some patients, can lead to blindness. It can affect one or both eyes, and the inflammation involves the uveal tract (iris, ciliary body, and choroid), although inflammation of adjacent tissues, such as vitreous humour, retina, and optic nerve also occurs. It could be due to an autoimmune disease and sees no age.
How long has the PGIMER been treating Uveitis, and how many experts does the department have?
PGIMER, under the stewardship of Dr Amod Gupta, has been working in the field of Uveitis since the 1990s. Then Dr Vishali Gupta, along with five experts, inducted Tuberculosis in Uveitis for the first time in the world. PGIMER has a special clinic for Uveitis patients, and these patients’ treatments are long, sometimes lifelong. Since PGIMER has Rheumatology, Microbiology, Research Scientists, and Pediatricians all under one roof, it is easy for the patients to get the best treatment. In the other sectors, it is not that easy.
Foods that can help you REDUCE headaches, migraine
Following a healthy diet can increase longevity, protect against disease, and improve your overall quality of life. Several nutrients in food promote health and protect your body from disease. The “Food as Medicine” concept generally refers to managing food and diet in an individual’s routine, with the aim of preventing, reducing symptoms of, or reversing a disease process. Research has shown that dietary habits can influence risk factors for disease. While certain foods can trigger and aggravate health conditions, others may offer significant medicinal and therapeutic advantages.
Headaches are a common occurrence that is encountered routinely by individuals. A study conducted by Biman K Ray in 2017 revealed that the one-year prevalence of migraine in an Indian population was found to be 14.12%. Headaches can be triggered by several small incidents that might not be considered significant. Sleepless nights, skipping breakfast, work pressure or stress, and excessive blue-screen exposure are all examples of irregular routines that can cause headaches. Migraine is a disabling primary headache disorder experienced predominantly by women and triggered by hormonal, emotional, physical, dietary, environmental, and medicinal factors.
In individuals, migraine triggers can include specific foods or types of foods. Eating a healthy diet can help prevent migraines and headaches. Alternatively, certain foods can decrease the frequency of migraine headaches or lessen the intensity of their symptoms. Though no definitive ‘migraine diet’ has been described,’ individuals may be able to reduce their migraines by monitoring the food that they eat.
Foods to avoid
Nuts and certain seeds: Tyramine, present in nuts and certain seeds, can induce headaches and migraines.
Cheese: Aged cheese consists of high levels of tyramine, which aggravates migraines and headaches.
Caffeine: According to clinical studies, drinking more than one to two cups of coffee per day can cause migraines in 14% of patients.
Chocolate: Chocolate is the most common migraine food trigger, and it has been epidemiologically linked to migraine attacks, so doctors typically advise migraine patients to avoid it.
Tomato-based products: They contain a high amount of histamine or tyramine that can aggravate migraines.
Avoid processed (packaged) foods: Nitrates and nitrites present in processed foods cause swelling of the blood vessels and can trigger migraines.
Foods to consume
Dark green leafy vegetables: Study published in BMJ Case report revealed that inclusion of leafy vegetables in meals can play pivotal role in relieving migraine or chronic headache .
Turmeric: Curcumin present in turmeric helps in relieving migraine frequency and duration.
Coriander: Consumption of coriander leads to a greater reduction in the duration, severity, and frequency of migraines.
Citron: It has reported several benefits in clinical trials however it also helps in reducing migraine intensity and duration.
Clinical trials of several herbal medicines indicate that various foods, through their multifactorial physiological influences, present potential options to improve migraine treatment.
The author is MD, Clinical Pharmacologist and Nutraceutical Physician, Founder and CEO IntelliMed Healthcare Suctions.
Active Covid cases have decreased, with 3,947 cases reported in the last 24 hours
According to Union Health Ministry data updated on Friday, India’s COVID-19 case tally increased by 3,947 in a day to 4,45,87,307, while active cases decreased to 39,583.
The death toll has risen to 5,28,629, with 18 more deaths, including nine fatalities reconciled by Kerala, according to data updated at 8 a.m.
According to the health ministry, active cases account for 0.09 per cent of total infections, while the national COVID-19 recovery rate has increased to 98.73 per cent.
The daily positivity rate was 1.23 per cent, with a weekly positivity rate of 1.44 per cent.
The number of active Covid cases fell by 1,167 in a single day, while the number of people who recovered from the disease rose to 4,40,19,095. The case fatality rate was calculated to be 1.19 per cent.
According to the ministry, the Nationwide Vaccination Drive has resulted in the administration of 218.52 crore total vaccine doses (94.84 crores second dose and 21.19 crore precaution dose).
Two deaths were reported in Maharashtra and West Bengal, and one each in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Karnataka, Haryana, and Chhattisgarh. Kerala has made amends for nine deaths.
On August 7, 2020, India’s COVID-19 case tally surpassed 20 lakh, followed by 30 lakh on August 23, 40 lakh on September 5, and 50 lakh on September 16. It surpassed 60 lakh on September 28, 70 lakh on October 11, 80 lakh on October 29, 90 lakh on November 20, and one crore on December 19.
Last year, the country passed the two crore mark on May 4 and the three crore mark on June 23. On January 25, this year, it surpassed the four-crore mark.
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
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