Friday, March 28, 2008

Brain has sixth sense for calories

NEW YORK: The brain has a way of sensing calories in food, independent of the taste mechanism, according to a new study.

The discovery that the brain's reward system is switched on by this "sixth sense" machinery could have implications for understanding the causes of obesity.

For example, the findings suggest why high-fructose corn syrup, widely used as a sweetener in foods, might contribute to obesity.

Findings of the study have been published in the latest issue of the journal Neuron.

Ivan de Araujo and his research colleagues genetically altered mice to make them "sweet-blind", or lacking a key component of taste receptor cells that enabled them to detect the sweet taste.

The researchers next performed behavioural tests in which they compared normal and sweet-blind mice in their preference for sugar solutions and those containing the non-caloric sweetener sucralose.

In those tests, the sweet-blind mice showed a preference for calorie containing sugar water that did not depend on their ability to taste, but on the calorie content.

In analysing the brains of the sweet-blind mice, researchers showed that the animals' reward circuitry was switched on by caloric intake, independent of the animals' ability to taste.

Those analyses showed that levels of the brain chemical dopamine, known to be central to activating the reward circuitry, increased with caloric intake.

Also, electrophysiological studies showed that neurons in the food-reward region, called the nucleus accumbens, were activated by caloric intake, independent of taste.

ICICI Lombard to tie up with UnitedHealth Group

Indian insurer's policyholders traveling to US will have access to US-based healthcare firm's programmes and services
Through this initiative, ICICI Lombard's 1.6 million policyholders traveling to the US, who are covered by the insurer's Overseas Travel Insurance or Student Overseas Medical Insurance, will have access to the US-based healthcare firm's programmes and services.
Sudhir Menon, head, travel insurance, ICICI Lombard, said, "This partnership is an innovative benefit for Indians, who are increasingly traveling abroad for both occupational and educational purposes."
"We look forward to leveraging the assets of UnitedHealth Group to deliver the best in service and resources to our customers throughout their travels to the United States," he said.
UnitedHealth International CEO Ori Karev said, "Our new partnership with ICICI Lombard is an important step in making access to cross-border health care more seamless for consumers, a model we are exploring in multiple markets."
ICICI Lombard is a 74:26 joint venture between ICICI Bank Ltd, India's second largest bank with $79 billion in assets, and Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd, a Canada-based financial services provider.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Helpful Tips on Eye Care

With so many of us spending lots of time in front of the computer every day it comes to no surprise that research is showing a rise in visual problems. What can one do? First, it's important to find out how you can protect your eyes through eye health exams and by making a few minor changes in your computer viewing habits. 
Here are some helpful Eye Care Tips - 
Positioning is everything
Correct positioning of your computer, keyboard and typing copy is essential. Your screen should be positioned about an arm's length from your eyes and 20 degrees below eye level. Consider foot and wrist rests for added comfort.
Lighting can make all the difference
Room lighting should be diffuse, not direct, to reduce glare and reflections from your screen. Look into an internal or external glare screen and be sure to set your colour, contrast and brightness levels to suit you.

A little extra help for your glasses
Anti-reflective coatings on the lenses of your glasses can be applied by your optometrist to reduce discomfort and to ease reduced vision from bright and/or flickering light sources such as VDTs and fluorescent lights. And don't forget, your doctor of optometry can talk to you about eyeglasses designed specifically for people who use computers a lot.
Take time out, our 20-20-20 rule
Step I :-
After every 20 minutes of looking into the computer screen, turn your
head and try to look at any object placed at least 20 feet away. This
changes the focal length of your eyes, a must-do for the tired eyes.

Step II :-
Try and blink your eyes for 20 times in succession, to moisten them.

Step III :-
Time permitting of course, one should walk 20 paces after every 20 minutes
of sitting in one particular posture. Helps blood circulation for the entire body.

It's all in the blinking
Did you know that on average we blink 12 times per minute? But wait, did you know that when we're on the computer we only blink 5 times per minute? That can add up to dry eyes. Relieve the discomfort by using artificial tear drops or gels and remember to blink!

Sit straight at your workstation and rub your palms against each other till you feel them warm. The warmth of your palms helps soothe and relax tired eyes. Then, lightly cup your eyes with your palms and relax for 60 seconds. Count the seconds in your mind. Repeat this exercise two to three times whenever your eyes feel tired, or as often as you want. While palming, you can either rest your elbows on your desk or keep away from the desk and cup your eyes. Both ways are fine.

Splash water on your face

During breaks, splash water on your face while closing your eyes. This has an overall relaxing effect and helps you feel refreshed.

Use tea bags

Keep two used tea bags in the refrigerator before you leave for work. Once you are home, place the tea bags on your eyes for a few minutes as you relax. This not only soothes tired eyes, but also reduces puffiness.
Eat healthy

Incorporate Vitamins A, C, and E on a daily basis; eat citrus fruits, green leafy veggies, tomatoes, spinach, poultry and dairy products. Pack a box of chopped carrots, cucumber and fresh fruits and munch in-between meals at the office.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Headache? Could be brain attack

BANGALORE: Are you suffering from a persistent headache, sudden onset of weakness on one side of the body, loss of sensation or imbalance while walking? Don't wish these symptoms away. It could be a 'brain attack'.

While the term 'brain attack' is new, the condition is not. 'Brain attack', popularly known as 'stroke', is the third leading cause of death in the developed world. While two in every 1,000 persons are prone to brain attack, India witnesses two million new cases every year.

To draw attention to stroke and its catastrophic nature, neurologists are now trying to popularize the term 'brain attack' as it underlines the urgency with which the situation has to be addressed. While both heart attack and brain attack have equally devastating effects, heart attack is easily and widely understood as 'dangerous'. This is not the case with brain attack, rued doctors.

Dr N K Venkataramana, neurosurgeon and vice-chairman of BGS Global Hospitals, said: "In brain attack, the blockage of blood flow or bleeding into the brain depletes glucose and oxygen in the brain, resulting in irreversible damage. It causes paralysis, loss of speech and even death."

Awareness extends to access to emergency care, say hospitals, which are now working towards reducing the risk of mis-diagnosis and neglect. "Creating stand-alone stroke clinics helps. The first three-hour period after a brain attack is considered a 'golden hour'. Proper diagnosis followed by immediate medical attention can reverse a brain attack. To differentiate stroke symptoms from others, we need to educate the community and train physicians."

Strokes manifest themselves in two complex forms. 'Ischemic', where blood flow to a part of the brain is blocked due to a blood clot and accounts for almost 80% of all strokes, and 'haemorrhagic' where blood leaks out of the blood vessels of the brain following rupture. A CT scan would show these up. "Treatment involves administering clot-dissolving drugs to bring about a dramatic improvement in paralysis. To prevent recurrence, we give drugs which prevent clots and advise control of other risk factors," explained the doctor.

Another option is surgery. "A clot in the carotid artery is removed by endarterectomy to improve blood flow. Swelling in the brain is treated by removing a flap of the overlying skull bone. This provides extra space for the swollen brain and is life-saving."


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Saturday, March 15, 2008

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Love you with both my kidneys

Love you with both my kidneys

By Dr. Aley. H. Bilgrami

Kidneys are like our parents. Although we have two of them, we cannot afford to take either one of them for granted.

Are your kidneys okay? This is a question we seldom ask ourselves but one that is being asked every year, on World Kidney Day, as one out of ten adults suffer some form of kidney damage.

The purpose of world kidney day is to raise awareness about the importance of our kidneys, an amazing organ that plays a crucial role in keeping us alive and well; and also to tell the world that kidney disease is common but can be treated if diagnosed on time.

There are two types of kidney disease, acute and chronic. Acute diseases appear suddenly but are generally short lived and reversible if treated promptly. Chronic diseases appear gradually, last longer, and can only be partially reversed or stabilized. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is silent and may go unnoticed for a long time as it takes a while for symptoms to appear.

As we all know, this bean shaped organ performs some very essential functions: the elimination of waste products, control of blood pressure, maintaining the level of certain salts present in the bloodstream within a within safe range in and the secretion of different chemicals (hormones).

We make an assessment of kidney functions by measuring the blood level of certain substances normally eliminated by kidneys. Commonly measured substances are urea and creatinine. If the reading is within the normal range, the kidneys are working properly; high levels mean decreased kidney functions. We can also detect kidney malfunction through a simple urine analysis which includes physical, chemical and microscopic examination by a simple lab test

• Sample of blood – creatinine measurement

• Sample of urine – to detect protein (albumin)

• Ultrasound of kidneys

Chronic kidney disease can lead to kidney failure, requiring dialysis or kidney transplant; it also increases the risk of heart disease and premature death.

A few common causes which can damage our kidneys are:

• Congenital kidney disease

• Diabetes mellitus

• High blood pressure

• Infections

• Kidney stones

Diabetes and high blood pressure

Diabetes (along with other diseases like high blood pressure) is one of the common but treatable causes of end stage kidney disease. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure in the industrialised world and most developing countries, including Pakistan and more than 33% of patients on dialysis are diabetics. Currently there are 150 million diabetics in the world; this will go up to 333 million by the year 2025.

Initially there are no symptoms however kidney involvement can be detected early by checking urine for the presence of proteins. Initially protein in urine is in very small quantity and is called microalbuminuria (MAU); this can be checked by a special test. The presence of MAU is an early indicator of kidney disease and allows measures to be taken early to slow or even prevent progression of kidney involvement. It is recommended that maturity onset diabetics (Type II, non insulin dependant) are screened for MAU at the time of diagnosis of diabetes and, from then onwards, on a yearly basis. Juvenile diabetics (Type I, insulin dependant) should be screened for MAU starting five years after their diagnosis.

Kidney stones

While the Stone Age is long past, we still live in a stone belt. The estimated prevalence of stone disease in Pakistan is 8-10%. It is more common in males but affects people of all ages - from three months to 70 years – especially the poor and the malnourished people of rural areas.

While there are many ways of treating kidney stones, one can take a few simple measures to avoid them altogether. Drink plenty of water - at least ten glasses a day under normal conditions; more in hot weather and after exercise as well as in the night.

Our diet should include lemon juice, orange juice and a lot of calcium; milk protects against endemic stones in children and it should be a part of daily diet. Keeping salt intake to minimum and avoiding constipation are also helpful measures against infection and stones.

Kidney stones are of different and rare compositions, and, as such, require different preventive measures. Cystine stones can be dealt with by drinking four litres of fluid per day; prevention of uric acid stones however, requires avoiding red and organ meat. A low purine diet is also advised which restricts consumption of alcoholic beverages, fish, fried beans, soya beans, mushrooms, spinach etc. A high oxalate diet (black tea, chocolate, coca, spinach, coffee) should be avoided as well. High doses of vitamin C and D and vitamin B6 and vitamin E are beneficial for managing excessive oxalate in urine.

Kidney infections in children

The most common, kidney-related problem among the paediatric population is the urinary tract infection, especially in infants, as it can be very non-specific. A high index of suspicion should be emphasized for both parents and physicians. All diagnosed cases should be treated aggressively and investigated for etiology thoroughly.

Among a few causes are:

• Congenital abnormality in urinary tract

• Bladder dysfunction

• Uncircumcised males less than 3 months of age

• Non breast-fed infants

• Exposure to broad spectrum antibiotics

• Constipation

Kidneys are like our parents. Although we have two of them, we cannot afford to take either one of them for granted. Both of them must function well, if we want to live a long, healthy life. Love your kidneys as you love your parents.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Home Remedy for Boils

Eat fresh fruit and raw or lightly steamed vegetables.
Drink fresh juice and 1-2 litres of mineral water daily.
Nourish your immune system with extra antioxidant vitamins.
Vitamin C and Zinc found in citrus fruits, berries, chicken, shellfish, seeds and wholegrains also helps.
Fresh garlic in your diet will have an invaluable anti-bacterial effect.
Drink fresh lemon juice in hot water with 1tsp of honey each morning.

Having a breakfast of white bread may make a person susceptible to diseases

White bread breakfast unhealthy?
Having a breakfast of white bread may make a person susceptible to diseases

Astudy from the University of Sydney in Australia suggests that having a breakfast of white bread and sugar-rich cereals may make a person susceptible to diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer.
University s c i e n t i s t s evaluated 37 diet studies that involved nearly two million people across the world, and analysed the effect of eating foods with high glycemic index (GI), a measure of how different foods affect blood glucose levels.
Their study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggested that a high GI diet increased the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
The researchers also said that a high GI diet also seemed to be linked to gall stones and some types of cancer.
“The key message from this study is that the GI of your diet is a powerful predictor of disease risk,” the lead author Alan Barclay said.
He said that the impact of high GI foods on the likelihood of having diabetes was “not surp r i s i n g ” because such
foods inflate blood glucose and insulin levels.
“You may literally ‘wear out’ your pancreas over time and eventually it may lead to type 2 diabetes in older age,”Barclay said.
The researcher said what was more surprising was the finding that such diets have a “strong relationship” with cancer.

HEALTHY FOOD: Your diet is a powerful predictor of disease risk

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Bollywood's going the Y-way

Yoga, India’s most famous export to the US and Europe, finds starry followers. BT delves deeper into the issue


According to a survey done recently by a sporting goods manufacturers association, an estimated 9.7 million Americans practice yoga, up from 5.7 million in 1998. In Manhattan, yoga studios are a dime a dozen. And predictably, since it is fashionable to do power yoga in the US, India’s most famous export to Hollywood has also found celeb followers in tinseltown’s haute and happening stars — Aishwarya Rai to Kareena Kapoor to Shilpa Shetty, Sameera Reddy, Katrina Kaif, Esha Deol… the list grows everyday.
    So what makes Mumbai filmdom’s reigning divas switch over to yoga in this age of treadmills and sweaty workout regimes? Most new age fitness gurus and yoga teachers, who train Bollywood beauties to get in perfect shape, feel that besides quick results, doing yoga also heals persistent health problems and without side effects.
    So when Kareena Kapoor was asked to lose seven kilos for a new Yash Chopra film, she did it with the help of power yoga and artistic yoga guru Bharat Thakur. When Shilpa Shetty wanted to promote herself as a fitness diva after her reality show win, she cut an entire yoga video for the US/UK market. Mallika Sherawat openly endorses it. Esha Deol admits that her perfect washboard flat tummy and fab abs owe a lot to yoga, while her mom has been one of yoga’s staunchest endorsers in the film industry, alongwith with superstar Rekha who’d also cut a similar yoga video in the 80s.When Bachchan bahu Aishwarya isn’t doing her workouts, she manages to do yoga. Says Thakur, “As one ages, one can’t regularly attend gyms. So you continue to eat the same food but the workload decreases.
Yoga can be practiced at any time in life.”
    to research,
    Asia will be the next growth area for yoga. Doctors and yogis will come closer to each other. Yoga will be hot on social networking sites, as globally the yoga industry is pegged at $18 billion. When glam babe Shilpa Shetty shot to fame, she turned to Ashtanga Yoga to control spondylysis. Says Thakur, “Yoga concentrates on the body’s endocrinal glands and increases the level of happy hormones in the body. Celebs are in the business of looking good, and yoga helps reduce their stress level.”
    Power yoga and fitness consultant Leena Mogre feels, “The Ashtanga style of practice helps to remain fit.” Mogre, who has trained Katrina Kaif and Sameera Reddy, has introduced dynamic styles of suryanamaskars, tabletops and hip hinge positions, which bring body in alignment. What all yoga gurus agree on, is one can individualise one’s yoga routine, something that actor Sameera Reddy swears by. “I learnt power yoga in New York two years ago. With gymming, your body becomes muscular so power yoga keeps the body supple and helps in losing weight,” says Sameera.
    With celebs showing the
    way, it is a matter of time
    before health-conscious
    Indians embrace the
    healing power of
    yoga in a big




CELEBS SHOW THE WAY: (From top) Mallika Sherawat, Shilpa Shetty, Priyanka Kothari and (right) Sameera Reddy





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Effects of High Blood Pressure