|HEALTH TRIBUNE||Wednesday, July 4, 2001, Chandigarh, India|
Our human destiny from 0 to 100
Kicking smoking habit — and each other
to organise time
over human rabies— II
Our human destiny from 0 to 100
Rapid development within seconds of birth, as organs such as the lungs and gut start to function independently. All body systems are fully formed at birth, but need to grow — which they do, fast, within the first year. Rapid brain growth during first two to three years, as nerves develop to conduct neural messages faster. The crucial stage for mental development is now thought to be from birth to age eight. Body growth accelerates during the pre-school period: weight triples and height doubles. Bones are growing, most rapidly during the first year — by the age of 10, 78% of growth is complete. The organs, pretty much complete at birth, need to mature to full function: the liver takes four to five years, while the gut and kidneys can cope with solid food by the age of three months. The immune system is fully developed by the age of four to five. Vision and other senses are largely formed at birth, although the brain doesn’t have the pathways to use them to full capacity. Milk teeth are developed by 12 months, but not fully erupted until age two-three years. Adult teeth begin to emerge between the ages of six and eight. Skin is full of elastin and collagen, and is hence plump, perfect and at its most robust.
Development of reproductive capacity as puberty begins at the age of 11-12. The hypothalamus begins to produce sex hormones and transmits these to the gonads (ovaries and testes). In girls, oestrogen production means that breasts and uterus grow, menstruation strikes and body fat increases dramatically, especially on the hips. Meanwhile, testosterone creates testicular volume, semen production and ejaculation, voice changes, increased muscle mass and wide shoulders in boys. The second of life’s growth spurts occurs during this period, typically at the age of 12 for girls and 14 for boys. Bones develop: 40% of bone minerals are acquired during adolescence. The brain also matures during this period and we develop the capacity for abstract thought (hence all that teenage angst). By the age of 16-17, most neural pathways are hardwired. A child of 14 has a liver one and a half times the size of a four-year-old. A child of 14 will also have most of their adult teeth.
At the age of 25, the body is at its peak: this is when nature decrees that we should reproduce. Muscle tissue, joint mobility, brain and sexual functions are all at a prime. Body organs are all at optimum health. It’s all downhill from here. Skin is the first organ to show signs of ageing — it becomes less elastic, and less able to repair.
Ageing starts to show: 1% of muscle mass is lost every year from around the age of 35. Skin starts to become loose and saggy. Short-term memory starts to go, especially if the person is also under stress.
Bone density, or strength, begins to decline because calcium is lost and not replaced. This process is especially marked in women, due to the menopause, which typically occurs during this decade. Oestrogen production ceases, and women start to feel pain in joints and changes in libido. Men suffer from prostate problems (incomplete emptying of bladder and the need to urinate in the small hours), and tiredness. Memory problems get worse, especially for men. Spleen mass and body height are also in decline, at a rate of 1% a year from now on. Kidney function declines by 10% per decade from now on. All senses begin to decline, including balance.
Pancreas and liver begin to shrink, by approximately 1% per year. Brain shrinkage also begins to occur, at a rate of 1-2% per year. Skin wrinkles and age spots appear. Nose and ears may lengthen; eyes may start to hollow. Hair goes grey. The effects of muscle loss begin to be felt: by the age of 55, 20% of muscle mass has disappeared. Eardrums become thinner and more flaccid, while ear joints degenerate, causing significant high-tone hearing loss. Men lose hearing twice as quickly as women. Joints become stiff as levels of synovial fluid, which acts as a lubricant, diminish, and collagen and elastin components are impaired. The time required to respond to a question or react to a stimulus lengthens (so people of this age are less likely to get through the first round of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?). Lungs stiffen and become less efficient at extracting oxygen. Heart becomes more sensitive to change and more liable to palpitations.
Weight begins to decline. The decline in bone density becomes severe. One third of this age group suffers falls that are rendered serious due to bone density decline. Significant high-tone hearing loss. Production of T-cells, which constitute a big part of the body’s immune system, stops. Seventy-five per cent of all strokes occur in people of this age or older (one third are fatal within six months). Gastric secretion declines to 75% of normal levels. Eye problems occur because the lens thickens and the muscles of the iris atrophy (glasses are usually required). Sensitivity to glare increases, while the ability to see in dim light decreases. Most men over 60 have an enlarged prostate (though it may not cause any problems).
The changes that occur during the previous decade continue. Fifty per cent of bone density has been lost by this stage in life, so bones are broken with a minor fall. Joints and ligaments continue to stiffen; teeth are liable to fall out as the supporting ligaments become lax. All body fluids are in decline. Severe decline in cardiac index (the volume of blood the heart is able to pump). Significant decline in immune response, and of calcium absorption from the gut. Average UK male life expectancy is 75; average UK female life expectancy is 80.
Maximum breathing capacity decreases to 50% of youthful level, as lungs become less elastic and are unable to use as much oxygen as before. Severe decline in maximum physical workload. Significant decline in the sense of smell. Ligaments stiffen further. Brain has shrunk by 11%; and 20% of all people in this age group have developed cognitive decline, aka senile dementia.
Kicking smoking habit — and each other
Among the jumble of stop-smoking advice on offer, the most sensible must be: do it with your partner. It’s hard to see how anyone could possibly succeed otherwise. Unless both of you quit there’s always the temptation to snatch a fag from your partner’s lips and draw deeply upon it, or rifle their pockets in search of a forgotten Silk Cut, which you smoke with your finger jammed over the cracked bit, says Observer News Service.
However, in practical terms, two quitters means two highly strung adults in one household — possibly skidding towards divorce. There’s the temptation to crack together (‘Shall we just get a packet of 10?’ ‘Oh, bugger it, yes’). Plus, there’s the danger that you might not like each other when you’ve stopped. Here’s how we got on during our first month.
Having stayed up until 2am last night, enthusing about quitting while chuffing 30 fags between us, we wake up feeling less positive. Jimmy, who usually kick-starts the day with a couple of snouts before his shower, heads swiftly to work, calling to report that he had five bacon rolls in the office canteen.
I’m experiencing my usual giving-up euphoria. Symptoms: wide, poppy eyes, tense expression and — inexplicably — a posh voice. By evening, however, the mood has soured and I have enforced a three-day television ban on our son Sam for throwing a yo-yo. I know I’ve been overly harsh but I can’t back down in front of someone who’s just turned four. When Jimmy offers him a Ferrero Rocher I rant that he’s ‘rewarding bad behaviour’. We go to bed not speaking.
Wake up in the early hours, feeling something slimy. It’s me, bathed in sweat. Spend day trying to work — kids are at nursery — but mostly graze on strongly flavoured foods (pickled onions, bread spread thickly with mustard). By evening, Jimmy and I are lying morosely on separate sofas. We have also (accidentally) given up drinking, as we worry that the mere sound of a cork being eased from a bottle will have us tearing to the garage for fags.
Jimmy admits that patches are ‘taking the edge off things’ but it is hard to feel excited by this news. I fritter away a work day by fiddling about on the internet. Come evening, it becomes apparent that my husband and I can no longer communicate. We have a riveting conversation along the lines of: Me: ‘It’s not as late as I thought it was.’ Him: ‘No, it’s not.’
During a walk in the park, I feel something wonderfully long and slender in my pocket: a fag, bent but unbroken. Normally, I’d send the kids off on some fruitless treasure-hunting mission (in order to have a sneaky puff). Instead, I keep my hand in my pocket, secretly stroking the cigarette. Once home, it’s bunged in the bin with water sloshed on it, in case Jimmy fishes it out of an abandoned tinned tomato can and smokes it.
Friends come round for drinks. We worry that alcohol will tipple into insanity and so pile up an impressive array of crackers, cheeses and dips. Usually, non-smoking friends are left to twiddle their fingers on the sofa while my husband and I fag it up outside. Nothing makes you feel more ridiculous than creeping out of your own house. What joy, then, to talk to friends who have taken the trouble to visit.
We are over the night sweats and sleeping more soundly than in living memory. I go for a run to stop myself clenching my molars together and fall over, ripping my new tracksuit pants and, more painfully, my hands. Jimmy appears to be slightly short-fused (although he reports that he’s fine).
My husband arrives home from work bright red and sweating profusely. When Dexter (aged four) asks, ‘Dad, why is money called cash?’ Jimmy roars, ‘It just is.’ Turns out he forgot to put on a patch this morning and, if he were to slap one on now, he’d be sending the maximum nicotine dose right into his bloodstream just when he’s heading for bed (that’s what he reckons anyway). He decides to ditch the patch programme and simply ‘sweat it out’. I tell him I’m working tonight, and hide in my office. He snaps, .’
Withdrawal symptoms are fading. I’m starting to talk normally and think about ciggies four or five times a day rather than perpetually. Jimmy, still thoroughly miserable, fails to be reassured by my insistence that it’s only temporary. ‘But is it?’ he cries. ‘If this is the way I’m going to be for the rest of my life, I’m having a cigarette.’ That’s the worst of it.
Jimmy ventures to the pub with a friend. I worry about him sitting in close proximity to a gleaming fag machine stuffed with so many alluring brands. But he returns home smoke-free (I sniff his breath secretly).
My beloved ploughs into pressing domestic tasks, such as counting out his giant biscuit tin of loose change.
I’m starting to notice the benefits of not smoking more frequently than the cravings. For instance, going to the local grocers used to involve stocking up on ciggies and wine and now (because wine isn’t nearly so much fun without a fag) my purchases seem ridiculously cheap and I trot home happily, jangling money.
The most horrific PMT in living memory. Much sobbing and shouting but, oddly enough, no craving for a fag. I might have cracked had it not been for a remark Jimmy made just before we embarked on this quitting lark: ‘Let’s just be grown up about this and stop making such a bloody fuss. I mean, it’s only fags.’
Rather handily, Jimmy is struck down by a virus that — infuriatingly — rids him of excess weight gained over the past month. While out with the kids I stop to talk to a well-groomed elderly lady; I’m shocked to see a lit fag between her fingers. It’s the first time I’ve sniffed one and not felt nostalgic.
We are having proper conversations again and have even kissed each other
We have dared to open a bottle of wine. Sipped it nervously, waiting for mad-fag craving, but nothing happened. Nothing bad, anyway. On the plus side, our teeth are less dingy, our clothes unstinky (and can be worn more than one day without worry of smelling faggy). Jimmy is extra-lean, due to viral infection, and I’ve beefed out a bit, but don’t really care. I’ve started going to the gym.
Kevin Rushby looks at the insect that mankind can’t master. His answers:
Malaria, dengue fever and elephantiasis are among the deadly plagues carried by the mosquito. Malaria accounts for 1m deaths worldwide every year. Mosquito-borne diseases are currently resurgent, hardened by drug-resistance and adapted to new environments: the voracious tiger mosquito, for example, got into the US via imports of used car tyres from the Far East.
If anyone has lingering doubts as to the power of this tiny beast, Andrew Spielman and Michael D’Antonio’s timely book* will put them right. Spielman is a tropical-disease specialist and something of a Maigret when it comes to mozzies. Add his field experiences to the skills of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist D’Antonio, and you get compulsive reading: the description of yellow fever alone should ensure you make that clinic appointment before heading for South America:
"The liver fails. The skin turns yellow. The eyes become red. Blood begins to ooze from the mouth and the nose. Internal haemorrhaging spills blood into the stomach, and this causes a telltale black vomit. Once this occurs, death follows in a matter of days."
Other fevers are no less dramatic: lying in a Malaysian hospital bed a few years ago with dengue fever raging, I was subjected to a three-hourly white-blood cell count, the figure in freefall towards the magical 12. If I made it down that far, an earnest young medic informed me, "You will bleed from every orifice until you are dead." 40, 34, 20. . . I managed to stop at 17.
In Roman times, malaria wiped out half an 80,000-strong army during operations in Scotland. Quite probably, the same disease stopped Genghis Khan’s relentless drive west, and it certainly slowed colonial expansion as explorers died like flies. Mungo Park lost 40 of his party of 44 during his second expedition to discover the source of the Niger. In the Caribbean, newly arrived plantation owners understood that they were engaged in a terrible battle against time: to extricate a fortune before disease claimed them (a factor, no doubt, in their inhuman exploitation of slave labour).
Both the biology and history Spielman and D’Antonio describe are wonderfully colourful — blood-red and jaundice-yellow for the most part — with intriguing insights into the effects that the little blighters have had on human culture. Superior survival rates of black Africans, for example, combined with the misunderstood nature of the fevers, enabled some white colonialists to claim that the civilised man was more susceptible than the barbarous peoples. Such xenophobic deductions gave false legitimacy to policies of segregation.
Through history, when science was unable to solve the mosquito problem, ignorance gave it a try: French officials working on the doomed Panama canal project of the 1880s claimed to link death by fever with immorality. One even brought his pure and innocent children out to prove his point. None of them survived.
Gambling, drink, corruption, promiscuity — all have been found guilty of spreading fevers, while fashionable conceits are no less persuasive in locating solutions. Burning, bleeding and dictatorial militarism have had their proponents; genetic modification is the latest fad — one that the authors give little hope. Most effective and most controversial has been DDT.
It was the US government that first realised the pesticide’s power: it gave their soldiers a fighting advantage against the Japanese in the Pacific, and later became a cold-war carrot to lure nations towards the capitalist fold. Generous pilots liberally sprayed the homes of happy natives all over the globe, and only later did the truth emerge: ecological problems and mosquito resistance — the chemical had killed the weaker insects, strengthening the surviving populations.
There is a timely aspect to this: the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) is calling for a ban on DDT in order to stimulate other, safer alternatives, but the authors argue against it. DDT is a cheap and effective means of saving lives, they point out, and the days of dangerous overuse are long gone. The debate has been given a tragic urgency by the appearance in New York of the deadly West Nile virus; once again mosquitoes and their diseases are a global problem, attacking both rich and poor.
This is a readable and informative account enlivened by, of all things, a genuine passion for mosquitoes (sex among midges can rarely have been described as "an elegant affair"). It also reveals useful tips, such as the fact that mosquitoes hate oil-based cosmetics. Sadly, swatting techniques are not discussed: in the Sudan I was taught to deliver a clap, slightly below the hovering creature. Mosquitoes drop when they feel the oncoming air wave of a hand, so fall right into the trap. Happy hunting.
way to organise time
Modern life is full of hassles. In this competitive age, one is involved in so many chores that one is always racing against time. The majority of the people are found complaining about the lack of time. People feel that they do not have enough time for themselves and their families.
What is the main problem?
*To have time for the big pleasures of life we should learn to have control over our life's small problems which keep on bothering us.
*The most important thing is to start your day in the right way.
In the morning "the man of the house" is in a hurry to leave for office, children are ready for school and if you are also working, a schedule has to be set in.
What to do?
*Prepare at night for the next day.
*Decide what to wear the night before the hectic morning.
*See if the children's uniform is in right order.
*Children should be instructed to make their bags ready at night.
*Important papers and files should be taken by you or your husband at night.
*The menu of the breakfast should be fixed quite early.
Always put the keys in the same place.
A lot of valuable time is wasted in searching for keys.
2.Keep your home tidy to avoid chaos.
*Many of us are chronic hoarders. We do not want to part with many things which do not have immediate use.
Freeing yourself from "Unnecessary possessions" will save time. Keeping your things in order will make life easy.
*Do not put anything just "for now".
Do not put shirts, books, etc, on chairs of sofas — or in the wrong place. Never "put a thing down" but "put things away". This will obviate the handling of a thing more than once.
Clear the mess from your table, almirah, room and life.
3. Learn to Say "no".
And what about saying "no"?
"No" is a word that can save many hours in a week. "do not have time" . This makes sense and does not offend the other person. Those who are unable to say "no" to others at the right time keep on suffering.
Remember you are a human being and not a robot.
4. Do not waste time to save a few pieces of currency.
* The general tendency is that women visit even the remote corners of the city to find out the rates put up at the "sale" without realising how much time and energy are wasted in this needless job. It is not worth while to wander from one "sale" to an other in order to save a little money.
* It is wise to prefer home delivery to waiting for long in a restaurant.
5. Ask your kids to help you.
In most of the urban families, parents do not encourage their children to do manual work. Gradually, they develop contempt for work.
If you ask them to work right in the beginning, they show resistance and their performance may not be up to mark. But a thing half done is much better than a thing not done. Encouraging children to work will create a sense of responsibility in them and relieve you of many chores.
6. Do not get hooked on to TV.
The idiot box is a big enemy of time. Children, adults and elders in the family get glued on to TV. So, family interaction becomes impossible. Fix a certain time for watching TV. There should be no TV in individual bedrooms.
7. Approach the best person and place.
If you have to get any job done —like tailoring, medical care, designing etc, go to the best person or the best place.
Such a person, though busier than others, will always give you quality service and, in the process, you will save time.
Dog-fight over human rabies— II
In 1992, the WHO recommended the disuse of the Semple vaccine and a switch to the modern tissue-culture vaccine wherever possible.
Doctors emphasise that India could produce tissue-culture vaccines locally even in 1992.
Dr Madhusudhana of the Neuroviology Department at the National Institute of Medical Sciences, Bangalore, says that he sees at least 12 Semple-vaccinated neural cases every year, of which at least two are fatal.
Though the Institute serves all of India, very few people can actually afford to come to Bangalore for treatment. So how many actually die of Semple side-effects is not known.
"At least give us modern ARV," says a doctor at the Epidemic Diseases Hospital in Bangalore. "We are the only hospital in the state that handles rabies."
"One intramuscular dose of ARVcan serve five patients if administered intradermally (under the skin), thereby bringing down costs," says Dr Sudarshan.
(This is the concluding part of the article on vaccine published earlier)
Phalendra means the king of fruits, and that is how jamun is described in the Bhavaprakash Nighantu, Ayurveda's classical treatise. Described by many names as nandi, rajjambul and surabhipatra, this purple and small fruit, more commonly known as Jambuphalam in Sanskrit, became synonymous with the landmass geographically described in ancient times as Jambudweepa, which included the Indian subcontinent. Botanically known as Eugania Jambolana, its appearance coincides with the season's first showers.
Ancient exponents of Ayurveda praised the prophylactic and therapeutic properties of jamun and described it as the panacea for summer and monsoon ills. It has been mentioned as a delicious and detoxifying appetiser.
Jamun has properties which prevent excessive urination or sweating and it is also a thirst-retardant and blood-purifier.
Jamun alleviates kapha and pitta and, to top it all, it is a very popular herbal medicines that controls diabetes.
Almost all parts of the jamun tree , such as the bark, the leaves , the fruit and the seed are known to possess medicinal properties. The bark is acrid and bitter in taste and is a very good astringent. It is used in diarrhoea and dysentery and also in conditions where the patient passes blood-mixed stool. The ash of the jamun leaves is an essential ingredient of many popular tooth powders and is a very effective remedy for spongy gums. Its fragrance helps cure bad breath.
The jamun fruit has more varied uses than any other part of the tree. its fruit is largely eaten raw and its peculiar pulp leaves a dark purple tinge on the tongue for several hours. Apart from containing oxalic and tannic acids and certain alkaloids, it is also rich in carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins. The ripe fruit is a carminative, digestive, coolant and liver stimulant. The jamun vinegar has similar properties. As a home remedy, jamun is used in a number of conditions.
Here are a few tips:
People in the countryside use 10 to 20 ml juice of jamun leaves to control non-specific epistaxis ( nasal bleeding). The same juice is effective in the case of nausea and vomiting caused by indigestion and gastritis.
Due to its astringent properties, its bark is used in ulcerative colitis. Taking one gram of its dried powder along with the bark of the kutaj tree twice a day controls stool frequency and also helps reduce bleeding from intestinal ulcers.
The ash of jamun leaves mixed with an equal amount of the ash of hard almond shell makes an excellent manjan. Its regular use strengthens the teeth by checking bleeding and gum infection. To curb bad breath, a little peppermint can be mixed in this tooth powder.
Jamun seeds are used to control diabetes since time immemorial. After being powdered, they can be used independently or with any other antidiabetic medicine.
The famous Basant Kusmaker Rasa, if used with one gm of powder of jamun seeds, besides controlling the frequency of urine, helps in lowering the sugar level both in urine and blood. However, unripe jamun should not be eaten. Overeating of ripe jamun can cause hyperacidity and retention of gas in the abdomen. To counter these conditions half teaspoonful of the roasted jeera powder and a pinch of black salt should be taken with warm water.