HEALTH & FITNESS

BOOKS
Keep fit to look younger
Dr R. Kumar
A set of two books, published first in 2006 by Orient Paperbacks under the series “Good Health First,” titled “Fit for 50+ for Women” and Fit for 50+ for Men,” are the two jewels which should decorate the book-shelf of each educated and enlightened home.

EYESIGHT
Floaters and retinal complication
Dr Mahipal S. Sachdev
A 60-year-old lady came to my Centre with complaints of sudden onset of some shadow in front of her eye. She said that she was taking her walk in the morning when all of a sudden a black ‘thing’ floated in front of her eyes.

Amateur runners risk heart trouble
NEW YORK: Amateur marathon runners who run less than 40 miles per week during training often show signs of cardiac dysfunction after the race and some of these abnormalities may persist for up to a month after they cross the finish line, a study shows.

Health Notes
Preventing depressive symptoms in youth
Washington:
Researchers from Vanderbilt University who conducted a research on programs aimed at preventing depressive symptoms in youth, have found that targeted programs reduced depression better than the non-targeted interventions.

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BOOKS
Keep fit to look younger
Dr R. Kumar

A set of two books, published first in 2006 by Orient Paperbacks under the series “Good Health First,” titled “Fit for 50+ for Women” and Fit for 50+ for Men,” are the two jewels which should decorate the book-shelf of each educated and enlightened home. The illustrations of the exercises mentioned and the low price of the paperbacks enhance their value.

In India, the concept has been that once a woman enters the menopausal zone and specially crosses the mark of 50 years of age, she has to look like a Bebe- ji — she becomes obese with her tummy protruding, physically frail. She is dumped in a corner of her house like junk furniture.

Shane Gould, the “living national treasure of Australia” and the author of the book “Fit for 50+ for Women” and the Munich Olympics gold medalist, does not agree with this concept when she observes, “getting older does not mean getting overweight, physically weak or feeling sluggish”. She feels that a woman can continue to lead an active life and do all the things she enjoys doing.

Women in this age group are increasingly concerned about maintaining their well-being, the decline of flexibility and the risk of being “inactive” because of osteoporosis, diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Physical activity and regular exercises along with an attitude of eternal youthfulness can do all the good. The heroines of the silver screen continue to look youthful and fit for decades. Why?

This book advocates an exercise programme suited for middle aged women. It includes aerobics, weight bearing, strength training and pelvic floor exercises. The programme recommended is realistic and appropriate, and there is a balanced exercise regime. Her advice in a nutshell to every woman of the world is worth gold standard: (i) Lose weight, tone up and feel more purposeful. (ii) Build healthy and strong bones. (iii) Increase your sense of wellbeing and reduce depression and anxiety. (iv) Increase your muscle mass, burn calories and speed up your metabolism. (v) Extend your middle age by 20 years; it will be a life worth living.

One of the common problems that may beset a middle-aged woman is leaking bladder, the fear of which may be an underlying cause of cessation of exercises. In fact, leaking bladder can be rectified by pelvic floor exercises, training/ tightening of your muscles around your urethral opening as if you are trying to stop the passage of urine. Similarly, one can prevent/ treat diabetes by taking regular exercises under medical supervision.

Greg Chappell, the famous Australian cricketer, claims that “a man of fifty-eight can be fitter than one at twenty-eight” while emphasising the benefits of regular exercises in his book “Fit for 50+ for Men”. An advocate of total body fitness, Chappell maintains that he is healthier today than he was when he competed as international cricketer.

He has outlined a unique beginner-friendly fitness programme designed for middle-aged man. Unfortunately, men at 50 plus accept physical decline as a normal and natural part of ageing. People take it for granted that now the time has come for being less active, more visits to the doctor, suffering from major and minor aches and may be high blood pressure, heart attacks, cancers and diabetes.

Lack of exercise is a mindset and not a real need of the body. In fact, energy is one commodity that you do not lose as you move through middle age. By exercising you can preserve and enhance your energy. Yoga exercises may also help.

You think yourself an active person and you will stay active. It is not hard to prolong your middle age.

  • Walk regularly and briskly. Be fidgety and don’t remain tied to the chair.
  • Exercise regularly and adequately. Fitness can be attained by exercises.
  • Eat nutritious and balanced food; do not overeat
  • Drink plenty of water, not alcohol.
  • Forget the excuses like “I am very busy, I have no time for exercises”.

The writer, a senior eye specialist, has a number of books to his credit.

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EYESIGHT
Floaters and retinal complication
Dr Mahipal S. Sachdev

A 60-year-old woman came to my centre with complaints of sudden onset of some shadow in front of her eye. She said she was taking her walk in the morning when all of a sudden a black "thing" floated in front of her eyes.

At first she thought it was an insect, but it persisted. Then she got worried and irritated as this small "thing" moved with the movement of her eye. Finally when it didn’t disappear she came for a consultation.

This is what a patient with complaints of "floaters" typically describes.

Floaters are tiny specks which move with the movement of the eye. The patient may perceive them as flies or mosquitoes or cobwebs, which come in the field of vision. These may be disturbing the person, while doing reading or any activity. These are appreciated more on a white background or in bright light.

The eyeball is like a globe, filled with a jelly called vitreous. This vitreous is transparent and provides nutrition to inner part of the eye.

It lies behind the lens and in front of the retina. Vitreous is firmly adherent to the retina at few areas.

This vitreous jelly undergoes degeneration because of various reasons like ageing, in myopic eyes even at an early age or after an eye surgery like cataract. Because of degeneration, there are areas of condensation within this jelly or pockets of liquification. These areas cast a shadow on the retina, which one sees as floaters.

These floaters are innocuous till these are a few in number. But if these increase in number suddenly or are associated with flashes of light, one should get his eyes checked. The flashes of light indicate the pull on the retina by vitreous at the areas of adhesion. This pull on retina may cause tears in the retina and lead to retinal detachment.

There is no treatment for the floaters as these indicate just degeneration of vitreous like graying of the hair. One has to ignore them.

But floaters, if these increase in number suddenly or if associated with flashes of light, is a signal for us. One should get his eyes checked in detail as early as possible to prevent any major problem like detachment from occurring.

Frequently asked questions:

  • What are Floaters?

Floaters are actually tiny clumps of gel or cells inside the vitreous.

  • How do they look like?

Floaters may look like insects, specks, strands, cobwebs etc.

  • How common are floaters?

Very common.  Over 70 % of the population experiences these problems.

  • If one eye develops floaters, will the other eye develop them as well?

Very likely; In the case of a posterior vitreous separation, it is very common for the same condition to occur in the second eye within a year.

  • Can floaters cause total blindness?

No, only a slight blockage of the vision at worst.

  • What is the treatment for floaters?

If light flashes are due to a posterior vitreous separation and no retinal breaks are found on careful examination with the pupil dilated, no treatment is necessary. If the doctor finds tears, laser or occasionally freezing (cryo) treatment is needed. A vitrectomy can be used to remove floaters, but is very rarely indicated because the complication rate is higher than the advantages.

  • Is there a medication or eye drop for the treatment for flashes or floaters?

No, there is no medicine, eye drop, vitamin, herb, or diet that is beneficial to patients with flashes or floaters.

  • Do Floaters ever disappear?

Most floaters are condensed vitreous collagen fibers and never completely disappear, but they become much less obvious over time.

  • What does one do in case of appearance of floaters?

Immediately consult an ophthalmologist.  Get a dilated fundus examination done to rule out any retinal complication like detachment, hole, and vitreous hemorrhage.

The writer is Chairman and Medical Director, Centre for Sight, New Delhi.

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Amateur runners risk heart trouble

NEW YORK: Amateur marathon runners who run less than 40 miles per week during training often show signs of cardiac dysfunction after the race and some of these abnormalities may persist for up to a month after they cross the finish line, a study shows.

‘’Running less than 40 miles per week prior to running a marathon leads to temporary heart muscle weakness and increased pressure in the lung arteries,’’ Dr Malissa J. Wood told Reuters Health. ‘’Individuals who consistently ran greater than 45 miles per week showed no such signs of damage after completing the marathon.’’

The findings are based on a study of 20 amateur athletes who ran the 2003 Boston Marathon and underwent echocardiography (ultrasound imaging of the heart) prior to, immediately after, and about one month after running the 26-mile race.

The number of people participating in endurance sports has increased in the past decade, Wood, from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston and colleagues note in a their study, published in the European Heart Journal.

In the US alone, nearly 480,000 runners completed a marathon in 2001. And while the benefits of moderate exercise on the heart are well established, the effects of more prolonged exertion are less clear. Some studies have suggested that cardiac dysfunction or ‘’cardiac fatigue’’ occurs during prolonged exercise. — Reuters

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Health Notes
Preventing depressive symptoms in youth

Washington: Researchers from Vanderbilt University who conducted a research on programs aimed at preventing depressive symptoms in youth, have found that targeted programs reduced depression better than the non-targeted interventions.

Their main concern was to understand the precentive measures for depression among youth, which is a growing public health concern affecting one to two percent of elementary school-aged children and three to eight percent of adolescents.

Their research showed that targeted interventions for those at risk for depression have greater effect sizes than universal interventions.

“Three different types of interventions were examined: universal, selective, and indicated programs,” said researchers Jason L. Horowitz, MS, and Judy Garber, PhD, of Vanderbilt University.

Universal preventive interventions are provided to all members of a particular population, whereas, selective prevention programs are used for members of a subgroup of a population whose risk is considered above average. Finally, indicated preventive interventions are for individuals who show early signs or symptoms of a psychological disorder. — ANI

Biggest reduction ever in bad cholesterol levels

Washington: Scientists have achieved the biggest reduction in bad cholesterol levels in a clinical trial.

Researchers at the Methodist DeBakey Heart Center in Houston conducted the study using a combination therapy of two statin drugs.

The combination treatment regimen of rosuvastatin and ezetimibe achieved a 70 percent reduction in LDL-c, and in just six weeks, helped 94 percent of high-risk patients reduce their LDL-c levels to 100mg/dL.

They said this was the largest reduction in bad cholesterol ever seen in a statin clinical trial. Experts said the study could now help them treat patients achieve optimal cholesterol targets.

“Dangerously high LDL cholesterol has been notoriously difficult to treat. Cardiologists have long recognized the challenge in helping these high-risk patients reach their target cholesterol levels, to ultimately prevent heart attack and stroke,” said Dr. Christie Ballantyne, international principal investigator of the trial. — ANI

Discrimination may trigger heart disease

NEW YORK: Exposure to chronic subtle everyday disrespect or mistreatment is hard on a woman’s heart. Researchers found that suffering this type of discrimination over the years is positively associated with a build-up of calcium deposits in the coronary arteries — an early sign of heart disease.

This association, seen in a group of middle-aged African-American women, was largely independent of traditional cardiovascular risk factors.

This suggests that it’s the accumulated burden of this subtle discrimination that is having this effect, note Dr Tene T. Lewis from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and colleagues. In the United States, cardiovascular disease kills roughly half a million women each year, making it the leading cause of death for women. African-American women have a disproportionate higher rate of cardiovascular disease and death, and it’s been hypothesized that this may be due in part to chronic stressors associated with being black and female in the US.

The researchers found that the more discrimination the women suffered the more likely they were to have calcium in the arteries. For each 1-unit increase in the chronic discrimination score, there was nearly a threefold higher likelihood of calcification, Lewis and colleagues report in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.

Even after adjusting for factors known to contribute to heart disease, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, older age, and higher body weight, the chances of having calcification remained roughly 2.5-times higher among women reporting chronic discrimination.

‘’Interventions aimed at reducing the emotional impact of everyday discrimination may prove to be beneficial for the cardiovascular health of African-American women,’’ Lewis and colleagues conclude. — Reuters

Detecting genetic disorders in embryos

London: British scientists claimed to have developed a screening test using DNA fingerprints that can help them detect genetic disorders in embryos.

Researchers said the technique will enable couples at high risk of passing on a serious genetic illnesses to their children to ensure only healthy embryos are used in-vitro fertilisation. The technique is being presented at a four-day meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE).

They said the new approach would broaden the scope and reliability of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) test.

Embryos are generally created by in vitro fertilization (IVF) and at the 8-cell stage, one cell is taken for testing. If given the all-clear, the embryo is implanted into the mother’s womb.

Scientists said traditional PGD uses a method of DNA amplification called PCR, targeted to a specific DNA sequence, to test for a particular mutation. But since the amount of DNA available in one cell of the embryo is very miniscule — just 6 picograms, less than the mass of a single bacterium, routine DNA tests aren’t sensitive enough. Therefore each PGD lab has to develop its own test for each mutation, which might even take something from 6-12 months. — ANI

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