HEALTH & FITNESS

Constipation a preventable problem
Dr Harmeet Singh Saluja
Constipation means that a person has three bowel movements or fewer in a week. The stool is hard and dry. Sometimes it is painful to pass. You may feel “draggy” and full. Some people, particularly Indians, think they should have at least one bowel movement every day. That is not really true.

Sunlight cuts risk of many cancers
LONDON: Sunbathing, considered risky by skin cancer experts, may actually reduce the risk of breast and other cancers, new research has found. Some women who had higher sun exposure had their risk of advanced breast cancer reduced by almost half, according to the scientific study.

EYESIGHT
Advanced LASIK for astronauts
Dr Mahipal Sachdev
T
HOUGH LASIK has been around for almost a decade, concerns about the harsh aviation environment prevented its use in the aviation industry. Military aviators frequently encounter environmental extremes such as high altitude, dry air, windblast and “G” forces.

Health Notes

  • Standing on your head could help treat Alzheimer’s, epilepsy

  • Study links everyday plastic products to breast cancer

  • Accumulation of sugar in neurons behind fatal epilepsy

  • Booze culture claims twice as many female lives as 15 years ago





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Constipation a preventable problem
Dr Harmeet Singh Saluja

Constipation means that a person has three bowel movements or fewer in a week. The stool is hard and dry. Sometimes it is painful to pass. You may feel “draggy” and full. Some people, particularly Indians, think they should have at least one bowel movement every day. That is not really true. There is no “right” number of bowel movements. Each person’s body finds its own normal number of bowel movements. It depends on the food you eat, how much you exercise and other things. At one time or another, almost everyone gets constipated. In most cases, it lasts a short time and is not serious. When you understand what causes constipation, you can take steps to prevent it.

What can one do about constipation?

Changing what one eats and drinks and how much one exercises will help relieve and prevent constipation. Here are some steps one can take:

Eat more fibre

Fibre helps form soft and bulky stool. It is found in many vegetables, fruits and grains. Be sure to add fibre a little at a time so that your body gets used to it slowly. Limit foods that have little or no fibre such as ice-cream, cheese, meat, snacks like chips and pizza, and processed foods such as instant mashed potatoes or already-prepared frozen dinners.

Drink plenty of water and other liquids such as fruit and vegetable juices and clear soups.

Liquid helps keep the stool soft and easy to pass, so it is important to drink enough fluids. Try not to drink liquids that contain caffeine or alcohol. Caffeine and alcohol tend to dry out your digestive system.

Get enough exercise.

Regular exercise helps your digestive system stay active and healthy. You don’t need to become a great athlete. A 20-to-30-minute walk everyday may help.

Allow yourself enough time to have a bowel movement.

Sometimes we feel so hurried that we don’t pay attention to our body’s needs. Make sure you don’t ignore the urge to have a bowel movement.

Use laxatives only if a doctor says you should.

Laxatives are medicines that will make you pass a stool. Most people who are mildly constipated do not need laxatives. However, if you are doing all the right things and you are still constipated, your doctor may recommend laxatives for a limited period. Your doctor will tell you if you need a laxative and what type is best for you. Laxatives come in many forms: liquid, chewing gum, pills and powder that you mix with water, for example.

Check with your doctor about any medicines you take.

Some medicines can cause constipation. They include calcium pills, pain-relieving pills with codeine in them, some antacids, iron pills, diuretics (water pills) and medicines for depression. If you take medicines for another problem, be sure to ask your doctor whether it could cause constipation.

Points to remember

  • Eat a variety of foods, especially beans, bran, whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Drink plenty of liquids.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Don’t ignore the urge to have a bowel movement.
  • Understand that normal bowel habits are different for everyone.
  • If your bowel habits change, check with your doctor.
  • Most people with mild constipation do not need laxatives. However, doctors may recommend laxatives for a limited time for people with chronic constipation.
  • Medicines that you take for another problem might cause constipation.

The writer is consultant gastroenterologist, SPS Apollo Hospitals, Ludhiana.

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Sunlight cuts risk of many cancers

LONDON: Sunbathing, considered risky by skin cancer experts, may actually reduce the risk of breast and other cancers, new research has found.

Some women who had higher sun exposure had their risk of advanced breast cancer reduced by almost half, according to the scientific study.

The researchers from Stanford University, who report their findings in the American Journal of Epidemiology this week, said: "This study supports the idea that sunlight exposure reduces risk of advanced breast cancer among women with light skin pigmentation.''

The Stanford cancer specialists measured 4,000 women aged 35 to 79, half of them diagnosed with breast cancer, for the effects of long-term sun exposure.

Sun exposure may also protect against a number of other cancers, according to a second research team who studied more than four million people in 11 countries, including 416,000 who had been diagnosed with skin cancer.

These results, reported in the European Journal of Cancer, show that the risk of internal cancers after skin cancers was lower among people living in sunny countries.

The researchers said: "Vitamin D production in the skin seems to decrease the risk of several solid cancers, especially stomach, colo-rectal, liver and gall- bladder, pancreas, lung, female breast, prostate, bladder and kidney cancers."

Sunlight plays a vital role in the production of beneficial vitamin D in the body. Although food provides some vitamin D, up to 90 per cent comes from exposure to sunlight. — The Independent

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EYESIGHT
Advanced LASIK for astronauts
Dr Mahipal Sachdev

THOUGH LASIK has been around for almost a decade, concerns about the harsh aviation environment prevented its use in the aviation industry. Military aviators frequently encounter environmental extremes such as high altitude, dry air, windblast and “G” forces. In space, these and other conditions add even higher levels of concern due to the extreme precision needed during flight and space walks.

The National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) has approved the CustomVue™ LASIK with the IntraLase® Method for use on US astronauts. The NASA decision was made following a review of extensive military clinical data using CustomVue™ LASIK with the IntraLase® Method, which showed a combination of technologies provides superior safety and vision.

Wavefront guided and femtosecond lasers were proven to provide excellent safety with consistent visual results of 20/20 or better. LASIK was able to withstand even the extreme rigors of warfare and flight.

The IntraLase® FS laser, the first technology for a blade-free LASIK procedure, replaces the handheld microkeratome blade conventionally used in creating LASIK corneal flaps — the first step of the procedure — with a computer-guided, ultra-fast femtosecond laser. The IntraLase® laser virtually eliminates the majority of the most severe sight-threatening LASIK complications related to the use of the microkeratome. Additionally, by creating an optimal corneal surface below the flap, the IntraLase® Method provides for better visual outcomes — taking patients to the position of 20/20 vision and beyond.

The latest option — Intralnow available in India also. Here the flap is created with Laser. Therefore, the flap is very precise in thickness, diametre and regularity with the minimal chance of human error. Flap-related complications are very little with IntraLase.

IntraLase coupled with VISX excimer technology (customvue) is the only laser procedure certified for the US air force and navy. The flap is so secure that it can withstand high gravitational forces.

US Navy ophthalmologist Steve Schallhorn has been promoting the use of laser vision correction surgery for all US soldiers for the past one decade. The US navy and army had started promoting laser vision correction surgery more than 10 years ago, whereas the air force started its first Lasik procedure only last December. In a short period of just three or four months, more than 700 pilots have had laser vision correction. Over 95 per cent of them said that after laser vision correction with intralase and customvue, their flying capabilities have improved with better visual acuity.

For commercial pilots, each airline company sets its own vision standards and most major air carriers allow pilots to fly after refractive surgery. Airlines may impose a waiting period (usually six months) after surgery before considering hiring an applicant after refractive surgery.

An estimated 1 per cent risk of not being able to meet vision standards after surgery and being permanently disqualified from flying duties is, of course, there.

Refractive surgery holds a lot of promise. When we hear about the shortage of professional pilots in India and there is need for foreign pilots to take up the jobs here, we hope the availability of the latest technique in refractive surgery may prove to be as a boon. One should aspire to fulfil one’s dream of becoming a pilot or an airline crew with the availability of the US FDA-approved technique in India.

The writer is Chairman and Medical Director, Centre for Sight, New Delhi. Email: msachdev@bol.net.in 

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Health Notes

Standing on your head could help treat Alzheimer’s, epilepsy

London: Blood flowing through the brain may affect the way nerves transmit signals to other parts of the body, and if this is proved to be true, scientists say, it could be used to treat brain diseases, including Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia and epilepsy.

According to scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, blood may actually influence nerve function and help to regulate information passing through the brain.

Other studies have shown that changes in blood flow affect the activity of nearby neurons, altering how they transmit signals to each other. — ANI

Study links everyday plastic products to breast cancer

Melbourne: A new US study has linked chemicals found in everyday plastic products like babies’ bottles to breast cancer.

Dr Maricel Maffini, a biologist specialising in environmental causes of breast cancer, has cautioned people against microwaving food in plastic containers. She also raised concerns about chemicals in canned food.

Her research found a link between bisphenol A, which increases exposure to oestrogen which lifts the risk of breast cancer. — ANI

Accumulation of sugar in neurons behind fatal epilepsy

London: Spanish researchers have found that the accumulation of long chains of glucose in nerve cells, which carry information from the brain and other parts of the body, induces neuronal death and causes Lafora disease, a fatal kind of epilepsy that affects adolescents.

Currently, there is no treatment available to cure Lafora disease, which is inherited from parents who are carriers of mutations in one of the two genes associated with the pathology, namely, laforin and malin. — ANI

Booze culture claims twice as many female lives as 15 years ago

London: Drunkenness has doubled the number of women dying at an early age in 15 years, a study has revealed.

The government-commissioned study, conducted at the Centre of Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University, found that among women aged between 35 and 54, drink-related deaths have soared to almost twice the level they were in the early 1990s.

Statistics found that alcohol tolled more than 8,000 deaths in both men and women a year, compared to over 4,000 deaths in 1991.

Astonishingly, the death rate for men and women of any age from alcohol abuse stood as just two per 100,000 30 years ago.

The data has also showed that one in five 15-year-olds drinks almost one bottle of wine a week. In other parts of the country, one in eight 12-year-olds is also drinking as much. — ANI

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