Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Considerate caregiver

The following suggestions can help make you a better and more considerate caregiver:
  • Encourage independence: If it takes your father 10 minutes to button his shirt, so be it. The 'I'll-do-it-for-you' attitude leads to work overload (for you) as well as increasing dependence and low self-esteem on the older person's part.
  • Set limits: A highly dependent parent can be demanding. You should know your limits and learn how to refuse requests politely but firmly. You could say: 'No, I'm too tired to go to the store today. We'll go tomorrow.' A failure on this count can lead to resentment and a feeling of being ill-treated on the part of the caregiver.
  • Make time for fun: Break the routine occasionally by inviting friends and other family members over to watch a funny movie or play cards. A little laughter and a bit of socialising can lift everyone's spirits.
  • Encourage your parents to remain active: Also, motivate them to take part in community activities so that they have additional sources of support, and are not totally dependent on you.
  • Share the care: When your friends or relatives offer to help, accept it gladly and gratefully.
  • Take a break: This aspect is critical. You could risk your own health if you persevere for long periods without a break. Get someone to fill in for you as often and as long as needed.
  • Cancel guilt trips: You're bound to experience anger and frustration, but don't let these feelings make you feel guilty, they are normal. Your parents most probably felt the same way about you when you used to give them a hard time as a child !
  • Stay active: Even though you may feel limited as far as time and freedom are concerned, do your best to keep your interests in a club or hobby alive. These activities will continue to enrich your life when your caregiving responsibilities are over.

A Caregiver’s Rights

Being a caregiver does not mean that you have to give up your own rights! The following are included in a Caregiver's Bill of Rights, as formulated by Dr. Virginia Flagg.
A caregiver has the right to:
  • Honest communication with the patient, his/her friends, family, and other caregivers.
  • Express opinions and suggestions when appropriate.
  • Expect the patient to make as many decisions and put affairs in order as much as possible.
  • Make reasonable requests of the patient.
  • Take care of his/her own needs without guilt.
  • Express emotions in front of the patient.
  • Acknowledge his/her limitations and obtain assistance from outside resources.
  • Continue maintaining relationships and activities outside the caregiving role.
  • Not take responsibility for decisions and actions made by the patient.
With pragmatic planning, acquiring help from others and adhering to a commitment to devote time to yourself, you can emerge as a successful and happy caregiver. And don't forget that you'll be setting an example for your children, so that when it's time for them to take care of you when you become old, they'll do a good job too !

Caring for an older adult is very different from caring for a child

Caring for an older adult is very different from caring for a child. With the passage of time older persons become more dependent on others, not less. On some days, the experience may feel like an emotional roller-coaster ride: you quickly move from pity and guilt to love and on to anger and frustration.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Make your caregiving relationship as positive as possible

Try to make your caregiving relationship as positive as possible, while, at the same time, being realistic. The relationship you had with your parent as a child doesn't disappear, and if you had a friendly, easygoing rapport with your mother or father when you were younger, it's likely to continue. However, if the relationship was subject to stresses, they may re-emerge. Also remember that prominent personality traits tend to become exaggerated as both of you grow older.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Handle caregiving successfully

To sidestep an unpleasant situation and to ensure that you handle caregiving as successfully as possible, you should go in for a little thought, education and preplanning. To start with, hold a family session when your parents are well. Talk about the future, and what they would like you to do for them in case they fall stick. Involve your brothers and sisters in the discussion and hold it in a positive atmosphere. Although talking about old age and impending debility can be uncomfortable, and disconcerting, this could be the most positive approach in the long run. Consider covering the following areas:
  • Division of labour: Decide who will do what - in an unambiguous manner - when your parents need help. If one relative lives close by and decides to be the primary caregiver, it's crucial that the other siblings play a supportive role. One should also find answers to the following important queries: Who will give the primary caregiver a break when he or she needs it? Who will help financially? Who will lend a sympathetic ear when the primary caregiver feels overwhelmed?
  • Money: To plan for the years ahead, you should know your parents' financial resources. Such information helps you avoid the pitfalls of arranging for your parents to live beyond or below their means. If you're the main caregiver, decide well ahead of time if you want financial compensation for your efforts. This attitude might seem very commercial , but may actually help in the long run!
  • Insurance: Make sure your parents have taken adequate medical insurance to cover their medical expenses.
  • Living will: This document puts into writing what medical measures your family member does and doesn't want to be taken in the event of a terminal illness or condition.
  • Power of attorney: This legal document allows a designated person to make specified legal and financial decisions if your parent or elderly relative becomes unable to manage his or her affairs.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Caregiving: Taking Care of Elders

Caregiving: Taking Care of Elders

Thanks to the rapid advances in the field of medicine, more and more people live to a ripe old age, it is increasingly likely that you will be taking care of older relatives at home. While this has always been a traditional practice in the joint Indian family, caregiving can prove to be quite a burden in the modern Indian city. Caregiving refers to a wide range of involvement - everything, from checking in on your relatives every day at their places of residence to providing round-the-clock care for your parents in your own home.
Entering into a caregiving relationship offers a valuable chance to reconnect with someone for whom you care deeply. But as this person ages and becomes more infirm and demanding with each passing day the relationship can become increasingly stressful and, at times, acrimonious. Also, ambivalent or unhappy feelings from the past can re-emerge and cause pain and bitterness, unless you work through them positively. If you're trying to shoulder the burden all alone, the frustrations may overwhelm you. An amicable situation can turn sour and, in some cases, mistreatment or abuse of the older person could be the tragic result. As testimony to this disquieting but indisputable reality, the media is reporting more and more cases of abuse and neglect of the elderly in India. Many parents have even been forced to commit suicide when they have got fed up of the ill-treatment they have received.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Old age and active sex life

Contrary to popular opinion, most senior citizens want to enjoy active, and satisfying sex lives. The natural process of aging does entail physical changes that can sometimes adversely affect sexual intimacy and your capabilities during intercourse. Women may experience discomfort during sex because their vagina becomes drier and more fragile. As they get older, men often notice differences in their erection patterns, and it may take them longer to achieve an erection and to sustain it. Also, the erection may not be as firm or as large as during their younger years. Anxiety and depression, which often accompany a chronic illness can also interfere with your libido.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ensure a healthy diet pattern

Ensuring a healthy diet pattern is also very important. Middle-aged individuals need to increase their intake of certain vitamins, such as D and B6, while also simultaneously reducing the number of calories they consume. Bodily changes caused by aging, combined with reduced physical activity, could lead to a situation when you may gain weight more easily in your 50s than you did in your younger years. Be that as it may, that excess weight contributes to health problems more often in older people, including diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


The following points should be borne in mind:
  • Ensure a balanced diet, including five helpings of fruits and vegetables a day.
  • Exercise regularly. However, check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.
  • Go in for regular health check-ups.
  • Don't ever smoke. If you have picked up the habit, it's never too late to stop.
  • Practice safety habits at home to prevent falls and fractures. Always wear your seat belt while driving a vehicle.
  • Stay in touch with family and friends. Remain active through work and play and interact regularly with other members of the community.
  • If you drink alcohol, moderation is the keyword. Let someone else drive the vehicle after each of your drinking bouts!
  • Adopt and maintain a positive attitude towards life. Do things that make you happy.

Since it's extremely difficult to change the habits of a lifetime overnight, it would be highly beneficial to develop good habits right from childhood. Such habits are likely to pay you rich dividends in the future, so that you can be playing golf while your contemporaries are ailing in hospital beds!
Fortunately, aging doesn't have to be a downhill slides and gaining adequate knowledge about changing body patterns over time can help you age the healthy way. Older people have the reputation of being more mature, experienced and thoughtful. Whether or not you become wiser as you grow older, you are likely to become farsighted for sure ! Farsightedness ( presbyopia ) is a change in vision that's a normal part of aging. Presbyopia is caused by a gradual hardening of the eye's lens, which impairs your ability to see up close. Your optometrist may recommend a pair of non-prescription reading glasses or prescribe bifocals for you. Staying active is a terrific way to stave off the negative effects of aging because it helps your body maintain, improve and even repair itself. Physical activity increases flexibility, lowers blood pressure, strengthens bones, slows down the process of osteoporosis, and promotes weight loss. The remarkable aspect about getting fit is that it's never too late to start. Fifteen to 30 minutes of exercise, with a warm-up and a cool-down, three or four times a week, would be ideal. Remember to start out slowly, exercising for about five to ten minutes twice a week, and gradually build up to a higher level of activity. choose an activity that you'll enjoy, and try to get a friend to accompany you. Brisk walking, swimming and yoga are just a few of the options. Before starting your regular exercise regimen, please check with your doctor about possible complications or risks.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Increase the chances of your growing old healthily!

Despite the advertised claims to the contrary, there is no fountain of youth or magic potion that can prevent the process of aging. And no one has still answered the key question: why do we grow old? According to a popular theory, free radicals damage cells, tissues and organs progressively and as we age the body's ability to neutralize such damages wanes. Presently, research is being conducted to test the anti-aging effects of human growth hormones, DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone), and other hormones, such as testosterone and estrogen. However, it's too early to ascertain whether or not any of these hormones will be effective. The fact remains that there is still no known drug, pill, or treatment that has been proven to reverse the aging process or to extend life. However, the good news is that there is solid evidence to prove that adopting a healthy lifestyle can both lengthen and improve the quality of an individual's later years.

Growing Old

Growing old is a bad habit which a busy man has no time to form.- Andre Maurois.

The best way to live to a ripe old age entails possessing the right genes. In other words, if your parents and grandparents have led long lives, you are likely to do so too! However, the fact remains that while you cannot choose your parents, you can, nevertheless, increase the chances of your growing old healthily!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Report your child’s symptoms accurately

Remember that you can help doctors and nurses do their job more competently by observing and reporting your child's symptoms accurately. It helps to prepare in advance by writing down your questions and observations.
A child in hospital can feel comforted if you bring along a few treasures such as favourite dolls, stuffed animals, security blankets or family pictures. These items provide a connection to home. School homework may not be a 'treasure,' but if your child is able to work on class assignments at the hospital, the process can ease the transition back to school. Although a hospital stay can be frightening, well-prepared children often show remarkable courage. Remember that children are very resilient, and can bounce back to health rapidly!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

When your child needs to be admitted to a hospital….

When your child needs to be admitted to a hospital….

Admission to the hospital early in the morning, immediately before the planned procedure or surgery, is common, but this step affords little time for a child to adjust to the new environment. Ask the authorities if your child can visit the hospital a day or two before scheduled surgery to help him understand what will happen. All children should be told ahead of time what to expect, but very young children may not possess a clear concept of time, such as tomorrow or next week, so that a review of what is going to happen, just before it occurs, can help children overcome their fears.
Children often demonstrate their understanding of the world through the medium of play. You may get an opportunity to reassure your child if you observe misconceptions about the hospital in his play. Many progressive hospitals offer children a playroom, so that they can relax, even when they are in hospital. Some hospitals even allow them to tour a 'mock' operation theatre; and wear nurses' uniforms and doctors' masks, so that they are more comfortable in a hospital setting. After hospitalization, play can be a very beneficial way for young children to make sense of their experiences. Reading aloud children's stories about hospitals before and after your child's stay also can be helpful. Most hospitals encourage parents or close relatives to stay overnight with their child. A parent or family member can provide security in the unfamiliar and somewhat disorienting world of the hospital. Stay with younger children, especially, as much as possible. If you need to leave, it is best to be factual with your child about where you will be, why you need to go, and when you plan to return.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Try to understand your child’s feelings

Put yourself in his shoes! Younger children might need reassurance that hospitalization is not a form of punishment for something they did. It's not uncommon for children to act younger than their age (such as by wetting the bed or sucking their thumbs) before, during or after a hospital stay. Your child fears are often age - specific, and toddlers don't worry on this count; most children return to normal very soon. Worry about being separated from parents; school-going children are more concerned about being different from their peers, while teenagers have a greater need for privacy and independence.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Taking your child to a doctor

You can find out what it is that makes your child most relaxed by simply asking. For example, if he says he needs his favorite stuffed toy to make him feel brave, then bringing it to the doctor's office would be an enormous help. Remember that in the long run, your child's positive attitude toward his health can start with happy experiences at the doctor's.
Sometimes, your child may be sick enough to need hospitalization. Remember that hospitalization can be a scary experience even for adults, so that it's likely to be even worse for children. If you think about it from a child's perspective, a stay at a hospital can be scary and confusing! "Is the stretcher going to stretch me?" "Is the IV like the plant that covers up buildings? "Some of your child's misunderstandings might seem humorous, but they probably indicate serious anxiety about entering the hospital. Children commonly wonder: Will it hurt? Will mom or dad be with me? Will I get better? Is it my fault? When can I go home? Why don't my friends have to go to the hospital? For many children, a hospital stay often represents their first night in an unfamiliar setting, away from the comfortable surroundings of home. Before arriving at the hospital, talk with your child about what to expect and why hospitalization is necessary. Be confident, honest and serene. Accurate information - given in a way that child a can understand - is the best way to reassure and calm your child. If you tell him that a procedure will not hurt and then it does, you stand to lose credibility and he may not trust you again. It is unfortunately a fact of life that medical procedures can be painful. However, they are often necessary in order to help your child recover, and if your child can be reassured so that he cooperates in his care (rather than fights it), this can help to improve the care he receives, that would lead to optimum benefit as a result of for their medical care.

Parents who remain calm help their children feel calm. If you don't know what is happening with regard your child's care, ask a doctor or nurse to explain the details to you. Remember that families are members of the health-care team, and that you, as a parent, are the expert on your child!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy

The following pointers would prove useful during your pregnancy.
  • Learn as much as possible about the wonderful ways in which your body is changing and about how your baby is growing. Talk to your mother, your friends, and other women about pregnancy, labour and birth. Attend pregnancy-related classes, read the relevant books, and watch videos about normal pregnancy and childbirth.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet and drink lots of water.
  • Avoid substances that may be dangerous for you and your baby such as cigarettes, alcohol and street drugs.
    Do not take any medications, even over-the-counter varieties, unless you have discussed them with your doctor and taken his approval.
  • Remain active! Continue with the exercise programmes that you were following before you became pregnant, modified, if needed, according to the recommendations of your doctor. If you were not exercising at all before becoming pregnant, consider going in for walking or swimming. Start with short periods of exercise, and gradually increase the amount of time.
  • Get plenty of rest. Listen to your body to determine if you need short breaks during the day as well as to determine how many hours of sleep you need at night.
  • Talk to your baby and enjoy your growing bond with him. Research now shows that babies can react to the sense of touch as early as ten weeks of pregnancy! A little later, they can react to light, your voice, music, and other sounds.
  • Try to minimize the stress in your life by practising stress management techniques such as slow and deep breathing, yoga and relaxing various muscle groups when you feel stressed.
  • Plan your baby's birth. For most women, the process is normal, natural, and healthy. nd healthy.
  • Enjoy this special time in your life! Your husband and, your family and friends can help you make the most of this wonderful transition. Have confidence in your body's ability to grow, nourish, and give birth to this baby just as women have done for centuries. centuries.
  • During pregnancy, many women are highly motivated to remain as healthy as possible, so that they can give their baby the best start in life. Pregnancy is an excellent opportunity to develop good health habits; you can use these habits to keep yourself healthy for the rest of your life!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Plan to register with a reliable obstetrician

Most women are aware of the importance of regular medical care during pregnancy and you should plan to register with a reliable obstetrician as soon as you find out that you are pregnant. This ensuing pre-natal care will then simply be an extension of your pre-pregnancy care. While modern obstetric care can ensure that pregnancy and childbirth are very safe for both mother and baby, unfortunately, today doctors have ‘medicalized’ pregnancy to such an extent that what is otherwise a normal event has been converted to one which needs rigorous and frequent medical assistance. Every mother naturally wants a normal baby, and technology can be very useful in reassuring her that all is well. However, it's easy to misuse technology. One particularly disturbing trend stems from the fact that many obstetricians nowadays overuse medical technology; such overuse can often prove detrimental to both the mother and the baby. Common tests which are misused include: blood tests for TORCH (
Toxoplasmosis, Rubella, Cytomegalovirus; Herpes) infections; ultrasound scans; and foetal monitoring. Another area of misuse relates to the tests available for screening the baby for a possible birth defect. Many doctors routinely subject their patients to a ‘triple test’ during the pregnancy to screen for birth defects. While this is an easy test (it’s a simple blood test which measures the levels of 3 hormones in the blood) to carry out unfortunately, it has still not been standardized for Indian women. Such a drawback leads to a large number of tests yielding abnormal results, even though the babies are completely normal. An ‘abnormal’ result creates a lot of anxiety
And then the doctor needs to perform a battery of other tests to confirm that the baby is, in fact, normal to reassure the mother. The second tier of tests can be expensive, and risky as well, because some of them can cause the mother to miscarry. Thus, it is not uncommon for a mother to lose a healthy baby because of a test which was not really required in the first place!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Folic Acid – Most important precaution for pre-pregnancy care

The most important precaution to be taken is to ensure a regular intake of a vitamin called folic acid. Folic acid greatly reduces the chances of your baby being born with
spina bifida or anencephaly (without a brain) if taken before you become pregnant and during the first six weeks of pregnancy. This vitamin is now routinely prescribed in many countries in the West to prevent many birth defects.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Take care to be born well - - George Bernard Shaw

‘Be good to your baby before it is born’. This aphorism serves to emphasis the importance of medical care during pregnancy (known as antenatal care). However, in reality, the best time to start taking care of your unborn baby is even before you conceive! Such care is called pre-pregnancy or pre-conception care.

Why is this care so important? Remember, that the foetal organs are actively developing during first 12 weeks of pregnancy (this crucial period is called ‘organogenesis’.) The embryo is highly susceptible to external insults during this time, so that any damage can lead to crippling birth defects.
The beauty about pre-pregnancy care is that it is so simple: all that is involved is visiting your doctor before you are planning to get pregnant, rather than after you've missed your menstrual period! The doctor normally undertakes the following procedures: (1) takes a medical history; (2) carries out a physical examination; and (3) performs some simple laboratory tests. These procedures are inexpensive and easy to conduct and signify examples of preventive medicine at its best! Pre-pregnancy care also leads to other benefits. For instance, it allows the doctor (duly assisted by you) to identify problems and rectify them. If, on the other hand, these problems were to be spotted only after you became pregnant, detailed testing can become very difficult, because the very presence of the delicate embryo, can impede testing. The harsh reality is that not all problems are preventable, but you can, nevertheless, increase your chances of having a healthy baby by identifying the risks you face and trying to eliminate them, if possible. After all, most doctors go in for a battery of tests before performing major surgery, to make sure that the patient is healthy enough to withstand the stress generated by the operation and the anesthesia. Pregnancy can also stress the body, and it is important to screen the woman for potential problems before she embarks on one of the most important journeys she will ever make!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Ask some basic questions

Initially, ask some basic questions:

How likely am I to get this disease in the first place? Were the symptoms of the participants in the study at all similar to mine? Because perspective on depth is so often missing from news reports, some people focus on the latest details at the expense of the big picture. You should ideally follow the dictum: Be quick to question, but slow to change. Moreover, if the ‘new’ information is in conflict with ‘conventional wisdom’, you should regard it warily. Trying to heed all the advice all the time can prove overwhelming and disconcerting. You should evaluate your individual risk profile, based on your lifestyle and family history, and then make appropriate changes that will give you the highest returns for your effort. If a news report raises nagging doubts in your mind about your treatment, diet or lifestyle, make it a point to ask your doctor whether or not the report applies to you. However, most of the time you simply need to rely on your common sense. After all, it's rather silly to worry about having missed one's daily quota of beta- carotene supplement while smoking the twentieth cigarette of the day!

Friday, August 13, 2010

How do you apply what you have learnt to improve your own health?

The next crucial question is: how do you apply what you have learnt? Let's imagine for a moment that you've read a report about a new clinical trial and all the signs appear encouraging: its results confirm conclusions drawn from similar trials and the experts seem to agree that it has been well designed and has generated valid information. Now comes the difficult part: how can you use these new findings to improve your own health?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Read editorials in a medical journal

One important safeguard against imperfect or flawed scientific reporting is peer review; i.e., scientists scrutinize each other's work in advance. Almost all well-respected scientific journals rely on peer review to select papers for publication. Any study that has not undergone peer review should be regarded with the utmost scepticism. For example, one should be wary of findings announced at a press conference that are not accompanied by publication in a journal or by a presentation at a scientific forum. At the same time, it's also true that peer review is no guarantee by itself that a study is reliable. For example, expert reviewers have no way of knowing if an investigator has falsified the data in an article. And even if a study is well-designed and scientifically valid, it may have absolutely no relevance to most people.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Know a little about types of medical research

None of us wants to become a medical researcher, but it does help to know a little bit about the various types of medical research as well as their limits.
Basically, medical studies can belong to three categories:
  • Laboratory experiments.
  • Epidemiological research.
  • Clinical trials.

Laboratory experiments can be carried out in test tubes or on animals such as mice, rabbits or guinea pigs. Results obtained from animal trials should never be applied directly to humans for several reasons. For starters, of course, people are not lab animals. Also, mice and other small creatures are not naturally subject to many of the common ailments that afflict humans; therefore, scientists have to alter them genetically or physiologically to create animal ‘models’ for human diseases. The results of such studies are interesting and useful to scientists, and often pave the way for important advances, but they don’t tell doctors which medicines to prescribe for people. In epidemiological research; scientists closely study a large group of people and then collate their findings. Next, they extrapolate these findings to the general population. Because such a study is observational, it is a fairly useful method to uncover possible risk factors but it can never actually prove a cause-and-effect relation, because the interactions between humans and the environment are extremely complex. In contrast to epidemiological studies, which scrutinize the complexity of real-life cases, clinical trials provide a systematic way of testing the effects of one particular factor, such as a drug, under tightly controlled circumstances. Clinical trials, which are experiments performed on people, are thus the most reliable of the three categories, because they compare two carefully controlled groups of people. However, remember that these trials have their own limitations as well.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Scrutinize the results - results of one study usually don’t provide enough proof

Third, scrutinize the results. Does this information reveal a direct cause-and-effect relation between two factors? Or is it merely an association? For example, someone could argue there’s an association between matches and lung cancer because matches light the tobacco that causes lung cancer. But common sense would tell you that lighted matches don’t cause lung cancer. Typically, years of consecutive studies are required to prove a cause-and-effect relation and the results of one study usually don’t provide enough proof. If just one medical study has documented an unusual or peculiar finding, and if the results have never been replicated by any other study, then this situation suggests that the study
is not reliable!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Look beyond the statistics

Second, look beyond the statistics. When reports hurl at you statistics like ‘a 30 per cent increase’ or phrases such as ‘a 50 per cent higher risk,’ take a closer look at the exact numbers. Many of us get ‘turned off’ by numbers, but this attitude can prove dangerous: you need to ask yourself what the numbers really mean and how they apply to you? Benjamin Disraeli once remarked that there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics. Remember that statistical methods are simply tools, and they can produce blatantly wrong conclusions unless sensibly used. One common way in which statistics can be misleading pertains to reporting of relative and absolute risk. A headline that screams ‘X Doubles the Risk of Y’ is way off target if your chance of contracting ‘Y’ is one in a million to begin with. Doubling the risk of ‘Y’ only makes it two in a million! The relative risk (doubled) is nothing to worry about if the absolute risk (an increase from one to two in a million) is tiny.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

What can a patient do to separate the wheat from the chaff ?

Identify the source

First of all, identify the source. Does the information come from a reputed publication (such as
The Lancet) or a leading medical professional organization (such as the American Heart Association)? Not that such identification can guarantee its reliability or trustworthiness either, but it helps to know that the information is coming from a respected and respectable source. At the other extreme of unreliability is information from a commercial source, or from an Internet newsgroup!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Patients are often confused !

Patients are often confused and are not sure how the latest advances apply to them. They often flood their doctor’s clinics with ‘false alarms’. As a result, the media loses credibility, so that they often end up performing a disservice to patients and their doctors.

One way of solving the problem arising due to misleading, inaccurate or piecemeal reporting on the medical front would be for newspapers or magazines to appoint medical doctors as consultants on their editorial panel, who can be used as a sounding board to assess the reliability and validity of a medical story. Also, as the media realizes the importance of health stories, hopefully, we will soon have full-time reporters who specialize in covering health stories exclusively. Till then, what can you do to separate the wheat from the chaff?

Friday, August 6, 2010

How does one interpret or understand the medical stories?

We are now awash in a flood of health information, and barely a day goes by without a report of a spectacular new cure for a formerly incurable illness. However, many people find themselves increasingly frustrated in the face of the media barrage of confusing and contradictory health advice. One day, drinking alcohol is bad for your health; the next day it is reported to help prevent heart disease. One day, margarine is healthier than butter; the next day it's not. One day fish prevents heart disease, then it doesn't! You may be exasperated enough to ask: Why can't researchers get their facts right the first time? And how are you supposed to make sense of what you read, if the experts themselves can't make up their minds?

In order to maintain a balanced perspective, it's important to remember that news, by its very definition, implies something new and unusual. This is why medical stories in the media often seem to be at loggerheads with what common sense tells us. After all, the hundredth study showing a relationship between high cholesterol and heart disease is hardly news, but the one study that shows that eating fat helps prevent heart disease is likely to become a headline — no matter how flawed it may be! The media is often guilty of oversimplifying or exaggerating results. Moreover, headline writers may focus on an angle that gives a distorted impression, which often means that facts are sacrificed at the altar of readability or circulation figures.

Editors crave for stuff which is ‘new’ and doctors and hospitals are only to happy to tom-tom their latest gadgets and gizmos. Reporters are often not specialized enough to understand the medical technical background. Often, they do not do their homework properly, which results in misreporting, which is, unfortunately, a common occurrence in India. It is a sad fact that although most newspapers and magazines have a battery of expert financial reporters, few have full-time knowledgeable health medical reporters.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Get Started !

Any person on the street knows that to live longer you need to eat properly, exercise regularly and reduce stress to the extent possible! What you need to do is to get off your backside and start doing what you know will help you feel better and lead a longer and healthier life. Just do it, like the Nike ads exhort! Teach your children as well, so that our next generation can look forward to a healthier future!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Your future health is largely determined by what you do at present.

Your lifestyle and dietary habits will determine how much time you’ll spend in hospitals and how rapidly you’ll age.

Techniques have been developed for estimating mathematically your future health risks. These techniques are collectively termed ‘health risk appraisal’ or ‘health assessment’. Here, you have to fill a questionnaire about your lifestyle and health habits and your responses are computed to evaluate the likelihood of your developing major medical problems, such as heart disease and cancer. These techniques are an important part of comprehensive health education programs, and can help you shape your own personal health maintenance regimen. Remember that a health risk assessment is virtually useless unless it motivates you to change your behavior. You should constantly remind yourself that you can reduce your health risks by changing your lifestyle!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

7 major ingredients in a plan for good health!

It’s simple to live healthily — and it’s not expensive either ! There are only seven major ingredients in a plan for good health:
  • Exercise: Work up to a regular aerobic (endurance) exercise program.
  • Diet and nutrition: Everything in moderation – and cut down on the fat.
  • Weight Control: Maintain a healthy weight, avoid gaining and losing it.
  • No smoking: Consider smoking as enemy number one.
  • Alcohol moderation: Abstinence would be ideal.
  • Avoiding injury: Use your common sense (for example, by using seat belts, or opting only for safe sex).
  • Disease prevention: This can be achieved through periodic check-ups, immunization and health risk appraisals.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Set goals for a healthy lifestyle!

It would be worthwhile to be realistic and specific when setting goals for yourself – don’t try to run a marathon if so you’re out of shape that you cannot even walk one kilometer! Start by promising yourself to walk for five minutes every day; then increase the duration gradually each week.
.If you find yourself gobbling sweets or junk food at certain times of the day, try to figure out what triggers the desire. If you find that you keep on munching chips while watching TV, put a bowl of fruit next to you instead; or else don’t watch TV. It’s very important not to let temporary setbacks obstruct your overall progress. We are all normally prone to relapse; just don’t treat it as a monumental problem. Promise yourself that you’ll start again and get back on track right away.