World Heart Day 2008

Heart disease and stroke are amongst the world's largest killers, together claiming 17.5 million lives each year. World Heart Day is celebrated every year to create public awareness of the risk factors for heart disease and stroke and to promote preventive measures. The theme of this year's World Heart Day is ‘Know Your Risk!’. It is a call to action to help people better understand their personal risk for cardiovascular disease, including hypertension (high blood pressure). World Heart Day activities include free heart health screenings, walks, runs, fitness events, public talks, scientific forums, exhibitions and much more. Heart health screening and other activities for the public are being planned in over one hundred countries worldwide. The number of those affected by high blood pressure is predicted to increase by 50 per cent over the coming years. But by adopting suitable lifestyle changes and reducing the risk, the picture can change for the better. The level of risk for heart disease and stroke is a combination of modifiable and non-modifiable factors, of which high blood pressure is one of the most important. High blood pressure, or hypertension, currently affects more than a billion people worldwide and can damage the body. By knowing the level of risk one can take simple but significant step towards preventing life being affected by hypertension. Heart disease and stroke can be better prevented by regular exercise, no smoking and a healthier diet, low in salt and fat and rich in fibres, fresh vegetables and fruit

Be aware of your risk

An excellent way to find out your risk of heart attack or stroke is to know your parametres specifically those associated with fat (both abdominal and as a proportion of height and weight), cholesterol and blood pressure. Too much fat, especially around the abdomen or waist area, increases the risk for heart disease and stroke. So do high blood cholesterol and high blood pressure. Fortunately, all three risk factors can respond to changes in diet and physical activity. Medication also can help. Also,

* Know your blood pressure: High blood pressure usually has no symptoms, but can cause a sudden stroke or heart attack. Get your blood pressure checked.
* Know your blood sugar: Raised blood glucose (diabetes) increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes. If you have diabetes it is very important to control your blood pressure and blood sugar to minimise the risk.
* Know your blood lipids: Raised blood cholesterol increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Blood cholesterol needs to be controlled through a healthy diet and, if necessary, by appropriate medications.

Take Action

* Eat healthy. Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables as well as a variety of whole grains.
* Exercise. Make exercise a regular part of your life. Each day, do at least 30 minutes of physical activity that raises your heart beat. Recommended activities include brisk walking, dancing and sports such as tennis and basketball.
* Drink lots of water. At least six glasses a day
* Reduce salt intake. It can help to reduce blood pressure
* Watch your cholesterol. Choose foods containing unsaturated or monosaturated fats. Avoid foods containing saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol. Eat fewer fried foods. Eat lean meat and fish.
* Maintain a healthy weight. By avoiding obesity and overweight, you’ll reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
* Stay on track. If you miss some exercise or eat an unhealthful meal, just get back on track.
* Monitor progress. Keep track of your achievements and reward yourself each time you reach a goal.
* Check up. Get your blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels tested regularly.

A Hearty Diet

Diet is a significant modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD). An unhealthy diet is high in saturated fats, salt and refined carbohydrates and low in fruits and vegetables.


* A diet high in saturated fats and trans fats leads to abnormal levels of fats in the blood, a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases (CVD).
* Saturated fats are found in animal products. Trans fats are oils that have been hydrogenated to turn them into semi-hard fats; they adversely alter the fat levels in the blood.
* Saturated fats should be replaced with unsaturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which are beneficial for heart health. Olive and canola oils and nuts are sources of monosaturated oils. Soyabean and sunflower oils are sources of polyunsaturated fat.
* The essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6 are found in oily fish, nuts and seeds and actually protect the heart. Where fish consumption is high there is a reduced risk of death from CVD. One should eat 1 to 2 servings of fish a week as part of a heart protective diet.
* Saturated fat intake should not exceed 10% of total energy and for high-risk groups, like people with diabetes, total saturated fat intake should be 7% or less of total energy. Total fat intake should not be greater than 30% of total calories consumed.


* A diet high in salt increases the risk of developing high blood pressure, a risk for CVD.
* A universal reduction of about 3g of salt a day would lead to a 50% reduction in the number of people needing treatment for high blood pressure.
* A universal reduction of 3g of salt a day would lead to a 22% drop in the number of deaths resulting from strokes and a 16% fall in the number of deaths from coronary heart disease (CHD).

Fruits and vegetables

* Low fruit and vegetable intake accounts for about 20% of cardiovascular disease worldwide.
* Adults should consume at least 500g of fresh fruit and vegetables a day or 5 to 7 portions a day.


* Eating nuts regularly is associated with decreased risk of CHD.
* Nuts are high in unsaturated fatty acids, low in saturated fats and improve the fat levels in the blood.
* Nuts are an energy dense food source and must be eaten as part of a balanced diet.

Wholegrain cereals

Whole grains have dietary fibre that has a positive effect of blood fat levels, lowering the risk of CHD.

Spinach juice curbs acidity

Being vegetarian is the in thing these days. I come across many people, typically from metros who profess to being vegetarian, but unfortunately, are anything but that. I’m amazed at the distorted concept people hold of being "vegetarian" because unfortunately, most vegetarians these days eat inadequate amounts or no vegetables at all. Apart from being powerhouses of good health, we now have substantial evidence about the healing properties of vegetables.

An inadequate or reduced intake of vegetables and fruits could precipitate chronic diseases such as heart ailment and cancer. You cannot call yourself a vegetarian in the true sense if your diet revolves around dal, rice, curd kadi, potatoes, puri-chole, idlis, dosas, pav bhajis (overcooked), pickles, parathas and perhaps a whole range of veg convenience or fast foods which come with oil laden, overcooked and mashed vegetables.

The biggest drawback in such diets is that it is devoid of fresh, raw or partially cooked vegetables and it is in these forms that we can derive and benefit from the healing properties of vegetables. However, broths and soups made from certain vegetables like carrots, tomatoes and spinach do retain their nutrient value.

Spinach: Its succulent green leaves emit health. Spinach is rich in chlorophyll, carotenoids, foliates, trace minerals and antioxidants. It displays blood building properties because the structure of chlorophyll simulates hemoglobin.

The laxative fibre present in spinach helps prevent constipation and raw spinach juice helps reduce acidity caused by smoking or excessive alcohol intake. Research indicates that regular spinach intake could check age-related damage to the retina of the eye which in turn, prevents progressive eye degeneration.

Potatoes: If you’re trying to reduce blood uric acid levels, try raw potato juice or potato skin. To derive the benefits of the skin, peel a few potatoes, collect the skin peels and boil till tender in a litre of water. Strain and drink three to four times a day, between meals. This decoction helps to make the blood alkaline and reduces symptoms of gout.

Raw potato juice is also beneficial for relieving inflammation and pain caused by gout. Take a raw unpeeled potato. Wash thoroughly. Ensure that the skin does not have any traces of green colour which indicates the presence of solanine which is an alkaloid toxin that could have adverse effects, then push it through a juicer. Drink this juice twice a day before meals.

Potatoes are highly alkaline in nature and assist in maintaining the alkali reserves of the body. They’re also a natural antidote for burning and acidity caused by factors such as a prolonged intake of antibiotics.

Pumpkin: Sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds are amongst the richest sources of zinc as compared to other foods.

It is due to its high zinc content that pumpkin seeds are effective in correcting prostrate gland problems. One tablespoon of powdered pumpkin seeds taken regularly could reduce pain associated with prostrate gland enlargement. You could also consume this powder mixed with honey. Remember, sound food choices and knowledge of the healing power of everyday foods could be your best defense against numerous ailments and your ticket to good health.

By Anjali Mukherjee

Nutritionist and Founder of Health Total

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Contact numbers: 2673 2883/5604 4001


Scientists have developed a controllable camera that you swallow like a pill. As this report explains, the key feature is a tether that allows doctors to steer it.

What if swallowing a pill with a camera could detect the earliest signs of cancer? The tiny camera is designed to take high-quality, color pictures in confined spaces. Such a device could find warning signs of esophageal cancer, the fastest growing cancer in the United States.
A fundamentally new design has created a smaller endoscope that is more comfortable for the patient and cheaper to use than current technology. Its first use on a human, scanning for early signs of esophageal cancer, will be reported in an upcoming issue of IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering.

“Our technology is completely different from what’s available now. This could be the foundation for the future of endoscopy,” said lead author Eric Seibel, a University of Washington research associate professor of mechanical engineering.

In the past 30 years diagnoses of esophageal cancer have more than tripled. The esophagus is the section of digestive tract that moves food from the throat down to the stomach. Esophageal cancer often follows a condition called Barrett’s esophagus, a noticeable change in the esophageal lining. Patients with Barrett’s esophagus can be healed, avoiding the deadly esophageal cancer. But because internal scans are expensive most people don’t find out they have the condition until it’s progressed to cancer, and by that stage the survival rate is less than 15 percent.

“These are needless deaths,” Seibel said. “Any screen that detected whether you had a treatable condition before it had turned into cancer would save lives.”

An endoscope is a flexible camera that travels into the body’s cavities to directly investigate the digestive tract, colon or throat. Most of today’s endoscopes capture the image using a traditional approach where each part of the camera captures a different section of the image. These tools are long, flexible cords about 9 mm wide, about the width of a human fingernail. Because the cord is so wide patients must be sedated during the scan.

The scanning endoscope developed at the UW is fundamentally different. It consists of just a single optical fiber for illumination and six fibers for collecting light, all encased in a pill. Seibel acted as the human volunteer in the first test of the UW device. He reports that it felt like swallowing a regular pill, and the tether, which is 1.4 mm wide, did not bother him.

Once swallowed, an electric current flowing through the UW endoscope causes the fiber to bounce back and forth so that its lone electronic eye sees the whole scene, one pixel at a time. At the same time the fiber spins and its tip projects red, green and blue laser light. The image processing then combines all this information to create a two-dimensional color picture.

In the tested model the fiber swings 5,000 times per second, creating 15 color pictures per second. The resolution is better than 100 microns, or more than 500 lines per inch. Although conventional endoscopes produce images at higher resolution, the tethered-capsule endoscope is designed specifically for low-cost screening.

Using the scanning device is cheap because it’s so small it doesn’t require anesthesia and sedation, which increase the cost of the traditional procedure.

“The procedure is so easy I could imagine it being done in a shopping mall,” Seibel said.

A wireless scope manufactured by a different group, originally designed to pass through the body and detect intestinal cancer, is now being marketed for esophageal cancer screening. The competing technology comes in a pill about the width of an adult fingernail and twice as long. By contrast, the UW’s scanning fiber endoscope’s dimensions are about half as big and the device fits inside a standard pill capsule. The pill could be even smaller, Seibel said, but the researchers chose a size that would be easy to handle and swallow.

Another disadvantage of wireless capsules is they only allow a single fly-by view.

“You have no control over the other pill once it’s swallowed. It just flutters down,” Seibel said. But since the UW scope is tethered, the doctor can move it up and down along the region of interest.

Only a small percentage of people who get Barrett’s esophagus, about 5 percent to 10 percent, develop cancer. So any screening method must have a low price to be cost-effective.

“The next big challenge is to make this cheaply,” Seibel said. The researchers are negotiating a contract to commercialize the technology. In the future they hope to not only take pictures, but also deliver treatments through the device, and to apply it to other diseases..Source: University of Washington.

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Headphones may cause heartache

For those 'staying tuned' to FM songs through headphones of mobile sets, here's some news that might not be music to the ears.

Non-stop and high-decibel radio programmes are sure to damage ear nerves, leading to gradual degrading of the hearing
system, doctors say. Moreover, the habit may develop psychogenic disorders and hypertension which will end up in cardiac ailments, they warn.

"Prolonged use of headphones is injurious to our hearing system as it has adverse impacts on the nerves. Excess of anything is harmful. Though the habit may not damage the ear diaphragm, the harm done to the nerves is irreversible," said Alok Agarwal of Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. Cochlea (the spiral cavity of the inner ear where sound impulses are produced) bears the brunt of head phone sounds. Any damage done to it will certainly cause hearing complications, he stressed.

Noting that the number of call centre employees approaching him with hearing problems was on the rise, he said, "they are susceptible to hearing impairments. Extended working hours using unhealthy devices may cause health risks." Disturbed sleep, headache and ear pain are some of the common abnormalities that stem from overuse of headphones.

According to J C Passey of Maulana Azad Medical College, the possible damage to hearing system depends on duration,volume and programme. Listening to high-decibel rock music for long hours is undoubtedly harmful.