Forgetting things has always been a matter of concern for most of the people. Most are concerned about the scare of Alzheimer’s as well. It has to be emphasized that our forefathers had been much better off during their days. Just as the body ages, the brain too ages and so also a decline in cognitive power can ensue. That is inevitable, but one can delay the onset and slow the progress of the decline with some efforts.
Now- a- days with the advent of improved technology, people are able to communicate better and faster and people from across the globe can be connected easily, but it has caused other problems as well. People are so busy peering into their mobile phones or electronic gadgets, they get frequent eye strain issues and dry eyes, neck and back pain due to the hunched posture, finger pain and wrist pain due to punching the buttons and have the lost of communication and eye contact. There are, however, a lot of people who use the mobile devices as an organizer which stores telephone numbers or helps schedule their appointments or remind them of things to be done. It has reached a point where people have almost stopped taxing their brain or mental capabilities to a point where they do not even recollect their families phone numbers !!! Strangely, many pharmaceutical companies have started capitalizing on this weakness and have brought about “magic cures” to help boost memory. Some medicines being taken for regular ailments have also been implicated in loss of memory !
Most of the time, the brain is not stretched to use its full potential causing it to be dull and lazy.
There are some good and harmless ways to get over this handicap before it gets out of control.
- Reading a book
- Learning a new language
- Play games
- Visiting a museum
There are good steps which can be done to help wake up the “sleeping brain”. There are the right handed and the left handed people. For the right handed people the right side of the brain is not used much and likewise for those who are left handed.
Neurobics is a type coined for the exercises which help the brain.
Playing Sudoku, chess, solving crosswords or the Rubiks cube are effective neurobics. Writing or drawing with the non dominant hand helps wake up and fire the sleeping side of the brain.
Trying to guess the dish by tasting it while blindfolded also helps to stretch ones imagination. You can add up fun by asking to guess the ingredients used in the cooking of the dish.
Playing exergames ( video games which involve exercise as in X box, play station, Kinect or Wii Fit ) helps creative skills and burns calories as well. These are particularly useful for those staying in places of extremes of climate, for the aged, for those shy to go outdoors and for those who do not have many friends. These also help the younger generation to bond well with the elders and people with joint problems can get moving as well. I do agree a walk in garden or beach side or a park will have its own benefits, but if unfavorable, this is a good alternative.
It goes without mentioning that adequate sleep, getting enough sunshine, exercise, having a good social support and a healthy diet all help in boosting brain power.
Try remembering phone numbers or appointments without the help of the mobile gadgets or the organizer.
Socialising and staying calm also help boost the brain functioning. Being stressed out does jolt your brain to standstill. When you are stressed, the brain refuses to think straight.
Though there are medicines which do claim improvement of brain ability, I am not competent enough to comment on those. I would rather you try boosting the mental power the natural way.
The winter is coming and it is time for special care for your body. This is a time where one tends to have more parties and celebrations, will definitely eat and drink without guilt and sleep well due to the cold weather. But there are certain things to be careful of- the water intake might go less which can result in urinary infection or stones, indigestion due to excess spicy food, and dry skin especially on the exposed parts of the body. People might exercise less outdoors in view of the cold climate. You could still exercise indoors and can go outside dressing appropriately for the climate conditions outside.
Moisturizers help in treatment and prevention of dry skin. Besides this, it also protects sensitive skin and improves skin tone and texture. The moisturizers act by trapping water in the outermost layers of the skin and acts as a temporary barrier to water loss.
Moisturizers usually contain humectants and emollients which help retain moisture. They also claim to contain peels of fruits and fragrances to make it smell pleasing. But, for those with sensitive skin, these adulterants can cause irritation and allergy. The expensive moisturizer does not always mean it is the best.
For those with normal skin, apply water based creams which are non greasy ( non oily)
For those with dry skin, use one with a heavier oil base. Petrolatum based one s are ideal.
For those with oily acne prone skin, use lotions and must be noncomedogenic( not closing the pores which can worsen the acne). Most of the soaps and face washes can dehydrate the skin further. Use of foam free face wash is recommended.
For those with sensitive skin prone for rashes, allergy and irritation, look for ones with soothing ingredients such as aloe or chamomile. These are non perfumes usually.
Use moisturizers soon after bathing.
Heavy creams are used in areas where dry skin is there and hence the face is spared of heavier creams.
Some of the brands of moisturizers come with a sun protection as well.
If the skin dryness does not improve, please do consult a skin doctor.
Hydration and eating healthy are essential to retain the glow and moisture of the skin.
It is a welcome change in the climate after months of scorching heat in the middle East. This might last for a couple of months before the scorching heat picks up again. It is the time for outdoor partying, smell of inviting barbeques and probably increase in bad cholesterol levels !!!!! It is also the time for contracting viral fevers. Have you had your annual flu shot? The Flu Vaccine at least helps against many of the strains of virus which are getting more complex with each passing year.
Losing weight is something the doctor always stresses on. Interestingly, you might notice that the males are generally reluctant to address the obesity as well as their female counterparts. Moreover, weight loss is slower among those with diabetes due to the medicines they are on and also due to diabetic dysregulation. But , that cannot be used as an excuse for losing weight or even trying to.!!!! There is always a weight loss plateau that is to be expected and that should not deter yourself from continuing, but will need a self assessment as how to overcome the plateau.
Many now blame the cold weather and cold breeze and wish to remain cuddled under the blankets or remain indoors and try eating more to keep the body heat.
Impulsive eating can occur when stressed ( positive stress is during a vacation and negative stress during a personal tragedy) , when angry, when depressed or when worried about an upcoming event or even when stewing over a conflict at office or work. This often leads to impulsive eating followed by the guilt and again feeling low followed by eating again which gets you nowhere healthy !!!
Bed time snacking
People might keep on snacking to give them the so called energy while staying up awake while working late hours. There are certain occasions when you are allowed to snack especially when having an early light dinner and sleeping late. But, there are certain things to be known while snacking.
- Warm milk contains tryptophan and helps in sleep
- A bowl of cereal with milk or a glass of labaan( butter milk) , crackers or bread and cheese all can cause sleep due to the carbohydrate content.
- Sources of hidden caffeine and fatty food such as burgers can impair with sleep.
- Alcohol ( nightcap) might cause nightmares, frequent awakening, night sweats and headache for some which can impair with sleep. Drink plenty of water after the sleep.
- Protein rich and high fat food will cause problems in digestion which can impair sleep.
- Spicy food and smoking can impair with digestion.
So make healthy choices while snacking. Snack is just a small meal and not another meal.
The winter months are a cause for celebrations and family outings . The smell of barbeque fills the air after the sun sets. People might eat more of meat and prawns which might increase the cholesterol levels. You can however go a walk outside as the climate is much better than the hot humid summer climate.
Generally sugar levels and cholesterol levels rise with the increased food and alcohol consumption during the winter months.
You can safely exercise indoors if the weather outside is not to your liking. Tai Chi, Pilates, using the Hula Hoop, dancing to music, yoga, skipping rope or just spot jumping helps burn calories. Zumba or kick boxing are options that needs a trainer to help you out. For the fitness freaks who like to sweat it out in a gym, try something new at the gym or use resistance bands. You can swim or do any exercise in the pool as water is kind to the joints. Aqua aerobics is catching up in a big way as it is entertaining and kind on the joints as well. One can enjoy shopping by walking in the malls and doing window shopping !!!! Walking is still a good exercise. Take care of your footwear and use proper clothing if walking outdoors. Cover your head and neck if very chilly. The new form of play station using the X box helps you engage in interactive games and helps you combine entertainment with exercise and it can be enjoyable when performed with either family of friends.
For those who are interested in resistance training using small weights, remember to always warm up, stretch and do repetitions of ten to twelve in a smooth controlled motion. The muscles might ache at the beginning, Give a rest in a between and try these on alternate days to help the muscles to recover.
How to overcome barriers to exercise?
- Break the times of exercise to smaller periods if it not practical to spend 30 minutes a day for five days a week.
- Identify causes of waste of time such as watching the television, lying on the sofa. See if these can be overcome.
- Reframe the concept of exercise such as walking the dog or taking the kids for playing, playing ball on the beach or even dancing, walking in a mall, walking around a large airport terminal while waiting for the flight.
- Join a group who can motivate you.
- Watch the television or listen to music while exercising.
- Take stairs instead of the lift or escalators.
- When ill, do not exercise.
There are numerous apps which can be downloaded from the app store if you have a smartphone. These can monitor the progress and can even motivate you to get moving.
Ask yourself why you want to lose weight:
|Feel comfortable in clothes
|Improve self image and confidence
|Improve physical stamina
|Improve energy levels
|Be a role model for my family
|Improve the blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes
|Reduce joint pain
|Improve life expectancy
You might want to add more…..such as want to look good at a function or don those clothes which you outsized and so on…..
Write down the challenges and obstacles you face towards achieving the goals. The more honest you are with yourself, both in recognizing the obstacles and coming up with realistic strategies, greater are your chances at succeeding. Let that be your New Year resolution.
Checking the blood sugar is as common as checking ones blood pressure these days, but is not done as frequently though. There may be no symptoms at all related to high blood pressure or there maybe headache, giddiness or even shortness of breath. Some may present with severe headache or paralysis of one side of the body with a slurred speech or chest pain as part of a massive heart attack.
Having high blood pressure undetected and untreated over a long period of time, can put a strain on the important organs such as the heart, kidney, brain and eyes.
Blood pressure, diabetes mellitus and high cholesterol levels are like close friends. These all are affecting the blood vessels and having one can put you at risk for developing the other two.
Blood pressure is the pressure of the blood in the blood vessels which help propel the blood forward from the heart to different parts of the body carrying oxygen where needed and also carrying away the waste products from the kidneys and liver.
Blood pressure is recorded by a machine called sphygmomanometer in which a mercury expansion is measured. This is operated only by health care professionals as you have to hear the sounds to decide the blood pressure.
Now-a -days, digital blood pressure machines are available. The ones measuring the blood pressure by inflating the cuff around the arms is preferred. The ones measuring around the wrist is not reliable. The digital machines can be battery operated and or AC/DC operated. The batteries have to be removed after each check to prevent the leak of the batteries while kept inside for indefinite periods of time. There are two readings for the blood pressure, called systolic for the top reading and diastolic for the lower reading. So if the doctor tells your blood pressure is 130/80 mm it means, 130mm is the systolic and 80 mm is the diastolic reading.
The blood pressure can vary with the position, posture, soon after exercise, soon after driving, and even for some when they come to the hospital or clinic due to anxiety. It is wise to check the blood pressure after relaxing for some time. For those where anxiety visiting the hospital causes high readings, it is wise to have the blood pressure recorded at home with a machine and make a set of readings for a week and have the doctor analyse that. There is a devise which can be connected to the upper arm for 24 hours ( 24 Hour ambulatory Blood pressure monitoring) which will measure the blood pressure every 20 minutes even during sleep and activity and have the data downloaded. Keep the arms straight while the cuff is inflating to avoid errors in the machine reading. For some, the blood pressure is highest while at work, for some it is highest at night. Mental and physical stress plays a major role in fluctuations of blood pressure levels.
Pregnant women may get high blood pressure readings which are treated with some specific medicines as they will not cause harm to the growing baby. The blood pressure spike is usually associated with swelling of the feet and proteins in the urine. Some even get blurred vision.
Normally a doctor will not start medications for blood pressure based on one reading. An average of readings which show a persistent set of high levels will decide. The blood pressure can be high even for children in those having some diseases of the kidney. The cuff diameter is different while measuring the blood pressure for children and for those who are obese. The normal blood pressure readings are between 120-140 systolic and 70-90 diastolic. Generally the elasticity of the blood vessels is lost as one advance in age and so the blood pressure can be slightly high for the elderly and hence a level of 140/90 mm Hg is normal for the elderly.
What can be done from your side:
- Avoid stressful situations as much as possible. Learn relaxing techniques such as doing something you like or meditation or just relaxing on a rocking chair, or listening to songs or reading a book or enjoying a swim or watching a movie.
- Incorporate a healthy lifestyle which includes at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week and a diet in which salt consumption is reduced. Sausages, sauces, tinned vegetables , olives soaked in brine, potato fries all come with salt. Use of rock salt is better or low sodium salt is another option. One can use lemon or vinegar to add a salty taste without actually adding salt. Among the exercises, Tai Chi, Yoga, swimming, skipping rope, aerobics, walking, cycling, golf, playing shuttle badminton or tennis if it is okay , are good options. Enjoy the exercises sessions.
- Avoiding spicy and oily food helps.
- Take plenty of vegetables, fruits depending on diabetes levels, non roasted and non salted nuts, fish and chicken and lean meats.
- Avoid too much of caffeine
- Maintaining a normal weight is equally important.
- Limit alcohol consumption- for males 21 units a week and for women 14 units a week ( one unit is half a pint of beer, a glass of wine or a single measure of spirits)
- Cigarette smoking is another thing to be careful of. Smoking can make the blood cells stick together which can help form blocks and also increase the chances for a block in the blood vessels. There are ways to stop smoking by using various nicotine replacement techniques such as nicotine chewing gum, lozenges or patches.
- Be regular in your visits to the doctor.
- If there is a history of high blood pressure running in the close family ( parents or uncle and aunt), have the blood pressure monitored. If your parents have had either a stroke ( paralysis of one side of the body) or a heart attack at an earlier age ( below the age of 50) you have to be careful.
- If you are overweight or obese ( having a body mass index of more than 25) or having diabetes, you have to check the blood pressure.
This involves the basic essentials such as reducing stress levels, stop smoking and alcohol consumption, reducing excess salt intake, maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly and having a check up on time.
When the above measures do not work or if you develop some complications such as problems with the kidneys, heart or brain, medicines are prescribed.
The eye doctor looks into the eye and checks for early changes in the blood vessels on the retina which needs you to be starting treatment soon to prevent further damage to the eyes.
There are certain basic tests which are necessary such as checking the haemoglobin, sugar, cholesterol, kidney, liver, urine for leak of proteins, ECG and ECHO for the heart, an eye check up and further tests if anything is amiss and needs further evaluation. Some need a scan of the brain if there has been a stroke.
Some people need one medicine and some need more than one medicine. There are different medicines coming in different strengths. The number of mg of each tablet does not reflect upon the severity of the blood pressure. The doctors decide which medicine based upon the kind of protection needed. Some need to have additional protection to the heart and kidney, some need to have their heart rates reduced, some need to have their feet swelling reduced, some need to have the pressure in their kidney reduced and so forth. The aim is to bring down the blood pressure to normal without causing further damage.
As with all tablets, there are some side effects with the medicines for blood pressure. Some may cause slow heart rate, some cause swelling of the feet, some cause coughing and throat irritation, some cause electrolyte disturbances and some medicines are not tolerated well. The dose of medicines has to be adjusted based on individual needs. Generally, once you are on medicines it must be continued for life. But, having a metabolic surgery ( bariatric surgery) can help avoid the need for a medication. This will help control the diabetes, blood pressure as well as your weight. If the blood pressure is solely due to increased stress levels, change of job or relocation will help cure the blood pressure as well.
Many people delay the initiation of treatment despite the medical advice. This is putting your life in danger as changes once they occur, in important organs, are difficult to reverse. It is much better to control the blood pressure than having a massive heart attack or a stroke and put your family or yourself at risk.
Urinary problems can happen to all people at some time of their lives. Most of the time, the women tend to ignore this till it becomes very advanced. The presentation: The urinary problems may present as a delay in passing urine, it may be as recurrent urinary infection, it may present as a sudden urge to pass urine and if not voiding, it may spill ( urge incontinence) or can leak when coughing, laughing or sneezing( stress incontinence) This may occur with advancing age when the muscles controlling the sphincters are not strong enough to hold the urine. This can happen for some following operations on the uterus. Most of the women tend to hold back urine till they feel the toilet is clean and hygienic. During the menstrual cycle when the blood flow in the pelvis is more than normal, urine flow may increase. There are many factors that can be the cause for the problems. Urinary problems also can occur among those women who have had many deliveries during the child bearing age. Prolapse of the uterus ( uterus coming down) is another cause for urinary problems among women. When sugar levels are high, urinary output will increase. Infection of the terminal part of the urinary system,the urethra, may also cause urinary frequency. Other causes:
- Too much of fluids over a short period of time can cause urgency. However, too little fluid intake also will cause the urine to get concentrated when the urine gets dark and this can irritate the bladder causing urgency.
- Acidic fruits such as grapefruit, orange, lemon, intake of spicy food, tomato based products, corn syrup, carbonated drinks, caffeinated drinks, alcohol, use of artificial sweeteners, chocolate, and cranberry juice can increase urine output.
- Certain medicines can upset the bladder function. Drugs used to control blood pressure, those acting on the heart, those acting as diuretics, muscle relaxants, some sedatives, some anti depressants and some anti histaminics are known to disturb normal bladder habits.
The solution: Exercises: Improving pelvic floor muscles by doing Kegels exercises can help in a major way. Squeezing the pelvic floor muscles as if trying to stop urination can help improving the strength of the muscles. There are some people who place a weighted cone into the vagina and contracting the pelvic muscles to prevent it from falling also helps. Personal hygiene: The manner in which some women wash their private parts with a full jet of warm or hot water as a hand shower jet is to be condemned. The actual manner of using a tissue paper is to wipe from top to bottom and not from bottom to top as it may cause contamination from the anus to irritate the urinary system. Water intake: Spread out the water intake during the day and early half of the night. Normally the cold weather can trigger urination. Leading a healthy lifestyle with dietary changes and adequate exercises can go a long way in improving this condition. Cessation of smoking among those who smoke and minimizing constipation are also important.
Feet are, strangely, the most neglected of all the body parts. There are many who pamper their feet, more ladies than men. The feet are an important part to be checked for while being a diabetic. Generally the problems with the feet can occur whether one has either type 1 or 2 diabetes, whether young or old and in any part of the feet though generally the under surface are affected more than any other part of the feet.
Feet are the parts of the body that keep one mobile, that maintain the balance and stance of a person, help drive us around, help us to swim, pedal a cycle, go on hikes or trekking, the list is endless.
Causes of foot problems while having diabetes mellitus:
• Trauma to the foot due to poor or ill fitting footwear, not wearing a footwear,
• Foot deformities such as an in growing toe nail caused by improper nail clipping, having flat foot when the arches of foot collapse, having claw toes, having over ridden toes.
• Poor blood flow to the feet due to small blocks in the blood vessels
• Neuropathy due to diabetes which leads to poor sensation- impaired sensation to temperature changes or pain or touch.
• Lack of proper access to proper education.
• Living alone.
• Poor socioeconomic conditions
• Poor control over blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol.
• Previous amputation or ulcer foot
• Poor eye sight
What can be done to prevent foot problems?
DFU- Diabetic foot ulcer
• Maintain good blood sugar and blood pressure control
• Maintain normal lipid levels
• Stop smoking
• Regular exercise
• Check the feet regularly- check for cracks or fissures on the heels. Check between the toes for any fungal infection.
• While clipping the nails make sure it is cut straight taking care not to take the corners. The corners can be filed.
• Do not cut callosities which are thickened pads of skin. Have either a trained podiatrist( who specializes in foot care and pedicure) manage it. You also use a pumice stone after bathing to rub down the thickened skin.
• Apply moisturizing creams on the feet and under surface before retiring at night. Take care not to apply moisturizing creams between the toes as they will retain moisture and favor fungal infection. Use the ones containing Aloe Vera or vitamin E.
• Use a hand held mirror to check the under surface of the feet.
• Use cotton based socks without tight bands. Some socks now come with silicone impregnated gel pads as well.
• Use shoes that are one size bigger. Buy the shoes towards the end of the day when the feet will be swollen slightly. There should be enough room for the toes to wriggle comfortably. Wear and also the sole of the footwear for any nails or sharp objects. Pointed shoes are not advisable.
• Check the inside of the footwear with the hands for any irregularity or wearing off.
• Have the feet checked at least once by a health care provider.
Ingrowing toe nail due to improper cutting of nails
Look at the difference in the left foot
This is a foot disorder that can happen to almost anybody with diabetes. The loss of deep sensation leads to destruction, degeneration and disorganization of the bones and joints of the foot. The foot can be swollen, warm to touch and be red. But, the pulses of the feet will be normal on examination. Once suspected of this, you will be referred to either a foot care team or the orthopedic doctor. Normally, the foot will be immobilized in a cast. This will be removed after a period of time as suggested by the team and protective custom made footwear will be given.
For those who are used to wearing high heel footwear, the pressure while walking is shifted to the forefoot and there will be strain on the Achilles tendon at the back of the foot ( the thickened cord felt behind the ankle)
Regular check up of the feet:
The feet will be checked for color, any cracks, any infection between the toes, any deformities, any callosities, and non healing wounds, any color changes, the skin of the feet, the hair growth and the nails.
Blisters are water filled collections ,corns are thickened skin due to repeated friction, calluses occur usually on the bottom of the feet which are due to thickened pads of skin, and bunions are those out projections seen from the joint of the big toe which is a structural deformity.
Clawing of toes
The feet will be checked for local warmth, the sensation will be checked with a monofilament, the sensation to appreciate hot and cold sensations, vibration sense will be checked. The pulse will be checked for on the feet. The ankle brachial index ( comparing the pressure of the ankle and arm BP are compared to assess blood flow) are checked in high risk feet.
A podoscan can be used to measure the pressure while walking or stepping.
Customized foot wear is often required when there is a problem to the feet which have to be designed by cobblers specialized for this.
There are tests to measure the amount of blood flow to the legs such as an ultrasound Doppler test ( which is non invasive) or an angiogram which is invasive. If blood flow is compromised ,depending on the severity, either medicines or stents or surgery are advised.
Ulcers ( breach of the skin) may heal with medicines or may remain active or in some people may progress rapidly to cause infection. In some cases, an amputation is performed to save the limb or even life. There are many comfortable prostheses available in the market to get over the handicap.
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin which is not excreted through kidneys unlike the water soluble vitamin . Over the past 6 years, Vitamin D has caught the attention of both patients and health care providers alike.
Causes of deficiency:
• Animal based products are richer in Vitamin D in comparison to vegetarian diet.
• Those who spend more time indoors.
• Those using a lot of sun block lotions.
• Those with dark skin absorb less.
• Obese people absorb less.
• Elderly people are more prone as they spend less time outdoors, kidneys do not work well, the skin will not absorb sunshine effectively.
• Some people have digestive tract problems which will not help in absorption. Those with Crohns` disease, cystic fibrosis and Celiac disease are known to have associated Vitamin D deficiency.
In the Muslim population wearing of the ” Abhaya” by the women which covers the whole body as well as the men who wear long robes can prevent sunshine falling on the body. This robe is helpful against the harsh sunlight in the middle east.
Vitamin D deficiency is quite common among the middle East population as they prefer spending more times indoors. Vitamin D deficiency is quite common in the USA or UK because of lack of effective sunlight.
A study was conducted in Hawaii among 93 people who spent an average of 29 hours a week in the sunshine without sun block. Interestingly, slightly more than half of them had low levels of vitamin D !!!.
Sunshine is a good but unreliable source of vitamin D. The vitamin D inactive form absorbed from the intestine and skin are converted to the active form in the kidney.
Dietary Sources of vitamin D
• Fish and fish oils
• Egg yolks
• Fortified dairy products including milk, cheese, yoghurt, buttermilk. Most of the calcium containing food and beverages can be fortified with vitamin D.
• Grain products
One tablespoon cod liver oil contains 1360 IU of vitamin D
3 oz salmon contains 800 IU vitamin D
8 oz fortified milk contains 100 IU vitamin D
8 oz fortified orange juice contains 100 IU vitamin D
Check the nutrition labels for the vitamin D levels which will be entered into the DV ( Dietary value) section.
Assessment of vitamin D levels
Laboratory assays for vitamin D measurement are highly variable from laboratory to laboratory. Different standardizations are there in different labs.
Ordering the test is to be done after careful deliberation by the health care team.
Interpretation of the results
< 10 ng/mL Deficient
10-30 ng/mL Insufficient
30-100 ng/mL Sufficient
How is Vitamin D produced in the body?
Effects of low vitamin D levels
• In children, the bones become soft- called Rickets
• In adults, the bones become fragile and altered in shape which is prone for fractures- called osteomalacia.
• Low levels are found linked to cancer of breast and prostate, high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus type 1 or 2, asthma, depression, unexplained weakness and muscle fatigue, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis.
Treatment of low levels:
- Maintenance -Vitamin D is available in tablet forms combined with calcium (available as an over-the-counter form). This is given in those who have near normal levels.
- Intensive- Vitamin D is available as capsules or sachets or even injection forms. This is used for treatment of those with low levels.
Like calcium, this vitamin is a threshold nutrient which means, once levels are normal, any excess ingestion will not be of any benefit. All of the vitamin D cannot be absorbed from the intestines. But, there is no easy test to measure the rate of absorption.
International governing bodies from around the world have recommended the following needs of vitamin:
• Infants up to 6 months of age need 400 Units a day and safe limit not more than 1000 IU a day
• Infants aged between 6 and 12 months need 400 units daily and safe limit not more than 1500 IU a day
• Children between 1-3 years- 600 units a day and not more than 2500 IU a day.
• Children between 4 and 8 years 600 Units daily and safe limit not more than 3000 IU daily
• Those between 9 and 70 years, 600 units a day and safe limit not more than 4000 IU daily
• Those above 70 years 800 units daily and not more than 4000 IU daily.
• Pregnant and breast feeding ladies need 600 IU daily.
Magnesium has a huge role in absorption of vitamin D from the intestines. Soya beans, black beans, sesame seeds, green leafy vegetables and dark chocolate are good sources.
Spending quality time outdoors in sunshine such as playing at the beach, getting a whiff of fresh air or going for a swim will definitely make one more energetic rather than remaining indoors. But, too much of sunshine can also predispose to cancer of the skin .
Though close to 85% use the internet even if from the low socioeconomic population, digital technology and web based application usage has been very slow to catch on when compared to the boom experienced in the retail shopping and banking sectors worldwide. The vast majority of online communities, mobile applications ( Apps, as they are commonly known) and web sites have been very sluggish in integrating with the mainstream health care stream.
Social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and many others I am unsure of, have helped transform social life in a big way to a point where people avoid face to face contact. But these sites have also helped create a platform to support sharing of knowledge, communication and understanding, lever positive behavioral changes and also help in using the audiovisual mode of communication which lingers longer in memory.
More frequent consultations will be costly and not affordable to many even this day. This way of e- health will help tide over this if used well. This will help in increasing treatment adherence, health related behaviors as well as give a feeling of being looked and cared for.
But, there are some barriers to accepting the digital technology such as :
- in those with physical or visual impairment
- those who are illiterate
- those who do not read or speak english
- those residing in geographically remote areas
- those with social phobias
- those concerned about their privacy
Telephones have become more than just a gadget to either receive or make a call. With the new generation smartphones, one can record conversations, take excellent photographs, transfer them instantly through internet, chat with friends on the social media, create presentations for meetings, store data in excel format, fax documents, scan documents, use the phone as an organizer, store songs and movies which can be played when alone or bored. Now – a days, these smartphones have also taken the role of a health assistant which can track the progress in exercise schedule, diet, weight loss, and store personal data such as sugar readings over the past 3 months with a graphical representation included. These can be uploaded where you are on this planet and can be linked to the doctors phone for an instant viewing. The list is endless. Maybe there is an app which can remind one to take the medicines on time in case one has forgotten.
There were days when people used log books to record their sugar readings and might even forget to get them when coming for the consultation. Now – a – days with advancements in technology, there have been significant developments in the way a person with diabetes can record their progress or even hide their frustrations by making excuses such as worn out batteries and even having forgotten them at home.
Things have become so technological these days with the data being uploaded to a remote system or a good mobile devise or even the doctors chambers. This comes particularly handy among the young children who sometimes tell lies to escape the wrath of their parents. The data is instantly shared with the parents phone devise helping them keep a track of the events.
There are numerous applications ( Apps) which can be downloaded either for free or for a price which can help in various functions and even take over as a personal health secretary. The list is so vast and all have not been mentioned here. Some are free to download , some have to be paid for.
Some apps for nutrition include : Fooducate, Carbs and Cals, Carbmaster free, calorie counter, calorie tracker, daily burn, lose it, Go meals, weight watchers mobile
Some apps for exercise include: my fitness pal, run tracker,workout trainer
Some for glucose monitoring include: Bant, dLife, Glucose buddy, GluCoMo, Wave sense, Glooko, DBees.com, Glucatrend diabetes, VRee, On track, Handylogs sugar
Ihealth wireless smart glucomonitoring system and TelCare wireless glucose meter can help synchronize ( or sync ) the data with an App, website or even an i cloud.
This is a devise connected to a glucometer which can transfer data to a remote system or website.
This is a cable connecting a phone to a glucometer. This can be uploaded to the cloud .
Some of the Apps can even show long term trends and graphically represent them making the visualization much better ( if all is going well) . The only problem is one will have to enter the data and allow the App to take care of the rest. This data can be shared with the health care provider almost immediately which helps taking health care to another level.
Diabetes Pal- this helps even recording and advising on level of physical activity and can record the glucose readings as well.
This app lets you record blood glucose levels and note the time of day—such as “before breakfast” or “during activity.” You can view trend graphs, interact in the Glucose Buddy forums, and record insulin injections, exercise, and food eaten. You can also sync your phone to an online account to manage your data on Glucose Buddy’s website. Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
Manufacturer AgaMatrix’s app lets you log blood glucose levels and type in personal notes. You can record the amount of insulin injected and the number of carbohydrates eaten, and view one-, three-, seven-, 14-, 30-, and 90-day trends in graph or chart form. High, in-range, and low readings are color coded in the logbook. And you can e-mail your stats to family or your doctor. The app comes loaded with about 50 diabetes-related videos. Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
With this app one can log and store the blood glucose level as well as food intake, blood pressure, weight, exercise, pulse, A1C results, body fat percentage, and medications taken. For each entry, personal notes can be added. Results can be exported via e-mail to your medical team. Devices: Android phones
Track weight loss, daily food intake, and exercise with this comprehensive app. Meals taken can be added instantly (from a list of common foods, brand-name foods, and restaurant meals, or own recipes) and watch the sliding scale climb toward the recommended daily calorie limit. One can record exercise (choose from a long list of activities), graph the weight loss, get reminders, and share the progress on Facebook and Twitter. Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
Calorie Counter by MyNetDiary
With this app, eon can record meals (choose from an expansive food library that includes restaurant picks), exercise, water intake, medications, weight and measurements. Food selections include nutrition facts
This app gives an idea of food and how it affects the sugar, recipes and even short videos. The diabetes website dLife makes a diabetes application that you can use to log glucose levels, find recipes and nutrition information, watch dLife videos, and connect with the dLife community and experts to get answers to your diabetes-related questions. Aside from logging the sugar levels, you can graph daily, weekly, or monthly levels and track trends—all of which can be e-mailed to yourself or your health care provider. Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
This app could be your shopping companion on the next trip to the grocery store. You can scan barcodes, search for products, and browse categories to find foods you’re shopping for. By selecting a food, you’ll get a list of health pros (100 percent whole grain!) and cons (loaded with high-fructose corn syrup!) and can compare it to similar products. Keep track of products you eat regularly by “liking” a food. Then, next time you hit the store, you can pull up a “my likes” list of foods you might want to buy again. Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
7 MINUTE WORKOUT
This is an app which can fit into any routine, has 12 simple exercises which are scientifically formulated.
This has exercises for strength training, yoga, cardio and stretching. All one has to do is to select a workout category, and how long the exercise plan should be for. Accompanying videos will help show how to perform the exercises properly with minimum injury and maximum effect.
This is an app which is ideal for those interested in cycling, running, swimming and biking. This has an in built Goal Coach which sets a realistic goal to follow.
ManageBGL is an app that offers a simulated insulin pump. This is of use among those who are having Type 1 diabetes or those having type 2 diabetes with multiple doses of insulin.This needs some input such as current and previous blood sugar levels, carbohydrate intake, insulin dose and this will predict the future glucose readings and aid in auto calculation of bolus insulin dose.
To help those who are handicapped with poor eyesight, some glucometers have come with a voice readout.
Sharing the data through social media such as WhatsApp, TalkRay , Viber, Instagram and Facebook have made the modes of sending across data almost instantaneously. If you ever noticed, a once upon a time luxury called email, has now almost become mandatory. There have been instances when patients have even used the above to send me snaps of the medicines they wish to have refilled or even to send me snaps of some ulcers on their foot to help monitor the progress and even to help with their appointments. Scanning and sending their test results from the far corners of the world can be sent across through one of these portals.
Normally during the cold winter months, the levels of HbA1C, the 3 month average of sugar, can be higher due to higher food quantity consumed to combat the cold, the frequent outdoor barbeques and probably excess liquor consumption with the co incident Christmas and New Year festivities. People spend more time indoors in places where the weather is extreme. Lack of adequate physical activity and excess sleeping hours cuddled up under the warm blankets add more insult. It is quite natural to gain 5-6 kilos during the winter.
Blood Sugar Testing
The finger tips may be cold and so warm them by rubbing them together or wrapping them around a hot mug before pricking the finger for testing. In places where it snows, the glucometer kit has to be kept warm in covered bags so that errors do not come in the readings
It is difficult to work up a sweat while exercising during this time and one may feel cold after the exercise due to the evaporation. Remember to dress adequately while going for outdoor exercises. Hydration with adequate amounts of fluids is still important even in the colder months. Dehydration can increase the sugar levels.
Exercise such as skipping rope, doing the Hula Hoop, aerobics, dancing, yoga, swimming in thermal controlled swimming pools or working out in an indoor gymnasium do wonders. The benefits of exercise are the same whether done during winter or summer!!
Some blame the cold for exercising outdoors, but then they also blame the summer heat and humidity when that sets in.
Care of Skin
It is important to take good care of the skin as it can dry quite fast. Adequate and generous application of moisturising creams, and sunscreen if going to winter sports such as skiing or snow surfing or those just trekking in the snow laden mountains are very important. Adequate hydration keeps the skin shining and hydrated.
Those with neuropathy ( where the nerves of the feet are not working properly) may have difficulty in gauging the heat of water used for bathing.
Take care of the feet. Do not use hot water bags to keep yourself warm. Use multiple layers of clothing or socks at night to the feet. In some countries warm fireplaces keep the rooms warm, but beware the carbon monoxide accumulation.
Food & Beverages
Alcohol may cause a sense of warmth caused by dilatation of blood vessels, but the same may be lost after some time. Manage the consumption of alcohol wisely. Try to take hot beverages and easily digestible food such as soups, oats, porridge, steamed food and some fruits. Black tea with crushed ginger and black pepper is a good drink to even soothe the throat. Remember that excess red meat consumption can lead to high cholesterol levels in some races. The temperature can get quite low at night and it is natural people may eat more to raise their body temperature. Remember you do not need that much food at dinner whether it is summer or winter. It is healthier to sleep on a lighter stomach.
Frequent respiratory infections , mostly viral, are quite common. It is wise to have a Flu vaccine taken once a year rather than have to take multiple courses of antibiotics and medications to combat the infection. The elder adults should have a shot of pneumococcal vaccine once in their life.
It is also quite common to get infections due to food poisoning from eating out .
Use tissues, frequent washing of hands using soap and water or sanitizers especially before shaking hands with others help to prevent transmission.
Gargling of the throat with warm saline helps. So also does steam inhalation.
Fizzy cool sugary drinks do not help whether it is summer or winter.
Enjoy the winter because you will wish it was like this when summer blasts in.
Did you know that every ten seconds a person dies from diabetes related complications?
Diabetes is the fourth leading cause of global death by any disease.
Remember that heart problem is the number one cause of death among those with diabetes. It is said that a person does not die of diabetes, but instead of the heart ailment. The presentation can be just as a spasm of the blood vessels supplying the heart muscles or a frank attack where the blood vessel supplying the heart muscle is blocked completely or the heart may be enlarged.
The pain normally associated with heart attack is absent for those with diabetes. Hence, any “simple” chest discomfort may warrant a heart check up rather than treat it as simple gastritis or “gas”. Sometimes the discomfort may travel down the left arm, neck, back or to the shoulder. If the discomfort is associated sweating and faintness, consult with your doctor immediately. There are many tests that the cardiologist( doctor who specializes in heart diseases) will order for.
Control of the blood pressure and lipids are more important to prevent a heart attack. Sugar control is not all that important to prevent an attack, though. There are medicines which may have to be started by the health care professional to prevent such a calamity.
An ECG ( electrocardiogram) is done with patient in resting state and can tell if an ongoing chest pain is related to the heart or not or if a previous episode of chest discomfort was from the heart. It also tells about the rate.
An ECHO cardiogram is also done either in resting or under some form of exercise. This shows the size of the chambers of the heart, the dimensions of the valves, the blood flow and other parameters.
A Treadmill test will show how the heart copes with exercise. Patients with problems in their back bones or knees cannot do this test unless under supervision. Changes in the heart rate, rhythm , blood pressure may be noted which can point towards a block in the coronary vessels.
A coronary angiogram is a test done to map the coronary vessels. This is done by either introducing a tube through a vessel in the thigh or through a normal cannula in the arm. A dye is injected and films are shot. Blocks can be seen which are interpreted by either the radiologist or cardiologist. The blocks can be stented or ballooned or operated depending on the site and number of blocks.
The doctor will check the kidney function periodically to check if there is the beginning of kidney disease. Reduction of urine output and swelling of the face, body and feet with losing consciousness is a late feature. The presence of microalbumin in urine is an early feature which needs treatment. However, having menstrual periods, a mild urinary infection, having exercised just prior to giving the sample or having fever, the levels of microalbumin can be high. The health care provider will determine if another test is to be repeated. With proper control of sugar, blood pressure the levels improve. Some need medications to help reduce the levels.
Sometimes , dialysis or transplantation is needed when the kidneys reach a terminal stage. Consult with your doctor regarding the diet to be followed if there is such an event. You may have to consult a nephrologist( specialist in kidney diseases).
This is probably the most important of all the organs as far as we all are concerned. What is the use in living, if your eyes are not working or you are blind? Diabetes is the commonest cause of preventable blindness. One would never enjoy the beauty around us and the marvels of the Almighty if it were not for the eyes. Strangely even with good eyesight, we sometimes do “not see” the marvels of God.
Most of the people decide to meet the eye doctor when their eye sight is quite bad…. Till then most meet with the optician who checks the power of the glasses and they are happy.
Good control of sugar can prevent the onset of eye disorders. High blood pressure can also damage the eyes. Being a smoker too can affect the eye sight. It is generally believed that eye sight will become poor with advancing age due to onset of cataract (clouding up of the lens) , Being a diabetic can even make a young patient susceptible to development of cataracts.
The ophthalmologist( the doctor who specializes in eye diseases) will check the pressure in the eyes, look for cataract and also for the retina after instilling drops in the eyes. The eyes will be out of focus for close to an hour or two after the test. Remember checking the power of the eyes is not the test for diabetes check up. Close to 70% of the retina will be damaged before problems arise in vision. It is important to prevent these complications from arising by having an annual checkup with your eye doctor.
Changes in sugar levels can affect the clear fluid in which the lens is bathed in the eye. Thus there is a blurred vision which many people compare to a curtain kept in front of their eyes. The clear fluid becomes turbid when high sugar levels occur and then clears up when the sugar level normalizes. It is, therefore, important to mention to the eye specialist you are diabetic and whether under good control or not. It is wise to have new reading glasses when the sugar levels are normal.
When to meet the eye doctor?
• Blurred vision
• Trouble reading
• Seeing double
• Injury to eye
• Spots or floaters in the eyes
• Eyes get red and itchy
• You cannot see things on the outside of your eye vision field.
Know your eyes
The eyes are your mirror to the outside world. The eyes are covered by eye lids protecting it from external trauma or injury. This also prevents the eyes from drying out. Light enters through the cornea and travels through the center of the iris, which is the colored part of the eye. Light then falls on the retina situated at the back of the eye which then converts these signals to signals which can be read by the brain and is transmitted through nerves to the brain for us to understand what we are seeing. All this happens in fractions of seconds …
Know some terms
Glaucoma: This is term used when the pressure in the eyes increase. This can happen in those with a longer duration of diabetes. The vision of the eye is gradually lost. The eye doctor will perform tests which will determine how severe it is and will prescribe either eye drops or surgery.
Cataract: This is term used when the lens becomes cloudy. Normally elderly people get cataracts even without being a diabetic. Cataract may occur in younger adults if they are diabetic. The eye doctor will advise what to do after checking for cataract. For some people the retinopathy will become worse if treated for cataract and for some glaucoma may develop.
Retinopathy- this is term used to mean damage to the retina, the nerve layer of the eye. About 70 percent of the retina has to be damaged for one to show changes in eye sight. By this time, it will be so severe, complex treatment plans will have to be made with outcomes resulting in compromised vision. The small blood vessels in the back of the eye balloon out and may form pouches. They may start leaking. This may cause swelling of the nearby parts of the eye and even cause a lifting up of this layer, called retinal detachment. The eye doctor will advise how to get treated depending on the stage the eyes are.
Often, this is the most neglected of all the body parts. It has been studied that women care more for their feet than men. It has also been shown in studies that the foot problems are less among the muslim population due to the washing of their feet for prayer 5 times a day. One should pamper the feet at night daily.
The feet may swell up ( due to high blood pressure, kidney disease, the effects of the medicines you are given, or heart disease). You may notice the skin becomes dry (which can cause itchiness), the nails can get deformed, you may notice white rashes between the toes, decreased sensation to hot and cold and small wounds go unnoticed unless pointed out by somebody.
You have to inspect your feet daily with a mirror, apply moisturizing cream to the top and bottom of the feet ( avoid the areas between the toes), trim the toe nails straight ( taking care not to cut the corners), use one size extra shows or footwear, avoid narrow footwear, use loose cotton stockings, check the inside of the shoes daily and wash your feet daily, but dry them properly. Never cut calluses( thickened skin) yourself as it will risk injury.
The doctor will usually check the pulsations of the feet blood vessels, check for temperature sensation, check for fine sensation with a thread and the reflex at the ankle. You may need to have custom made footwear in some cases.
Remember to show the doctor for any wounds or cracks or ulcers that may develop. Remember that any infection can spread rapidly in diabetic patients which may sometimes need an operation resulting in loss of limb. Coupled with smoking, diabetes is dangerous combination.
Sometimes the legs may ache while walking or may have cramps at night. This can be the starting feature of a nerve problem. Consult your doctor if this happens.
Get educated. One key to preventing diabetic skin problems is to understand what causes them. Talk to your doctor. Learn about diabetic skin complications, what your particular risks are, and how you can lower them.
Control your diabetes. Controlling the blood glucose within normal range can go far toward preventing common diabetic skin complications.
To get a handle on your diabetes, strive for a healthy weight, eat right, cut back on salt, maintain a healthy blood pressure, and exercise. That’s a tall order, but talk to your health care team for support.
Be aware. If you suffer from diabetic nerve damage (neuropathy), you can have an infected cut, scratch, or skin puncture and not know it. Don’t let a small problem turn into a big one .Check your feet, ankles, in between your toes and legs regularly for wounds that aren’t healing.
Do something about wounds and sores. Don’t neglect wound care. If you find a nick, a scratch, a small cut, anything that isn’t healing or that worries you, talk to your doctor immediately.
Cover up. This simple first line of defense can help you avoid the cuts and scratches that can lead to infection. Whether you’re gardening or walking the dog, cover your legs with long pants and your feet with flat, good-fitting shoes.
Practice good skin care. Keeping skin clean and dry, but not too dry, is key to good diabetic skin care.
Keep skin comfortably dry, especially at armpits, toes, and groin. Talcum powder can help.
But avoid drying skin out. Skin that’s too dry can crack, itch, and get infected, so prevent that by taking short, lukewarm showers or baths and using mild soaps and shampoos when you wash. Avoid deodorant or scented cleansers, which can be harsh on sensitive skin.
Moisturize if your skin is dry . The best time to moisturize is right after a shower or bath, when skin is still moist.
Dry well by patting gently — don’t rub — focusing on underarms, between legs, under breasts, and between toes.
Diabetes and teeth
This is probably the most neglected of the various aspects of ones body. Many are unaware that care of the mouth is as important as looking after the eyes, feet or heart when one has diabetes.
Some presentations will be :
• Slow healing time after dental procedures
• Fungal infections coming very frequently( white patches)
• Dry mouth
• Cavities in the teeth
What can be done to minimize the risk
• Brush your teeth after every meal and floss the space between the teeth at least once daily.
• Use oral antibacterial rinses to wash away the germs
• Meet the dentist at least yearly once.
The gums ( pink tissue on which the teeth are embedded) can become soft, spongy and start bleeding. Later on the gums may detach themselves from the teeth causing them to have pockets. These pockets can harbor organisms which can erode into the underlying bone and can cause the tooth to be loose. The infection may spread at an alarming rate that you may have to be hospitalized and the infection can even spread to as far as the brain through the rich network of blood vessels on the face.
High Blood Pressure ( Hypertension)
Blood pressure has 2 values- a systolic ( the reading at top) and a diastolic ( reading at the bottom). This is checked at every visit to the doctor by a machine called sphygmomanometer. The most accurate one is the one using mercury( which are rare these days). Often, digital and air driven machines are used and freely available for use at home or office. Normally the blood pressure can be high when consulting with the doctor( due to anxiety). If found high, recheck either at home first thing in the morning and before going to bed for a week. Show the readings to the doctor for making a decision. Alternatively, a machine can be left attached to the body which will record the pressure for a week during the days for varying periods up to a week. The average of those readings will determine of you are having high blood pressure or not. This can help detect blood pressure fluctuations while asleep. Most of the serious side effects of high blood pressure ( heart attacks and strokes) are in the early hours of the morning after midnight.
If found to have high blood pressure, the doctor will advise you to cut down on salt intake. (Pickles, sauces, tinned vegetables, ketchup, salted butter, sausages and hams all contain salt in excess) Besides this, you will be asked to reduce the consumption of red meat, fried food, smoking and alcohol. You will also be advised to increase intake of fruits and vegetables. The doctor will advise you to
Try out relaxation methods. This may vary from person to person- such as dancing, listening to music, playing golf, walking, reading, gardening, painting, yoga classes, swimming and so forth. ALCOHOL and SMOKING DO NOT FORM HEALTHY RELAXATION TECHNIQUES!.
The normal blood pressure is < 130/80 mm Hg. Even reducing the pressure by 20/10 mm Hg has significant benefits on the various organs such as heart, eyes, kidneys and brain. Very often, more than one medicine may be needed to control the blood pressure. Sometimes the doctor has to prescribe blood pressure medicines to control the leak of protein in the urine though the blood pressure reading will be normal. Most of these medicines help to protect the kidneys and heart as well. The blood pressure will never reach zero as the body will take measures to correct itself. Only 18% of the diabetic patients reach the target goal of blood pressure.