Asthma: A look at the numbers
Asthma is a condition in which air passages of the lungs get inflamed and become narrow, making it difficult to breathe. It is one of the major non-communicable diseases. Global estimation according to WHO suggests that more than 339 million people had asthma in 2016, among which 15-20 million people were Indians.1,2 It is also a common finding among children. Moreover, what concerns the health experts further is hospitalization rates and risk of losing lives are on the rise in all age groups with the highest rates of increase in young preschool children.

Common asthma triggers
An asthma attack usually happens on being exposed to “asthma triggers.” Not all people who have asthma have similar triggers. Your triggers can be very different from those of someone else with asthma. Knowing your triggers can help you avoid them and reduce the episodes of asthma.

Some of the most common triggers are mentioned below:

1. Allergens and Air Pollution

Allergenic pollens are small enough to be transported by the wind and usually cause allergies. It has been reported that pollens trigger an asthmatic attack in patients who are allergic to them.

Certain allergies can cause a blood parameter, eosinophils levels, to rise up. About half of people with severe asthma have high levels of eosinophils in the blood, which can cause inflammation and swelling in the airways and other parts of the respiratory system.

Avoiding pollen is crucial at the time that the offending pollen is airborne. During this duration, follow certain measures like:

  • Be outside only early in the morning or during the late afternoon, as humidity is higher in this period and the pollen particles tend to stick and move less in air
  • Car and home windows should be kept shut
  • Wear a mask and wraparound glasses
  • Take a shower after being outdoors.

Outdoor air pollution can trigger an asthma attack which is attributed to several sources, including factories, cars, or wildfire smoke. Alteration in gaseous and particulate outdoor air pollutants can worsen asthmatic symptoms and causes decrease in lung function.

Monitor air quality around you, and plan your activities accordingly. When air quality index deteriorates, asthmatics should lessen the time spent outdoors and, especially, avoid exertion in the polluted air. Other precautions include wearing a dust mask and taking supplemental antioxidants.

Besides outdoor pollution, indoor chemical air pollution can also trigger asthmatic attacks. This type of pollution can be reduced by avoiding cooking-related pollutants, limiting the use of sprays and other cleaning materials that produce volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and by regular air exchange using natural or mechanical ventilation.

2. Heavy exercise

Exercise and other physical activities, specifically in cold air, make you breathe harder is considered as a common asthma trigger. It has been estimated that a heavy workout can cause airways to narrow in approximately 80% of people with asthma. It is also known as exercise-induced asthma and symptoms include chest tightness and cough. You might feel trouble breathing within the first 5 to 15 minutes of an aerobic workout, which usually gets relieved in the next 30 to 60 minutes of exercise. However, this does not mean you need to limit your physical activity. Talk to your doctor on exercise ways that suit your health best.

3. Weather changes

Dry wind, cold air or sudden alterations in weather can sometimes trigger an asthma episode. Besides cold temperature, increase in temperature can also cause asthma, however, the effect of cold weather appears to last for several weeks, whereas the effect of hot weather is short term.

4. Smoking

People who smoke have a higher probability of getting asthma in comparison to non-smoker and these patients often present with worse symptoms such as coughing and wheezing. Studies have shown that smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of wheezing in babies with deteriorated lung function.

Thus, it is essential to quit smoking if you have asthma as even the most effective currently available treatment has reduced efficacy in smokers.

Besides active smoking, passive smoking is also hazardous as this second-hand smoke can trigger an asthma attack. It is important to encourage your loved ones to stop smoking.

5. Dust mites

Dust mites are microscopic bugs which can trigger an asthma attack. The gut of these mites contain digestive enzymes, which when excreted in faeces can induce allergies and asthma.

Following measures can be applied to prevent asthma attacks triggered by mites:

  • Use allergen-proof mattress and pillowcase in impermeable covers to make a barricade between dust mites and yourself
  • Wash your bedding weekly in hot cycle mode and dry it completely before use
  • Minimize dust accumulating on objects by keeping them in closed cupboards
  • Vacuum carpets, area rugs, and floors regularly using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter
  • Keep relative humidity levels in the home low, around 30- 50%.

6. Pests

Pests such as cockroaches, rodents are often found in the kitchens where food is prepared and crumbs are left behind. Exposure to cockroach or mouse allergens originating from urine, shed skin cells or hair follicles can trigger asthma.

The methods by which pests in your home can be controlled are as follows:

  • Clean your dishes, crumbs, and spills without any delay
  • Keep your kitchen clean and vacuum or sweep areas that might attract cockroaches or mice, at least every 2 to 3 days
  • Store food in airtight containers
  • Frequently dispose of garbage
  • Keep counters, sinks, tables, and floors clean and free of clutter
  • Seal cracks or openings in cabinets, walls, baseboards, and around plumbing
  • Use pesticide baits and traps in areas away from children and pets
  • Avoid using sprays and foggers as these can trigger asthma attacks.

7. Pets

Your furry friends can trigger an asthma attack if you are allergic to them. Decrease your exposure by:

  • Keeping pets out of bedrooms,
  • Washing furry pets
  • Using an air cleaner with HEPA filter, and
  • Using allergen-proof mattress and pillow covers.

People with asthma in all instances should avoid triggers. Also, never self-medicate and seek professional advice for any troubles.

Asthma and COVID-19
As per WHO, MoHFW and CDC, people with respiratory conditions including asthma are at a greater risk of developing severe illness. If you think you have symptoms suggestive of COVID-19, get yourself tested and seek expert support at the earliest. 

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Do you often see pesky white flakes on your shirt or find your scalp itchy? Do you see your washbasin/sink filled with flocks of hair? Watch out, as these can be the signs of dandruff on your head. Irrespective of age or gender, it can be found in both men and women and is not something you should take lightly.

Dandruff is a common condition that can be found in the hair all year round and is the result of a dry and itchy scalp. Often caused by the overgrowth of a fungus, Malassezia, it especially becomes evident during winter as the scalp is unable to get enough moisture and becomes dry. Malassezia feeds on the sebum i.e the oily substance secreted by the glands on the scalp. And when this fungus feeds on the sebum, it breaks into fatty acid that causes irritation on the scalp.

Confused about what is causing you an itchy scalp?

Dandruff should not be taken lightly as it denotes a microinflammation, which might be easily overlooked as there are no readily observable symptoms. Apart from dry and itchy scalp, there are a few other causes of dandruff which are:

  • Prolonged period of stress
  • Parkinson’s or illness such as eczema
  • Harsh or irregular brushing
  • Lack of nutrients such as vitamin B12
  • Unadvised or irregular use of hair care products
  • Pollution and heat

You are more likely to have dandruff if your scalp feels oily or your hair looks greasy at most times. At times you may also experience intense itching even when the scalp does not feel dry. In extreme cases, it can show up severe itching and worsened flakes over time or as large areas of redness or swelling on the scalp.

Many of you resort to using multiple antidandruff products to get rid of the problem temporarily, but do you know there are several effective and easy-to-implement home remedies that can help you save that money you spend on hair care products?

Some effective home remedies for dandruff are:

  • Coconut oil and lemon:

Coconut oil is something that everyone’s grandmother advices. Its antifungal properties can provide a great relief from itchiness and dry scalp. Combine equal amounts of coconut oil and lemon juice and massage the mixture on your scalp. Keep it for about 10-15 minutes and rinse your hair thoroughly. This will not only help you get rid of dandruff but also boost hair growth and nourishment. Make sure to preheat the oil in winter as it tends to freeze easily in colder temperatures.

  • Yogurt:

The lactic acid in yogurt helps reduce dandruff and the protein in it strengthens your hair from its roots. It is a treasure trove of friendly bacteria and helps prevent flaking of the scalp area. Apply a layer of fresh yogurt on the scalp and hair. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes and rinse with lukewarm water and dry. You can try adding black pepper to yogurt since that is also loaded with anti fungal properties.

  • Neem:

Using freshly grounded paste made of neem leaves for skin problems dates back to the ancestral times. Because of its antibacterial, anti fungal and antimicrobial properties, it is a simple cure for dandruff and itchiness.
Alternatively, you can simply boil some fresh neem leaves, let it cool and rinse your hair with that water.

  • Aloe Vera:

A panacea for all type of skin problems, Aloe Vera alleviates flakiness and skin irritation, acts as a natural coolant and makes your scalp itch free and cool. Aloe Vera has certain anti fungal properties that helps treat recurring dandruff and cleanses dead skin for regeneration of fresh cells.
Apply aloe vera gel on your scalp, leave for about half an hour and later wash your hair with a mild shampoo.

  • Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV):

ACH works as a natural hair cleanser and unclogs pores and hair follicles. Its acidic nature helps remove dead skin cells on the scalp, prevents the growth of fungus and restores the pH balance of your scalp.
Simply make a mixture using 2 tablespoons of Apple Cider Vinegar in a cup of cold water and rinse your hair after shampooing. Let it settle for two minutes before washing it off. To get the best results, it can be used once a week.

  • Salt:

Salt can absorb excess oil on your scalp, making it itchy and irritable. Oily scalp is also the reason for pimples on the forehead and hence it is best to treat dandruff at home as quick as possible.
Just add a pinch of salt to your usual shampoo and apply on your hair. Massage it gently in circular motions all over your scalp and exfoliate. Leave it for a minute or two and wash with lukewarm water.

  • Olive oil and Vinegar:

Olive oil acts as a natural conditioner for hair, and being lightweight, applying it on hair doesn’t weigh them down. Combined with acetic properties of vinegar, the mixture guards the scalp from fungal infection and at the same time improves blood circulation.

Mix 1 teaspoon olive oil with 2 teaspoon of vinegar. Apply the mixture evenly on hair and massage the scalp for 5 minutes. Wash it with antidandruff shampoo and apply a conditioner for best results.

Apart from these quick home remedies to treat dandruff at home, there are other certain tips that can prove beneficial in reducing flakiness and dryness of the scalp.

  • Try to avoid eating too much sugar, fats and carbs
  • Avoid using styling tools too often as any kind of artificial heat can cause irreparable damage and precipitate dandruff
  • Don’t scratch your scalp often
  • Shampoo your hair 2-3 times a week to loosen the dead skin from the scalp
  • Brush your hair often to improve blood circulation in the scalp

Following a balanced and a healthy hair care routine can help reduce dandruff to a huge extent. However if you see no relief, and the itchiness or dryness still persists, you should consult a doctor for seborrheic dermatitis, a fungal infection on your scalp.

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While working in a full-time office role, Jitin made sure to take small bursts of movement by taking stairs, taking a stroll along the office premises after lunch, and walk to his colleagues for that short discussion. But when the work from home started, his movements started to flunk. He only recognised that it is time to get back to a healthier routine when chronic back pain and digestion problems started to impact his daily routine.  

If you are also one of those people who feel that 2020 badly affected their physical and mental health, take a step back and think, are you motivated enough to make 2021 the healthiest year of your life? Echoed a “Yes” from your inside? Then do read further to know how to have a healthy and happy new year in a true sense. 

Here are 6 things you certainly need to do to get healthier than ever in 2021:

  1. Do not forget the pandemic isn’t over yet
    First things first. If 2020 was about survival, 2021 is going to be about endurance. We have to make sure that we continue keeping all the precautions needed to save yourselves from COVID-19. Stay at least 6 feet from other people who are not from your household in both indoor and outdoor spaces. Avoid crowds. Do wear masks while you are heading out for a public place. And, do not ignore COVID-19 testing if you or a loved one show symptoms of the infection. Also, wash your hands often.

  2. Redefine exercise and workout
    You certainly do not need to hit the gym for achieving your exercise goals. Just invest a little bit of time with yourself. Analyze if you really like working out indoors or outdoors. Pick up one activity you absolutely love and pair your daily dose of exercise with that. You can listen to your favorite podcast while using the treadmill at home, or you can do stretching exercises while cooking that recipe you love.

  3. Set a health goal and track it 

Setting goals hold relevance not only in professional life but also in personal day-to-day life. You must know what you are aiming for. This goal or health number need not always be a weight loss goal. The idea is to feel healthier and stronger inside out. It can be having a healthy hemoglobin count, achieving better blood sugar values, or getting your cholesterol levels on track.

  1. Give enough importance to your health
    The previous year has taught us about the importance of a healthy body and mind. Let’s embrace this learning and carry it forward this year too. Ensure to take loads of immunity-boosting foods, avoid eating junk food items, do not ignore any of the symptoms that might be causing unknown harm to your body, and very important, check with your doctor and know about how frequently you should take a complete body health test. Do not be one of those who only take a health test when something is wrong. Take control and look for health test packages that are curated to suit your age requirements in advance.

Amid the fast-paced life and sedentary routine, it has become quite common to fall prey to lifestyle-related conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol levels. Regularly seeing your doctor and getting health tests done can help detect potential health issues before they become chronic conditions and allow you take right steps well within time. You can get the right treatment quickly and avoid any complications.

  1. Prepare to fail. It is part of succeeding
    Your mental health needs attention too. Do not punish yourself if you missed sticking to a new routine- whether it’s eating less sugar or learning something new at the job. Mental health experts say the key is to accept failure as a part of the process. Acknowledge the fact that at some point you might mess up, things might not fall in the right place. Just keep patience, get back to taking steps toward your goal, and don’t beat yourself up.

  2. Get enough sleep
    Adults need at least 7 hours of sleep per night. For a healthier sleep, be consistent. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning, including on the weekends. What happens when you don’t get enough sleep? Sleep not only affects your productivity and emotional balance but your brain and heart health, immune system, creativity, vitality, metabolism and weight also. No other activity imparts so many benefits with so little effort! Make sure to keep your cellphones aside at least 1 hour before you hit the bed. The blue light from screens interferes with quality sleep and disrupts your sleep schedule.

The final message
No doubt 2020 had been tough for many of us, but not giving up to the hardship is what we humans are known for! Let us convert the negative experiences into positive light, and welcome 2021 with an energized spirit, where we all and our loved ones enjoy good health- both physical and mental.  

Wish you a very happy and happy new year 2021! May you be the healthiest version of yourself, this year.

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Have come across the term “high cholesterol” in several health-related discussions and could never decode what it exactly is? Here we explain what is cholesterol, the difference between good and bad cholesterol, and the basics of cholesterol tests.

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a type of fat found in your blood. Every organ in your body including the brain, skin, and other organs needs cholesterol to do their jobs. However, you need a little and not a lot of it!.

In the body, cholesterol is produced from your liver. Apart from this naturally synthesized cholesterol, you also can get it from the foods you eat. Meat, fish, eggs, butter, cheese, and milk all have cholesterol in them. Fruits and green vegetables do not have any cholesterol. Too much of anything can be detrimental. Similarly, eating too much fat and cholesterol can impact your body and health negatively.

What are the types of cholesterol?

Cholesterol in your blood needs to travel through the body, but it can’t do this on its own. So, it combines with proteins to travel through the bloodstream. This cholesterol and protein that travel together are called lipoproteins.

Chiefly, there are two types of cholesterol:

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol or bad cholesterol: Carries cholesterol from the liver into the blood, where it can stick to the blood vessels.

High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol or good cholesterol: Carries the cholesterol in the blood back to the liver, where it is broken down.

Find it difficult to remember which one is good and what is bad? Here’s a hack: the HDL is the good cholesterol, so remember it as “healthy” cholesterol — “H” for healthy. The other one is bad cholesterol.

What happens if you have too much bad cholesterol?

If your body has too much LDL (bad) cholesterol, this can stick and build upon the walls of your blood vessels. This buildup is called “plaque.” As this plaque continues to thicken over time, the inside lumen of the blood vessels get narrowed. These narrower blood vessels pose an obstruction to the blood flow to and from your heart and other organs. And, when blood flow to the heart is obstructed, it can cause chest pain or even a heart attack. So, bad cholesterol and heart disease are directly related.

Your body naturally produces all the (bad) cholesterol it needs. However, an unhealthy lifestyle can make your body produce more LDL cholesterol than it needs and causes LDL cholesterol levels to rise in the blood:

Factors that lead to an increase in bad cholesterol levels include:

  • Eating unhealthy
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Smoking or exposure to tobacco smoke
  • Being overweight or obese

When people say high cholesterol, they usually mean high levels of bad cholesterol and/or low levels of good cholesterol.

Heredity can play a role too

You may inherit genes from the family members such as your mother, father, or even grandparents that cause you to have too much cholesterol. This is called familial hypercholesterolemia (FH). FH is dangerous because it can lead a person to develop premature atherosclerotic heart disease.

How to know if you have high cholesterol?

A complete cholesterol test — also called a lipid panel or lipid profile — is a simple blood test that can measure the amount of cholesterol (and triglycerides) in your blood. This is an important tool for identifying people at significant risk of developing heart disease, especially coronary artery disease. This test can help determine your risk of the buildup of plaques in your arteries that can cause narrowed or blocked arteries, a condition called atherosclerosis.

Who should get a cholesterol test?

You might be at the risk of having high cholesterol levels and need to take a cholesterol test if you:   

  • Have a family history of high cholesterol or heart attacks
  • Are overweight
  • Have an inactive lifestyle
  • Eat an unhealthy diet
  • Indulge in cigarette smoking
  • Are a man older than 45 or a woman older than 55
  • Have diabetes

As per the clinical guidelines, people with a history of strokes or heart attacks need regular cholesterol testing to track the effectiveness of their medicines

When to get tested?

  • If you are an adult having no risk factors for heart disease, take it as a regular health checkup once every four to six years; children, teens, and young adults should be tested once between the ages of 9 and 11 and then again between the ages of 17 and 21.
  • When risk factors for heart disease are present, when prior results showed high-risk levels, and/or when undergoing any type of treatment for high cholesterol levels, testing should be done more frequently and at regular intervals of time.
  • If you are an adult at average risk of developing coronary artery disease, you should have your cholesterol checked every five years, beginning at age 18.

How to prevent high cholesterol levels?

Making lifestyle changes is the first and foremost step to lower your cholesterol level and reduce the risk of developing heart disease. Make exercise an essential part of your daily routine. Avoid processed and deep-fried food items. If you think you might have high cholesterol, get tested, and consult your doctor to seek treatment on time.

Making even modest changes now can help you to prevent high cholesterol levels that can save you from significant medical issues later such as heart attack and stroke.

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Your body has several glands to perform various body functions. The thyroid is a small gland located at the front of the neck, right at the spot where a bow tie would rest. It makes two types of thyroid hormones: triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). It helps your body maintain its metabolic rate, and do numerous other things, including getting energy from food, growing, and going through sexual development.

Thyroid tests

The thyroid blood tests (also called thyroid panel) are simple lab tests that check if your thyroid is functioning right or not. In people who have already been diagnosed with thyroid problems, the tests are used to monitor and guide treatment.

Types of thyroid blood tests

  • T4 test: This test measures the levels of the hormone T4 (thyroxine) in your blood. It might be done in one or both of the following ways: Total T4, which measures the total amount of thyroxine in the blood. This includes the amount of T4 attached to blood proteins, which help the hormone move through the bloodstream; and free T4, which measures only the amount of free thyroxine that is not attached to blood proteins.
  • T3 test: This test measures the level of another major thyroid hormone. It again can be of two types: T3 totaI and free T3.
  • TSH test: A thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) test is the most significant tool, in a way, to tell how well the thyroid is working. If you have any problem related to the thyroid gland and it prevents the gland from making enough thyroid hormone, another gland, called the pituitary gland, releases more TSH into the blood. If the thyroid is making too much thyroid hormone, the pituitary releases less TSH, which means less TSH levels in the blood.
  • Thyroid antibodies test: There is one thyroid condition, called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which is an autoimmune condition. This means the body’s own immune system attacks the thyroid gland. A test that checks for high levels of antibodies helps detect this condition. Antibodies are a sign of the immune system going awry and attacking the thyroid gland. Generally, two types of thyroid antibodies are measured: thyroglobulin antibodies (TgAb) and thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPO).

Symptoms and Diagnosis

  • A high TSH level most often means you have low thyroid hormone levels in the blood (condition is called hypothyroidism), or an underactive thyroid. This implies that your thyroid isn’t making enough hormones. As a result of which the pituitary gland has to make and release extra TSH into your blood to stimulate the thyroid gland.
  • A low TSH level usually means you have high thyroid hormone levels in the blood (condition is called hyperthyroidism), or an overactive thyroid. This implies that your thyroid gland is making excess hormones, and that is why the pituitary gland has reduced or stopped making and releasing TSH into your blood.
  • A high T4 level may mean you have hyperthyroidism. A low level of T4 may mean you have hypothyroidism.
  • If the TSH levels are elevated, T4 levels are normal to low, and T3 levels are normal, it might indicate early hypothyroidism.

In some cases, high or low T4 levels may not mean you have thyroid problems since the levels might be affected due to factors such as pregnancy, certain medicines (oral contraceptives, corticosteroids, etc), severe illness, and other health problems. Basically, these conditions and medicines alter the number of proteins in your blood that “bind,” or attach, to T4.

Please note that your doctor is the best guide to interpret your thyroid test results and suggest the diagnosis.

If your thyroid is underactive, it makes too little thyroid hormone, which leads to hypothyroidism. Your body’s metabolic rate goes down and it uses up energy more slowly. Symptoms include tiredness, feeling cold, constipation, dry skin, infrequent menses or absent periods in women, and slow height growth in children.

If your thyroid is overactive, it releases too much thyroid hormone, which leads to hyperthyroidism. Your body’s basal metabolic rate goes up and it uses up energy more quickly than it should. Symptoms include sweating, trembling, weight loss, diarrhea, irregular menses or (increased bleeding which might also occur) in women, and fast heartbeat.

Why you may need a thyroid test?

It is not uncommon to have hypothyroidism and still being unaware of the condition. It might take some time for symptoms to be noticeable. Regular thyroid screening helps get diagnosed on time and seek early treatment. It is more important to get tested if thyroid conditions run in your family. The more family members that have thyroid disease, the higher the chances the person will experience a thyroid disease.

Moreover, women of all ages are more likely than men to have low thyroid hormone levels.

If you’re 60 or older, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor to see whether your medical history suggests you might benefit from getting testing for thyroid levels.

What you can do

If you seem to have any of the symptoms of low or high thyroid levels, talk to your doctor and get tested as advised. Do not ignore any health symptoms. Getting the right treatment can help you get complete control of your thyroid-related symptoms.

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Love winter but hate the arid air damaging your skin?
Fear the skin dryness that comes along with the winter and looking for winter skincare tips?
Already facing skin problems due to winter and need an effective solution? 

Winter asks for an essential skincare routine
Winter air is dry and the humidity level drops drastically. This dry, cold air causes the upper layers of your skin to lose moisture. The dry skin is more prone to itch, inflame, and develop a rash. Hence, winter can make your skin trouble in many ways. People having sensitive skin or eczema are more prone to develop skin issues in winter and require extra care for the skin.   

Skincare routine in winter

It is essential to take care of your skin in winter be it at home or outside. To help you keep skin woes at bay, we have compiled the five most useful dos and don’ts for winter skincare. Follow this super easy set of skincare tips and enjoy the best of your skin this winter.

  • Do: Moisturize more

Moisturizers rehydrate the skin layers and seal in the moisture. This is the first step in combating dry skin. In general, the thicker and greasier a moisturizer, the more effective it will be. The best time to apply a moisturizer is immediately after bathing when your skin is still damp.

  • Don’t: Ignore the product label

It is good to know what is in the products you put on your skin. Check the labels of every skincare product and ensure they don’t contain any harsh or stripping ingredients such as alcohol or sulfates. Look for nourishing and hydrating ingredients such as ceramides glycerin, sorbitol, hyaluronic acid, and lecithin, silicone, lanolin, and mineral oil. Emollients, such as linoleic, linolenic, and lauric acids, are also good as they help smooth skin by filling in the spaces between skin cells.

  • Do: Customize your skincare

If you have oily skin, skip oil-based, greasy preparations, and opt for sunscreen. People with dry and normal skin can choose out of petroleum jelly and moisturizing oils (such as mineral oil), which prevent water loss without clogging pores.

  • Don’t: Skimp on an active lifestyle

As inviting as a cozy blanket is in winter, you should still motivate yourself to keep moving and sit less. Keeping physically active is extremely beneficial to our skin. It improves blood flow and helps your damaged skin cells repair themselves, leaving a rejuvenated blush. Go for a light jog or a simple walk, or stick to the comfort of your home and indulge in a yoga session.

  • Do: Seek expert care for prolonged and problematic symptoms

While it is common to have dry skin in winter, your skin issues might also be caused due to an underlying health condition. If you think natural remedies and the usual skincare routine aren’t helping, consult a dermatologist. For severe dry skin, your clinician may prescribe a cream containing lactic acid, urea, or corticosteroids. You may also be advised to take some tests to rule out medical conditions that can cause dry skin, including thyroid conditions, diabetes, psoriasis, and atopic dermatitis. You can now book a thyroid profile or diabetes test at the comfort of your home.

  • Don’t: Skip hydration

You can easily slack off on your water intake during winter. Keep a water bottle near you throughout the day so you aren’t skipping on drinking enough water. Indulge in more herbal tea including green tea and chamomile for a warm winter drink that benefits the skin.

  • Do: Wear your sunscreen

Think sunscreen is just for summertime? Absolutely not! Winter sun can still damage your skin. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen to your face and your hands about 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply frequently if you have to stay outside a long time. Sun protection is equally important in winter.

  • Don’t: Take a long, hot shower

Indulging in the hot shower for too long can be detrimental to your skin. It can compromise the lipid layer of your skin, can actually be drying out your skin, and cause irritation and water loss. Try to use lukewarm water and don’t stay under the water any longer than necessary.

  • Do: Ditch irritating clothing

Keeping yourself well-covered is important, but be gentle with your skin while opting for winter clothing. Wear cotton or silk under wool or other rough materials if your skin is sensitive to woolens. Use gentle laundry detergent labeled “hypoallergenic.”

  • Don’t: Wear wet gloves or socks

The skin on your hands is thinner than on most parts of the body and has fewer oil glands. Hence, it is harder to keep your hands moist, especially in dry winter. This can lead to itchiness and cracking. Wear gloves when you go outside, but make sure to avoid wet gloves and socks. These can irritate your skin and cause itching, cracking, sores, or even a flare-up of skin conditions like eczema.

Hope you find these skin care tips for winter pretty useful. Remember, you need to take care of your overall health so that the healthy you reflect through your skin! Eat healthy, exercise, and keep infections at bay. Need to book a full body checkup? Book here.

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Our liver plays a vital role in our body’s digestive system. Whatever we eat or drink, including medicines, almost all of it passes through the liver. Therefore, we need to treat our Liver right, so that it can stay healthy and do its job effectively. Amid the hectic schedule, it is quite easy for most of us to forget to pay our liver the attention that it rightly deserves.

The liver, situated under the lower ribcage on our right side, is responsible for getting rid of harmful chemicals to cleanse the body, producing liquid called bile which is required for breaking down all the fat from our food. Most importantly it stores glucose which gives us energy to carry out our daily activities. The liver is the only organ in our body that can regenerate itself; a person can donate a part of their liver to another person.  This article will provide you with insights that can help lower the risk of liver problems and eventually other vital organs as well.

Major Liver problems include infectious conditions like Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and liver damage caused due to excessive alcohol consumption, like fatty liver disease and cirrhosis. Liver failure and liver cancer are fatal diseases that can be caused due to multiple causes, with most cases associated with liver damage and scarring of the liver. All such problems can adversely affect the normal and healthy functioning of the liver, thus proper care and caution is essential when it comes to keeping the liver in good health

6 ways to keep the liver problems at bay:

  • Limit your alcohol intake

Our liver and body can usually cope up with consuming only a certain amount of alcohol.As per the guidelines, men should not go for drinking more than 2 drinks a day and women should limit themselves to just one drink a day. One “standard” drink contains roughly 14 grams of pure alcohol. For example, around 12 ounces of regular beer. But if you continue to drink more than what your liver can take, it will affect the liver cells; they will not be able to process it and this can lead to liver damage, leading to permanent scarring of the liver. If you continue with excessive drinking, it might cause liver failure too.

  • Get a Liver Function Test regularly

Liver function tests aka Liver Panel, is a simple blood test that can be taken to measure different enzymes, proteins and all other substances that our Liver produces. This simple blood test can reveal much information about your liver health and may be an early indication of liver disease. This allows you to take action in time.

  • Exercise regularly

Though this is something which is important for preventing most lifestyle diseases, we never tend to take this seriously. This helps keep our weight under control, and prevent excess fats from getting stored in our body. Regular exercise can help keep non alcoholic fatty liver disease at bay, a severe condition that can lead to cirrhosis if not taken care of. If currently you are not doing any physical workout, start by doing some daily exercises and slowly and gradually move up towards increasing it to half an hour or an hour daily.

  • Don’t go for fad diets

Following trends, a lot of people go for random diet plans, weight loss pills or protein pills, without understanding the after-effects it can have. Fad diets and pills available without prescription that promise quick weight loss or weight gain might end up harming the Liver in the long run. If in any doubt what can be the perfect diet or tablets to keep the health in check, always ask a doctor or a dietician.

One simply cannot stress over the fact enough that having a balanced diet is important for anyone. Try and avoid saturated fats, trans fats and hydrogenated fats as much as possible. Our culture these days is to simply have leftovers or packaged / processed foods, keep a check on that. High levels of cholesterol are identified as common causes leading to fatty liver disease. Therefore it is suggested to eat more fibrous food, like fruits and vegetables and dairy produce for a healthy liver functioning.

Want to check how your diet might have harmed your cholesterol levels. Book a lab test right away.

  • Be careful with medication

We often tend to self diagnose ourselves when it comes to common cold or cough, doing so we take medicines that can affect the liver badly. By not consulting a doctor or a physician, we tend to put our health at risk. Of all the organs present in our body, the liver is most vulnerable to the harmful effects of self-medication. It acts as the main organ that detoxifies whatever medicines go inside our body. Over dose of any medicine, not consulting a doctor, taking herbal supplements can all have irreversible side effects on the liver. Thereby always check with a specialist and avoid compromising your liver health.

  • Get vaccinated

Vaccinations protect yourselves against Hepatitis A, B & C. Always consult your family doctor or physician before getting these shots. Hepatitis A can be caused due to contaminated food or water and Hepatitis B can be because of sexual contact or contaminated blood and needles. Remember prevention is better than cure

The liver is wonderfully created to perform countless functions for our body. It protects and nurtures our body every day, from getting rid of toxins, giving the body the desired energy, fighting viruses and other infections to maintaining mineral and vitamin supply in our body. All of these are not possible without a healthy liver. It is a complex yet resilient organ of our body that needs to be taken care of day in and day out.

Schedule that long-pending liver health test now. Book here.

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Dengue is an acute viral infection that continues to plague many countries across the world, including India. Almost over 40% of the world population is living in areas where there is a high risk of dengue. It is still considered one of the leading causes of illness in many countries.

While mild dengue can cause flu-like symptoms, severe dengue can present with potentially fatal complications. Dengue is caused by the bite of the female Aedes Aegypti mosquito, the same species responsible for spreading other viruses like Zika, Chikungunya, etc. It is a mosquito-borne disease caused by four related viruses (called serotypes) namely Dengue virus 1, 2, 3, and 4. Once you are infected with one of these viruses, your body tends to develop immunity to that particular virus, however, you can still catch the other three viruses and get infected at a later stage in life. Because of this very reason, a person can be reinfected with Dengue in his/her lifetime. Although outbreaks in India were mainly due to serotypes 2 and 3 (DENV-2 and DENV-3), dengue virus serotype 1 (DENV-1) was the predominant serotype reported in the 2010 Delhi outbreak.

The mosquito that spreads the dengue virus is mostly found in contaminated stagnant waters in buckets, flower vases, coolers, etc, and usually bites on the legs and arms and is most commonly seen during the daytime, indoors or outdoors. The virus is only caused by the bite of the Aedes mosquito and cannot be transmitted from person to person. Very rarely, dengue can be spread through blood transfusion, organ transplant, or through a needle stick injury.

  • Symptoms of Dengue

Symptoms of Dengue are often mistaken or confused with other flu or cold-like illnesses responsible for causing fever and body aches. The most common symptoms of Dengue are:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Rashes on the body
  • Muscle or bone pains
  • Body ache
  • Severe headache
  • High fever
  • Tests for Dengue

Doctors use simple blood tests for diagnosing dengue fever. These tests can check for the viral antibodies or the presence of a specific antigen. The most definitive test for Dengue includes a rapid point of care test, known as Dengue NS1 antigen test which can help in identifying the fever early and with more promptness. It increases the likelihood of providing a confirmed diagnosis which enables the doctor to provide patients with appropriate and timely advice and quick follow-ups as well. For patients presenting more than 1 week after fever onset, IgM detection is most useful, although NS1 has been reported positive up to 12 days after fever onset.
Dengue fever usually results in a decreased platelet count in most people. Therefore, the platelet count should be monitored carefully and regularly. A complete blood count (CBC) test gives a complete blood picture along with the platelet count. Make sure to get tested on time.

Typically, if you have dengue, you will be positive for dengue-specific NS1 antigen, a decrease in platelet count, and a decrease in total white blood cells (WBC) count.

  • Treatment for Dengue

Symptoms of dengue typically last 2–7 days. Most people will recover after about a week. The treatment is usually symptomatic, so if someone has a fever or body pain due to dengue, he/ she need to use over-the-counter fever medicines or pain killers to bring down fever, body pains, or headaches. A word of caution here would be to avoid aspirin or ibuprofen as these can further worsen the situation. You should drink plenty of fluids and take proper rest. Drink water at regular intervals or any drink with added electrolytes. Mild symptoms can be treated at home with care, but if the symptoms continue till the late, getting yourself admitted to the hospital as and when advised by your doctor to avoid further complications is the wisest choice.

  • Treatment for severe dengue

If you have any warning signs, seek medical assistance immediately. There is no vaccine for preventing severe dengue. Medical treatment might include blood or platelet transfusion, giving intravenous fluids for hydration. In cases where the patient’s oxygen levels dip, oxygen therapy is also suggested.

  • Prevention of dengue

The first and foremost thing to be done for preventing dengue is to reduce the mosquito population to avoid getting bitten by the Aedes mosquitoes. Follow the below guidelines:

  • Use a good mosquito repellent both inside the house as well as when you step outside.
  • Go for mosquito nets during sleeping, if you are not comfortable using them, you can also apply repellent or use electric repellent devices.
  • For reducing the mosquito population, make sure water is not collected in birdbaths, pet dishes, flower pots, cans, or any other empty vessel.
  • During summers, keep changing the water inside the coolers. All of these should be checked, emptied, and refreshed regularly.
  • Wear full sleeves clothes while going outside to prevent mosquito bites.

Remember, a little bit of extra caution can go a long way in preventing you and your loved ones from falling sick with dengue.

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Although women and men share several similar chronic health problems, women have their own unique health issues, which deserve special consideration. Due to the chaos of a woman’s daily life, healthy living may take a back seat. It is vital that every woman has access to knowledge about the spectrum of women’s health conditions, not only about her reproductive system, but related to all aspects of her body. Their awareness can promote healthy lifestyle practices, which in turn are the best way to avoid disease, prolong life, and improve quality of life.

Here are six common health issues that affect millions of women each year:

  • Menstruation problems

It is very common for women to have issues with periods, including heavy, scant, missed or irregular periods. Period cramps remain to be another health issue among women.
In general, heavy menstrual bleeding is the menstrual blood loss of more than 80 ml or periods lasting more than seven days. It has been estimated that about 9 to 14 out of 100 women get heavy periods.1 Heavy menstruation problems can interfere with daily life and even result in iron deficiency anaemia in severe cases. Talk to your doctor, if you have heavy menstrual bleeding to rule out the underlying cause.

Another problem women faces with periods is pre-menstruation syndrome (PMS), which affects 47.8% of reproductive age women worldwide.2 The common symptoms of PMS include changes in appetite, weight gain, abdominal pain, back pain, headache, swelling of the breasts, nausea, constipation, anxiety, mood swings, etc. These symptoms occur within a few days of the start of menstruation.

Besides the above mentioned issues, a rising concern of today’s woman is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a common metabolic and endocrine disorder of reproductive age. Women with PCOS may have infrequent menstrual periods or excess male hormone (androgen) levels. This disorder is getting prevalent in India that accounts to 3.7 to 22.5% of females.3 Women affected with PCOS are at increased risk of obesity, type II diabetes mellitus, heart disease, infertility, and acne.

Book a full body test and be assured of your health.

  • Fertility issues

Latest report revealed that the fertility rate of Indians has come down by more than 50% from 4.97 to 2.3, it will be further reduced to 2.1 during 2025 to 30, and 1.86 from 2045 to 50 and 1.78 from 2095 to 100. Currently, the infertility rate is 10 to 14% which is higher in urban areas where 1 out of 6 couples is affected.4

Various causes responsible for infertility in women are PCOS, contraception complications, abortion infections, STDs, post-partum infections, pelvic inflammatory diseases, etc. Lifestyle problems such as smoking, alcohol, consuming processed food, physical and emotional stress can also play a significant role in infertility.

The problem of infertility can be treated with the help of an expert depending on the underlying cause. There are certain hormone tests, such as FSH test, that your doctor might suggest to get a sneak peek into your condition.

  • Thyroid problems

Thyroid disease is twice as prevalent in women as in men and is common among women of child-bearing age (18-35 years).5 Women generally have hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone levels), in which the metabolism slows down. Symptoms include weight gain, feeling sluggish and tired, etc. On the other side, high thyroid levels can also cause early onset of menopause, before 40 years or in the early 40s.

Besides, pregnancy can raise the level of thyroid hormones in the blood and almost 5% to 10% of women suffer from postpartum thyroiditis, which occurs within 1 year after giving birth.6

Get your thyroid hormones tested and stay in the know. 

  • Breast cancer

Breast cancer is the second important cause of cancer deaths among women. The latest global figures show that around half a million women die from breast cancer each year.8 Various risk factors involved are increasing age, family history, early onset of periods or menopause after 55 years, obesity, etc. Keep yourself educated regarding breast cancer self-examination.

Breast cancer is the second important cause of cancer deaths among women. The latest global figures show that around half a million women die from breast cancer each year.8 Various risk factors involved are increasing age, family history, early onset of periods or menopause after 55 years, obesity, etc. Keep yourself educated regarding breast cancer self-examination.

  • Sexual health and bladder issues

Women should be concerned about their sexual as well as bladder health as they rapidly get affected by both sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and urinary tract infections. It has been observed that the effect of a STD is more severe on women than on men. Although STDs often go untreated in women as symptoms are less noticeable or have higher chances of getting misdiagnosed with another condition, they have serious implications such as infertility in women.

Apart from sexual health, women should take care of their personal hygiene. Women have a shorter urethra, which enables the bacteria to travel a smaller distance before they reach to the bladder and start an infection. Hence, urinary tract problems, including infections and incontinence, are more common in women. It is advisable to not hesitate and talk to your healthcare professional.

  • Depression

Emerging evidence suggests that women are more prone to experience anxiety, and depression in contrast to men. According to WHO, depression is the most common mental health problem for women and suicide a leading cause of death for women under 60.7

Depression can last for more than a couple of weeks and interferes with your daily life. Hormonal fluctuations can trigger the condition, especially after pregnancy or around menopause. Other risk factors include family history, marital problems, chronic illness, stressful life event, physical or sexual abuse, etc. Although the majority of people need treatment, few measures such as exercise, spending time with people you trust can also help.

Taking care of your health and your body is of highest importance. Aim to keep a healthy weight, eat a balanced diet, get plenty of exercise, practice stress management, and see your doctor regularly.

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HbA1c test: Gold standard test for diabetes

HbA1c test stands for glycated or glycosylated hemoglobin test. This test helps measure average blood sugar levels for the past 3 months. This test is essential for every person who has diabetes. Other names of this test are glycohemoglobin test, A1c test, or simply A1c.

Hemoglobin is the protein in the red blood cells that help in transportation of oxygen across the body. Sugar (or glucose) present in the blood combines with one type of hemoglobin (hemoglobin A), this combination molecule is called glycated hemoglobin. A red blood cell lives up to 120 days, or 4 months. Hence, measuring this combination molecule gives a fair estimate of your blood sugar levels in the last 2-3 months.         

Keep your diabetes in check with an HbA1c test.

Importance of HbA1c Test

Do you regularly measure your fasting and after meal blood sugar to keep a check on your diabetes? Think that is enough? Not actually! Though the fasting and post meal tracking of blood glucose is important, these tests can only check your blood sugar at a certain point of time. Their results might vary depending on what you had eaten over the last night or in the previous meal. However, the HbA1c test looks at the 3-month data and cannot be biased.

For persons having diabetes, HbA1c numbers give a fair idea of how controlled their diabetes is. As per scientific evidence, having a smaller HbA1c number means lesser risk of developing complications due to diabetes. Raised HbA1c value has also been regarded as an independent risk factor for heart disease and stroke in people with or without diabetes.    

Why is the HbA1c test done?

The HbA1c test is used for diagnosis as well as monitoring purposes. Your doctor suggests an HbA1c test to see whether your diabetes is controlled or not. Pre-diabetics, people having borderline diabetes, are also advised to get tested to check how stable their blood sugar levels are.

Frequency of getting tested
In general, people having diabetes and pre-diabetes should get their HbA1c tested every 3 months. If you are healthy but have a family history of diabetes or think your lifestyle makes you prone to develop diabetes, you should get an HbA1c test done every 6 months. You can consult a doctor on how frequently you should take a test for your health condition.

HbA1c Results
The results of the A1c test are presented as a percentage. The test result shows the amount of hemoglobin that glucose has bound to in your blood.

For diagnostic purposes, the test results may be as follows:

  • Normal/ Healthy: Below 5.7%
  • Pre-diabetes: 5.7–6.4%
  • Diabetes: 6.5% or more

There are certain factors and some medical conditions that can change the HbA1c result slightly and even lead to a higher reading. Some conditions that can cause a false A1c number include:

  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Recent blood loss or transfusion
  • Low iron levels
  • Certain blood-related conditions

Your doctor is the best guide to analyse the results.

 HbA1c Target levels
A healthy person who does not have diabetes should target for an HbA1c score below 5.7 percent.

If a person has an HbA1c score of 6.5 percent or higher, it’s likely that he /she has diabetes. During treatment for diabetes, different people will have different targets, based on factors such as their age and medicines they are taking. In general, diabetics might be asked to keep their HbA1c result below 7 percent. Older adults having diabetes and diabetics who might also be at risk of low sugar levels (hypoglycemia), can be recommended an HbA1c number of around 8%.   

Test preparation for HbA1c

Unlike fasting or post meal blood sugar tests, no special preparation is needed for an HbA1c test. You do not need to fast. You can give a test sample at any time of the day. Also, do not miss your medicines on the day of getting tested. 

COVID-19 and HbA1c
The entire pandemic situation has made managing diabetes well more important than ever for people having diabetes. HbA1c gives you a sneak peek into how well your blood glucose has been doing over the past 2-3 months. Look for trusted labs and safe services when you have to take an HbA1c test. Have to get tested and not sure where to get it done? Book an HbA1c test online and get tested within the comfort of your home.

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