COVID-19 Vaccine effectiveness

It’s been a little over a month since the second wave of COVID left many among us gasping for oxygen and running from pillar to post to save our loved ones. While the daily COVID cases in India have seen a decline in the past few days, our fight against the deadly virus is far from over. So, it is important for all of us to follow the COVID precautions including hand hygiene, social distancing, and masking up. And, we have another weapon against the pandemic- COVID-19 vaccine! Now more than ever, vaccination has become the ray of hope to bring us back the normal lives beyond pandemic.

COVID-19 vaccine in India

Starting May 1, everyone above an age of 18 years is eligible to get a COVID shot. As on May 15 2021, 18 crore vaccine doses have been administered in india. Currently, India has approved three COVID-19 vaccines- Covishield, Covaxin, and Sputnik V. All these three vaccines have proven efficacy against coronavirus (scientific name: SARS-CoV2).

How do vaccines work?

Vaccines contain weakened or inactive parts of a pathogen. When introduced in the body, these attenuated/ inactive pathogen remains act as a trigger and get your immune system to produce protective antibodies and T lymphocytes. Your body now recognizes the pathogen, and will be ready to fight back in a high momentum if it has to encounter the virus in future.

In a nutshell, vaccines provide immunity against infections without being naturally infected.  

Speaking of coronavirus specifically, it has two different types of proteins – spike protein (S Protein) and nucleo-capsid protein (N Protein). The S protein is located on the surface of the virus and the N protein is found inside the virus. The coronavirus gains entry into human cells through its Spike Protein and that is why most vaccines against coronaviruses are designed to target the spike protein. Depending on this target, the vaccines produce different types of antibodies in the body. Though Covishield’s technique employs the Spike protein only, and Covaxin has used the whole inactivated virus, both will produce anti-S antibodies (also called anti-SARS-CoV2 spike protein).

Got vaccinated and want to check if you have developed antibodies? Visit here for details.

Is this the same antibody test which tells us about past COVID infection?

So, the first and foremost thing that you must know is despite being a COVID antibody test, it is different from the antibody test that is taken to look for past COVID infection.

How is the anti-SARS-CoV2 Spike protein test different from the usual antibody test?

The COVID antibody test that is used to confirm past infection with Coronavirus is a Qualitative Test, which means it gives you an idea whether antibodies are present or absent. However, Metropolis has recently launched a quantitative antibody test called COVIPROTECT that gives you an exact measurement of the antibody titres available in your body. The antibodies against Spike Protein can be produced either post vaccination or post natural infection of COVID 19. The spike protein antibodies are generally developed after 2 weeks of second dose of vaccination or 4 weeks of exposure to infection.

The use of previously developed COVID antibody tests is limited in knowing the exposure status than to the actual antibody titre. With the advent of COVIPROTECT, it is likely that the qualitative test would become obsolete soon. As of now, Metropolis offers two types of COVID antibody testing:

  1. SARS CoV2 Antibody Quantitative (COVIPROTECT) (MRP: INR 1200 + Home visit charges)
  2. SARS CoV2 Antibody Qualitative (MRP: INR 450 + Home visit charges)

COVIPROTECT Test: Quantitative SARS CoV2 Antibody Test Against Spike Protein

While you plan to be a bit relaxed about certain routine activities after getting your full dose of COVID vaccine, it makes a lot of sense to know whether your body has developed the necessary antibody to fight the coronavirus post vaccination.

This is where the Quantitative antibody test against Spike Protein comes into play. It is better known as COVIPROTECT by Metropolis. This test uses Blood as the sample like a routine blood test.

When should I get my antibody level tested post vaccination?

It is recommended to go for this test after 2 weeks of your second dose of COVID vaccine to get accurate results.

Can antibody tests assess if your COVID-19 vaccine shot was effective?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) discourages antibody testing for determining immunity after getting the vaccine. It is very likely for a vaccinated person to get a negative result from an antibody test, even if the vaccine was effective and protective. The major cause is different antibody tests kits used in labs detect antibodies to different parts of the virus. While some kits detect antibodies to the Spike protein of the virus, a few others detect antibodies to the Nucleocapsid protein. The point to note is that irrespective of which COVID vaccine you received, it would have produced antibodies to Spike protein (Covaxin due to being whole virus inactivated virus vaccine, produces antibodies to N protein too. But that does not imply that Covaxin would outshine Covishield in protection).

COVIPROTECT test kit identifies antibodies produced against Spike protein of the virus.and hence irrespective of which vaccine you received, it will catch the antibodies post vaccine.  

Vaccines are your best bet

Please note that even after testing negative on an antibody test, fully vaccinated people should not be worried about immunity gained post vaccine. It might happen if your antibodies level are at levels below the test’s threshold for detection. Also, in the months after vaccination, antibody levels may decrease below the detectable level.

Always get your test results interpreted through a healthcare provider for better understanding. For all lab test-related needs, visit Metropolis.

Make sure you get vaccinated. Motivate others to get the vaccine too. Let’s do our bit in helping India win over the pandemic!

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With the second wave of the pandemic sweeping across the nation, many of us continue to be affected by the unpleasant sickness and the after effects. It is quite likely to be anxious with the Social Media University spreading irrational, non-scientific information and nerve-wracking media coverage around COVID-19. However, it is important to note that nearly 80-85% of coronavirus cases have mild disease and can be taken care of under home isolation. Not every COVID positive person requires oxygen support or hospitalization. What you just need to pay attention to is to take extra care of yourself, monitor oxygen levels, be in touch with a doctor, and get COVID-19 monitoring tests done as and when advised.

What are COVID Monitoring Tests?

As per various research and studies, a bunch of laboratory tests including blood parameters, inflammatory markers, coagulation parameters, liver enzymes, etc., gives an insight into the severity of COVID illness and can be used by your doctor as the prognostic indicators.

In simple words, these lab tests provide an overall picture of how COVID-19 has impacted your vital organs and normal body processes, how likely you are to develop moderate or severe disease, or need hospitalization, or have you already started getting better.    
Book a COVID Monitoring Profile and get tested at home.

Who might need COVID Monitoring Tests?

  • People with mild disease in early days of sickness to get the baseline values 
  • People with mild disease who continue to have symptoms beyond day 5-7 and doctor feels that the disease might be progressing
  • People with moderate or severe disease to be started on a treatment regimen
  • COVID suspect or positive people who continue to experience oxygen levels less than 93% 
  • People with severe disease before discharge
  • Any other conditions 

Please note that COVID monitoring tests can be required for both- people under home care or hospitalized. 

What tests are included under COVID Monitoring Profile?

Routine Blood Parameters

Research suggests blood markers like complete blood count (CBC), leukocytes, platelets, eosinophils, neutrophils-lymphocytes ratio (NLR), erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) correlate with disease severity in COVID. For example, COVID positive people are likely to have decreased levels of leukocytes and platelets. Similarly, NLR levels more than 3.5 (along with some other biomarkers explained below) might indicate that the disease is not mild.

Inflammatory markers

COVID-19 can evoke a serious hyperinflammatory response and cytokine storm, a cause of major concern. Hence, it is important to track certain biomarkers that can indicate towards systemic inflammation, chiefly including C-reactive protein (CRP), lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) and Interleukin-6 (IL-6). Of these, CRP seems to be the most important one in guidining therapy as per some experts. In general, a CRP level of less than 26 mg/L is considered a mild disease, levels between 26-100 mg/L indicate moderate COVID and more than 100 mg/L point towards severe COVID disease.

Please note that these markers get increased in case of any acute inflammation. So, it is important to rule out other causes or any secondary infection while taking the test results into account.

Cardiac, kidney, or Liver damage markers

Besides targeting your lungs, COVID-19 can also impact the other vital organs such as heart, liver and kidneys. In some of the study models, cardiac injury is significantly and independently associated with mortality. People with moderate or severe COVID illness have also been seen to have high creatinine and blood urea levels in some studies. It is all the more important to track the heart, liver and kidney related markers for people having comorbidities like heart disease, diabetes, or kidney disease.  

Coagulation parameters

Coagulation parameters include D-dimer, ferritin, prothrombin time, etc. As per research, D-dimer level is a reliable prognostic marker and increased D-dimer levels on admission are linked to patients needing critical care support.

About D-Dimer test

D-dimer is a small piece of protein that is made when a blood clot dissolves in your body ( through a process called fibrinolysis). Blood clotting is an important process. It prevents loss of blood when you are injured. Usually, once the injury is healed, the clot is dissolved by your body. But if someone has a blood clotting disorder, blood clots can form in absence of an obvious injury or they won’t go away. These clots can travel in the blood, block important blood vessels, and even prove life-threatening. A D-dimer test looks for D-Dimer levels in blood and is most often used to find out whether you have a blood clotting disorder. An excess of D-Dimer can indicate towards the activation of coagulation and following fibrinolysis.

COVID-19 is likely to induce clot formation. The presence of comorbidities is a risk factor too. D-dimer is commonly elevated in patients with COVID-19, especially in older people and those with comorbidities. These are high-risk groups that are likely to develop severe COVID-19 disease if infected.

Rule out the possibility of any derangement in these biomarkers with a single Metropolis COVID Monitoring Profile. Book Now. Always get your test results interpreted through a healthcare provider. Stay at home, stay safe. For all lab test-related needs, visit Metropolis.

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Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, is an essential nutrient required for maintaining health and wellness. It is both a nutrient you eat and a hormone your body produces when exposed to sunlight. This fat-soluble vitamin is notably responsible for calcium absorption in the body, thus improving bone mineral density. It also regulates cellular growth and supports the immune and neuromuscular functions in the body. Some studies suggest that vitamin D can help control infections and alleviate inflammation. In addition, there are claims that vitamin D can play a role in protecting you from diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and even depression.

Are you sure you are getting enough vitamin D in your diet? Check your vitamin D levels with a simple blood test in the comfort of your home.

Since vitamin D is involved in so many bodily functions, you cannot take a deficiency of vitamin D lightly. Lack of vitamin D can cause a plethora of conditions such as rickets, osteoporosis, osteomalacia, brittle bones, a weakened immune system, inflammation, muscle fatigue, and weakness. A lack of vitamin D can even affect your nervous system.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance of vitamin D for all Indian population, in general, is 400 IU (10 mcg) daily.* Some sources mention that for adults over 70, it should be 800 IU (25 mcg). Consult a doctor to help you understand how much vitamin D you need as per your sun exposure. For people who don’t or cannot spend a lot of time outdoors, it can be difficult to get enough vitamin D and doses might be higher. If you have concerns that you are not getting enough vitamin D from direct sunlight, consuming the following vitamin D-rich foods will help increase the overall amount of vitamin D in your body.

Here are 5 food groups that are rich in vitamin D:

1. Egg Yolks

Whole eggs are the healthy and wonderfully nutritious food, which you will ever find! Although most of us avoid eating egg yolks as they have historically gotten a bad rap for raising levels of bad cholesterol in the body. Skipping egg yolks in favor of egg whites will decrease your calorie and fat intake but you will be missing out on some of the protein, key nutrients such as choline, essential for brain development, and several of the minerals in yolks, such as selenium and zinc, which play a role in boosting your immune system. And you will be missing out on vitamin D, too. One large egg has 44 IU which is 6 % of your daily value. Eating up to 3 whole eggs is considered safe for a healthy adult. So, enjoy them in moderation.

2. Fatty Fish

Not only is fish a great option for protein but it is also rich in vitamin D. If you have vitamin D deficiency, it is mostly advised to eat fish on a daily basis. Fishes such as salmon, tuna, sardines, trout, hilsa, swordfish fish, and mackerel being good sources of healthy protein and omega-3 fatty acids, will be a great addition to anyone’s diet looking to get more vitamin D. Include fish in your dinner plate three times per week.

On average, 100 grams serving of salmon provides 988 IU of vitamin D, i.e., 124% of the daily value.

3. Milk and Milk Products

Vegetarians need not worry! Being an excellent source of calcium, milk is also rich in vitamin D. Hence, including a glass of cow milk in your breakfast meal can improve the vitamin D level in your body. It will not only boost your metabolism but also will ensure that you don’t feel worn out throughout the day. Full-fat milk has the maximum vitamin D content in it. Fat-soluble vitamins are lost when the fat is removed from the full-fat milk.

One cup of milk provides about 115–130 IU of vitamin D which is 15–22% a person’s daily requirement. Health experts and nutritionists also suggest that adding milk and milk products like yogurt, cheese, buttermilk, and butter to your daily diet may prevent you from many bone diseases.

4. Mushrooms

Mushrooms, a kind of superfood that packs vitamin punch, are the only good plant source of vitamin D. They are extremely nutritional, contain an array of vitamins and minerals. But not all mushrooms have the same amount of vitamin D, it varies depending on the type and variety of the mushroom. While commercially grown mushrooms are often grown in the dark, they don’t naturally offer a high amount of vitamin D, some are exposed to UV light, providing a larger dose of the vitamin as a result. A serving has 124-1,022 IU of vitamin D per 100 grams, depending on the amount of UV light the mushrooms are exposed to. So, it is always better to pick sundried mushrooms as they have higher vitamin D content.

If you are vegetarian or vegan, specific mushrooms may be an option. These vitamin-loaded mushrooms are really tasty and can be easily incorporated into your diet.

5. Fortified Foods

Natural sources of vitamin D are limited, especially if you are vegan or don’t like fish.

Fortunately, some food products are designed to add nutrients that don’t naturally occur in the product. Manufacturers add vitamin D to many commercially available food products. These foods are then described as being fortified with vitamin D, or other nutrients. Common fortified foods with extra vitamin D and other nutrients include:

  • cow’s milk
  • soy milk
  • almond milk
  • orange juice
  • yogurt
  • various breakfast cereals.

These foods might contain 54-136 IU per serving. But fortified foods can contain added ingredients, like sugar or saturated fats that make the product less healthy. So, it is important to look for products with no added sugar.

Eating plenty of these listed vitamin D-rich foods is a great way to get enough vitamin D. However, depending on a person’s dietary preferences, consuming enough vitamin D may be difficult. Remember to not overconsume as excess vitamin D can cause the body to absorb too much calcium, leading to an increased risk of kidney stones and heart disease.

We still suggest that the easiest way of getting your daily dose of vitamin D is spending time in the sun. Aim for 15-20 minutes of mid-day sun exposure at least twice per week. However, if this is not possible, vitamin D supplements like cod liver oil, maybe a beneficial choice.

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Have you found yourself in situations where the day you need to go out for a meeting or a party, a pimple pops up out of nowhere? It’s completely normal; there is a reason behind calling it common acne because everyone goes through an acne outbreak at some or the other point in life. If the pores on your skin get blocked due to excess oil, dirt, or dead skin cells, it leads to a pimple or zit, but if this repeatedly happens, it may lead to acne. Simply put, acne is a disease while pimple is just a symptom.

What causes acne?

Also known as acne vulgaris, this skin condition shows up in different levels of severity and size. Acne occurs when the sebaceous glands aka the oil glands attached to the hair follicles are stimulated either due to hormonal changes or at puberty. The glands secrete an oily liquid called sebum which keeps your skin lubricated and carries dead skin cells through the follicles. It is a natural substance that aids in skin lubrication, and if produced in excess, the skin cells mature and are disposed to plug the follicular pore. Too much oil produced by the follicles along with the dead skin cells can clump together into a clogged pore that blocks the follicles. These plugs can either be seen as whiteheads if they are covered with a thick layer of skin or as blackheads if exposed to air. The follicles become big giving rise to a bump and if tampered with, the wall of the follicle enlarges and ruptures leading to inflammation. If the inflammation is deep, it is called a cyst, which can be painful and embarrassing. A whitehead is different from a pimple in the way that pimples are small red tender bumps on the skin which have pus in them, while whiteheads are hair follicles that get clogged with sebum or dead skin cells or bacteria, but these are bumps visible usually on the back, neck or shoulders and are less painful than pimples.

Acne and hormonal imbalance

There are several factors that trigger acne, but the common is thought to be a rise in androgen levels, which elevate at the onset of adolescence or due to undying stress levels. An increase in androgen levels causes the oil glands under the skin to grow and produce more sebum. Excessive sebum can cause the breakdown of cellular walls in the pores, causing bacteria to accumulate.

Other possible triggers

  • Greasy cosmetics
  • The pressure exerted unknowingly from helmets, tight collars, straps or suspenders etc
  • Certain medications like lithium, or contain iodides, bromides or other steroids
  • Environmental irritants, such as pollution and high humidity
  • Squeezing or picking at blemishes
  • Chronic stress
  • Foods that are high in refined carbohydrates like bread, desserts made with white flour, rice, soda, and other sweetened beverages

Tests for acne

Acne is either diagnosed by visual check-up or if you want to find out the root cause or the source of these acnes, your doctor can advise hormone test during the menstrual cycle commencement. Some of these hormonal tests are:

Dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate (DHEA-S), a test done to keep a check on the working of the adrenal glands. –Sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), SHBG is a protein that is produced by the Liver. If the SHBG levels are low in a woman’s body, it might result in side effects such as acne and hirsutism. In order to increase the SHBG levels, one must regularly do aerobics or exercise and curtail their calorie intake.

According to the research findings, low SHBG and raised DHEA-S are the hormone changes most often seen in cases of severe acne.

Lipid profile test has now become a routine test to measure the level of certain lipids in the blood. It is widely used to predict cardiovascular risk by measuring four basic parameters: total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and triglycerides which are usually carried out in a fasting blood specimen. Plasma HDL cholesterol of acne patients is likely to decrease as the severity of acne condition increases. Acne patients have significant changes in the plasma lipids profile that should be considered in the pathogenesis as well as in the treatment of acne.

Treatment of Acne

If you have severe pain causing acne that refuses to go over some days, it is best to see a dermatologist for a cure. Below are some ways in which acne can be treated:

  • Antibiotics and antibacterial- antibiotics are usually given for a short period of time to reduce inflammation and kill the bacteria responsible for causing pimples.
  • Prescription creams such as retinoic acid or benzoyl peroxide work to lessen oil production and also act as anti-inflammatory treatments for killing the acne-causing bacteria.
  • Women who suffer from hormonal acne might be prescribed spironolactone.
  • Other treatments include chemical peel, photodynamic therapy, oral medications, cortisone injections, etc.
  • Certain over-the-counter topical medications such as adapalene, salicylic acid come in the form of gels, lotions, creams, or soaps.

The first step when tackling acne is to analyze how severe the problem is. Most mild cases can be managed with some simple recommendations and over-the-counter products. Serious cases should be handled in the doctor’s office.

Self-caring for your skin

Be gentle with your skin. Pat your face dry with a soft, cool cloth and apply a mild cleanser, once in the morning and once in the evening. Use natural skin care and grooming products to avoid creating acne by inflaming the skin.

• Avoid the temptation to pick, squeeze or pinch at your blemishes, lest they may result in scars or dark blotches.

• Refrain from touching the face frequently

• Take proper care to avoid shaving over acne blemishes or shaving off the tops of pimples. In case of more serious inflammatory acne, or if shaving in itself seems to really irritate your acne, you might want to try using a beard trimmer.

If you have acne, don’t be embarrassed. Staying hydrated, maintaining a well-balanced diet, getting enough sleep and avoiding surfaces with germs like the screen of your phone, door knob, pillowcases or violin chin rests, are ways you can keep acne-causing bacteria at bay. While many people have different notions about acne and pimples reduction, following what the doctor has suggested or general measures like those mentioned above are the safest and the quickest ways to get rid of them and have spotless and clear skin!

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As the heat rises in summer, it becomes difficult for many of us to perform routine work as efficiently as earlier. Are you also someone who feels summer means just sitting in an air-conditioned room, being a couch potato and losing the best of your spirits? Do read this further! We have covered you with the most useful health tips for summer.

A range of health problems

Hot and humid summers usually bring with it a gamut of problems such as heat stroke, exhaustion, dehydration, skin problems like prickling, etc. The more time you spend in heat, the more it can have an effect on your body. But you cannot spend our entire day in an air-conditioned room or sitting in front of a fan. So, what should you do to reduce its health effects? Here you go:

Health Tips for Surviving Summer

The thumb rule: Stay hydrated

You must have noticed that we feel thirstier on the day it is hot. Have you ever wondered why this happens? Because heat makes you sweat. Sweat is basically your body’s response to regulate internal body temperature. However, this makes you lose water and you can feel dehydrated. Also, the more sweaty you get, the more tired you feel. Why do you feel tired due to sweating? Because it depletes the electrolytes from the body and drains your energy.
Staying hydrated is very important during summers as it ensures that the body functions properly. Can you make this hydration process tastier too? Opt for lemonade, watermelon juice, orange juice, etc. In this way you will get plenty of minerals along with fluid in the body.

Follow a light diet

In summer we eat less food because it may reduce hunger. It is crucial to eat regularly because your body needs more nutrients to fight the heat and keep you healthy. But don’t overeat. Try to take a light diet. Include vegetables like cucumber, gourd, pumpkin etc. in your diet. Try to avoid consuming too much of heavy, spicy recipes like chicken gravy, eggs and other animal proteins.

Take cold-water bath

The fastest and easiest way to get relief from the heat is to take a bath with cold water. But you cannot do it every little while. Keeping an ice pack on the neck can also be an alternative to reduce the body temperature. Not only this, wiping the face and feet with a wet cloth also gives relief from heat. Do not forget to wash your face and feet with cold water before sleeping at night. This will make you feel better and be ready to fight the heat for a few hours.

Wear light, cotton clothes

Try to avoid tight clothing in summers so that air can circulate throughout the body. Go for cotton clothes mostly as they absorb sweat and keep you cool. Absolutely hide synthetic clothes in the wardrobe in summer. Also avoid wearing dark coloured clothes. Because dark colors absorb more heat and make you feel uncomfortable.

Avoid exercising too much

First and foremost, note that exercise is a must for a healthy body and mind, and we are a supporter too! But do not overexhaust yourselves. Keep your post workout snacks ready after a good session. Instead of indulging in outdoor activities in the sun, you may shift to an indoor gym.

Maintain ventilation in your homes

Keep your windows open for a while and let the home breathe. On the days when the weather is very hot, drop the curtain so that the harsh rays of the sun do not enter the room. Too many electric bulbs and lights in the room can raise the room temperature to a little extent. Turn off as many lights as you can and only use the ones you need.

Try to stay indoors

The more you stay indoors in summer, the more you will be able to protect yourself from the heat. But staying indoors all the time is also difficult. So, plan your outing keeping the weather in mind. On the day when the weather is about to warm up, postpone your outing for some time. If you like to go for a walk, try to go early in the morning or after the sunset.

For healthy skin, keep cosmetics cool

You can keep your cosmetics like lotions and moisturizers in the refrigerator. You ought to feel refreshed every time you use it. Not just creams, you can also store your lipstick or facial wipes in the fridge. Cooled rose water also gives relief from heat. You can fill it in a spray bottle and keep it in the fridge. Sprinkle it directly on your face or use it in cotton wool to wipe your face. It will give instant relief from the heat.

Get health tests done on a routine basis

Summer can pose risk of several health complications, Food and water borne infections can be easily contracted. Make sure to not miss your routine health checkups. Now book your health tests from the comfort of your home and avail trustworthy Metropolis service.  

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Diabetes is a sneaky disease. While this health condition needs no introduction in the present times, about 1 in 2 people who have diabetes are unaware of their condition!

Diabetes has emerged as a global public health threat. It is estimated that three-quarters of the world’s 300 million adults with diabetes will be in non-industrialized countries by the year 2025,  and almost a third in India and China alone. In addition, as per several researchers, Indians are prone to develop diabetes, owing to certain risk factors. How aware are you of the factors that push you closer to diabetes? Let us apprise you of the most important and common factors that increase your chance of getting diabetes. (Also, please note that diabetes in the context of this article refers to type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes doesn’t always give a warning: Timely tests are important

Most people who get diabetes first develop prediabetes also called borderline diabetes. This is a condition when your blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes. As per a study, the estimated prevalence of prediabetes in India is 14%. Contrary to the popular belief that diabetes can be easily diagnosed with the symptoms, prediabetes can be asymptomatic unless it is turned into a full-blown diabetes case. The symptoms of diabetes might develop gradually, and can be missed very often. That is why getting yourself tested for high blood sugar levels is extremely important. While a fasting blood sugar level below 100 mg/dL is considered normal, a level from 100 to 125 mg/dL is considered prediabetes. You can also get an HbA1c test done. That shows the average blood sugar levels for the last 2-3 months. An HbA1c level between 4-5.6% is considered healthy and 5.7- 6.4% denotes prediabetes, level 6.5% or higher indicates diabetes. Remember, prediabetes is completely reversible without medicines if you get diagnosed on time and adopt lifestyle changes.

Major risk factors of diabetes include:

Family history: Your risk increases if your parent or sibling has diabetes. Your lifetime risk for getting (type 2) diabetes goes up to about 70% if both parents have it. If one parent is affected, there is around a 40% chance for individuals to develop diabetes.

Excessive body fat: Your body cells take up glucose or sugar and utilize it for various functions. The uptake of sugar by the body cells is regulated by a hormone called insulin. But, if you have more free fatty acids in your cells, they get resistant to insulin and the sugar uptake is reduced. This results in excessive sugar in your blood. Insulin resistance is the main cause of diabetes that affects about 9% of people globally.

Lack of physical activity: The less active you are, the greater your risk to get diabetes. Physical activity helps you control your weight, increases glucose uptake by the body cells for energy, and makes cells more sensitive to insulin.

Age: Even in the absence of other risk factors, the risk of developing diabetes increases with the advancing age. A matter of grave concern is more younger adults are facing the brunt of this chronic disease due to unhealthy lifestyle practices. Cases have seen a rise in children as well owing to an increase in childhood obesity.

Gestational diabetes:  This is a condition in which otherwise healthy women are affected with high blood sugar levels during pregnancy. For women who develop gestational diabetes, the risk of developing prediabetes and (type 2) diabetes increases.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): This must have a ring a bell. Actually, PCOS has emerged as a major health problem for women in recent times. This is a condition that affects a woman’s hormone levels and causes a range of problems including weight gain, unwanted body hair, acne, infertility, irregular periods, etc. Since PCOS causes deranged hormone levels, it is important to check hormonal parameters including testosterone, sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), and anti-mullerian hormone (AMH). Your doctor will correlate the results with the symptoms to arrive at a diagnosis. The underlying cause why PCOS can put you at risk of diabetes is assumed to be insulin resistance of body cells. If glucose is not being used by the body cells, it results in high blood sugar levels. 

High blood pressure. Diabetes and high blood pressure are closely related. Having high blood pressure over 140/90 mmHg is linked to an increased risk of diabetes.

Unhealthy cholesterol levels: Having low levels of good cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein) or high levels of bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein) results in high free fatty acids in body cells. This increases the risk of developing diabetes. Triglycerides are another type of fat carried in the blood. People with high levels of triglycerides have an increased chance of diabetes. A lipid profile test lets you know what your cholesterol and triglyceride levels are.

Keep in mind:

While certain risk factors like age and family history are beyond your control, lifestyle factors such as obesity and exercise can be managed with a bit of health awareness and some sincere efforts. Take charge of your health with regular health tests and stay one step ahead of chronic conditions like diabetes.   

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The thyroid gland is a vital organ that controls the metabolism, growth, and development of your body. It is butterfly-shaped and located on the front of your neck, at the base just below Adam’s apple. This gland produces two hormones, triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), through which it regulates various body functions. A matter of grave concern is that the statistics are showing a steady rise in thyroid diseases in the Indian population. At large, thyroid diseases include hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), goiter, thyroid cancer, and thyroid nodules. According to an epidemiological study on thyroid disease*, it has been estimated that about 42 million people in India suffer from thyroid diseases, and hypothyroidism happens to be the most common thyroid disease.
Even though thyroid disorders are common, people have many misconceptions about them. Here we are debunking 5 top myths about thyroid conditions:

Myth #1: Thyroid disease gives you obvious symptoms, hence is easy to get diagnosed.

Fact: You may have thyroid disease but not have any symptoms. In fact, the symptoms can be subtle and get easily overlooked. In addition, symptoms of thyroid disease include weight gain or loss, fatigue, and diarrhea or constipation, irregular periods, etc., which are quite common and could occur due to other health issues too. Due to the subtlety and overlap, it can be tricky to diagnose thyroid disease. Your best bet to keep track of your thyroid health and hormone levels is a thyroid panel test. It is a simple blood test that can identify thyroid problems before symptoms occur. Do not wait for symptoms to get a test done, especially if you have a family history of thyroid conditions.

Myth #2: Low thyroid hormone levels (hypothyroidism) affect women only.

Fact: While it is true that far more women develop under-active thyroid than men, it is not uncommon for men to be diagnosed with hypothyroidism. If you are a man with a family history of hypothyroidism, do not ignore the possibility of developing the condition. If you’re healthy, both men and women should get their thyroid function tests done every five years. However, you may need to get tested more often depending on the presence of risk factors (like being female, having age over 60 years, family history, having an autoimmune disease). If you have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, get tested once every two to three months for the first year till the hormone levels stabilize and treatment is optimized. After this, an annual check will suffice unless you develop new symptoms or experience reappearance of any old symptom.

Myth #3: You can stop your thyroid medicines when the symptoms get better.

Fact: Not at all! Your symptoms have got better because your medicines are helping you. Stick to your prescription and do not stop having medicines unless advised by your doctor. Stopping your medicines can cause your symptoms to return. Remember, thyroid medicine works best when taken on an empty stomach, spaced an hour before the meal.

Myth #4: People with a thyroid disorder should not eat cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, etc.

Fact: The claim that cruciferous vegetables including broccoli, cauliflower, etc. can worsen thyroid conditions has arisen from the thought that these veggies interfere with how your thyroid uses iodine. Iodine is important for hormone production in the thyroid gland. But the fact is, practically these are part of balanced nutrition and only an unrealistic excessive intake might cause any interference with iodine. So you can (and should) consume cabbage, cauliflower, and other veggies of the same group, even if you have a thyroid disorder.

Myth #5: Hypothyroidism is always caused due to an underlying autoimmune condition.

Fact: Though the most common cause of hypothyroidism (low thyroid levels) is an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, it isn’t the sole cause. Other factors like genetics, problems with the pituitary gland (regulates signal for the production of thyroid hormones), certain medicines can also cause a decline in your thyroid hormone levels. However, it is possible to track if Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is the cause in your case. This is an autoimmune condition, which means the body’s own immune system is attacking the healthy thyroid cells through certain antibodies. These thyroid antibodies can be traced through a simple lab test called a thyroid antibody test. This test looks for various types of thyroid antibodies like thyroid per oxidase antibody (TPO), thyroglobulin antibody (TGAb), thyroid-stimulating hormone receptor antibodies (TSHRAb). It is important to know the cause to get the right treatment and relieve thyroid symptoms.

Hope we have cleared the clouds you had in your mind around thyroid diseases. Do not hesitate to mention any symptoms to your doctor. Ensure to get your hormone levels checked on a regular basis and keep a check on your thyroid health.

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Hepatitis is a condition that refers to the inflammation of the liver, which is a large organ located on the right side of your belly. The liver is a vital organ that filters blood in your body and breaks down toxic and external substances, such as alcohol and medicines. It also produces bile, which helps in the digestion of fats and takes away the waste.

Symptoms: How do you know if you have hepatitis?

Hepatitis can be acute or chronic. While chronic forms might continue damaging the liver without giving any signs at the beginning or very subtle signs if at all, acute inflammation of the liver causes signs and symptoms to appear quickly.
Symptoms of hepatitis include:

  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Signs of jaundice like yellow skin and eyes
  • Fatigue and malaise
  • Dark urine
  • Pale stool

Think your unhealthy eating practices are putting you at risk of developing liver problems? Do not wait for symptoms to show, keep a check on your liver health with a liver function test. Book here.

Causes: What can give you hepatitis?

Most cases of hepatitis are caused due to a viral infection. There can be other possible causes of liver inflammation too, such as autoimmune hepatitis, alcohol, illicit drugs, and certain medicine. Autoimmune hepatitis means your body is making antibodies against your liver tissue.

Viral infections of the liver:

Viral hepatitis can be of 5 types depending on the different types of viruses that are responsible for its transmission, namely hepatitis A virus (HAV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), hepatitis D virus (HDV), and hepatitis E virus (HCV).

  • Hepatitis A: Hepatitis A virus (HAV) is most commonly transmitted by consuming food or water contaminated by feces from a person infected with hepatitis A.
  • Hepatitis B: Hepatitis B virus spreads through contact with body fluids, such as blood, vaginal secretions, or semen, infected with HBV. Sexual act with an infected partner, injection drug use, or sharing razors with an infected person puts you at risk of getting hepatitis B.
  • Hepatitis C: Hepatitis C virus is contracted in ways similar to HBV- through direct contact with infected body fluids via injection drug use and sexual contact.
  • Hepatitis D: Hepatitis D virus is transmitted through direct contact with infected blood. It is noteworthy that hepatitis D only occurs in conjunction with hepatitis B infection since the HDV cannot multiply in absence of HBV.
  • Hepatitis E: Hepatitis E virus spreads through contaminated water. It is prevalent in areas with poor sanitation.

Noninfectious hepatitis:

  • Alcohol: Alcohol is a major determinant of liver health. Excessive alcohol consumption can cause liver damage and inflammation often called alcoholic hepatitis.
  • Other causes: Overuse or overdose of certain medications and exposure to poisons can also damage your liver cells.
  • Autoimmune disease: Your body’s defense system mistakenly damages the liver cells. This results in ongoing inflammation, often interfering with liver function.

Tests for hepatitis: How is hepatitis diagnosed?

First and foremost, your doctor will examine you to take a medical history and understand your symptoms. Along with the physical examination, you may be advised to undergo certain tests to confirm the condition.

Liver function tests: A liver function test is a simple blood test. It checks the most basic parameters that tell how efficiently your liver works. Any abnormality in the results serves as the first-level indication of a problem, much before the symptoms appear.

Ultrasound: An abdominal ultrasound allows your doctor to take a close look at the internal images of your liver and nearby organs. This can reveal internal signs like fluid in your abdomen and liver enlargement, that are otherwise difficult to be diagnosed.

Other blood tests: Your doctor might also recommend blood tests other than liver function tests to identify the source of the problem. While some tests can check for the hepatitis viruses, a few look for antibodies commonly found in autoimmune hepatitis.

Liver biopsy: This is a procedure in which a sample of tissue is taken from your liver and tested for any abnormality. Please note that biopsy does not require surgery.

Treatment: How is hepatitis treated?

Your treatment options will be determined by the type of hepatitis you are affected with and whether the infection is acute or chronic.

  • Hepatitis A: It is a short-term illness and generally does not require treatment. The condition is self-limiting with adequate bed rest, optimum hydration, and nutritious food.
  • Hepatitis B: No specific treatment is needed for acute cases. You will get antiviral medicines for chronic hepatitis B. It can be continued for several months or years.

  • Hepatitis C: Antiviral medicines will be required to treat both acute and chronic forms of hepatitis C. Those people who develop liver scarring (cirrhosis) due to chronic hepatitis C might need a liver transplant as well.

  • Hepatitis D and E: Specific antiviral agents do not exist for the treatment of hepatitis D as yet. Hepatitis E might also resolve on its own without needing any specific medical treatment.

  • Autoimmune hepatitis: Early treatment includes corticosteroids, such as prednisone or budesonide. They have been found to be beneficial in around 80% of people affected with this condition. In addition to steroids, other drugs that suppress the immune system might also work. These medicines include azathioprine, mycophenolate, tacrolimus, and cyclosporine.

  • Alcoholic hepatitis: Liver inflammation caused due to excessive alcohol consumption is usually reversible with complete cessation of drinking. Medical therapies can help ease the signs and symptoms of liver damage. However, if the liver damage is severe, it cannot be reversed and is life-threatening.

The Final word

You can protect your liver against hepatitis by taking certain precautions. Vaccination against hepatitis A and B can be the easiest way to guard against infectious viruses. Practice safe sex and say no to alcohol. Make sure to show extra care to this vital organ through regular lab tests and medical evaluation.

Looking to book health tests and home sample collection? End your search with Metropolis home visit service.

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new covid variant Metropolis Healthcare

Crossing a year now, the pandemic has been changing a lot in our lives. With some new terms joining in every day, thankfully there isn’t much add-on to the most common symptoms like fever, dry cough, and breathing difficulty. Some patients also showed signs of taste and smell loss, nasal congestion, sore throat, nausea, severe headache, etc among others.

But just when we started taking it lightly, scientists discovered a new variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, and since then, other variants have been identified and are under investigation. News about the characteristics of these variants is rapidly emerging and scientists are working to learn more about how easily they commute, whether they could cause more severe illness, and whether currently authorized vaccines are effective to safeguard people against them.

We are in this together. Make sure to get tested for COVID-19 if you have any symptoms suggestive of the illness. Book a home sample collection here.

The virus that causes COVID-19 belongs to a large family of viruses- named after the crown-like spikes prevalent on their surfaces. While scientists are constantly monitoring the changes in the virus, there is a lot going on in our heads around how virus mutation might affect its spread from one person to the other and what happens to people who get affected by it. Here, we have answered some of the most common questions about the new COVID variants including will the COVID-19 vaccines still do their intended job, are there new or different things one should do now to keep their family safe? And a bit about the double mutant virus.

What do we know of the new variants so far?

With a new variant of the virus popping up every now and then, even scientists are in a fix as to their rapid emergence, or whether or not they are riskier than the already existing ones. Like all viruses evolve over a period of time, so does the SARS CoV-2 virus. When any virus replicates itself, it mutates i.e. it changes a little. A virus then with one or more new mutations is known as a variant of that original virus. There are now multiple variants of the Covid virus:

  • Beginning fall of 2020, the United Kingdom reported a new variant B.1.1.7, which was considered to be more infectious in comparison to the other existing variants, and it has been reported in India too.
  • Another one is the variant from South Africa, called B.1.351. Though initial understanding explains higher viral load for this particular variant, deeper insights on the severity, its transmission, and diagnostics, etc are still being explored. This South African virus has to date been reported in four countries.
  • P.1, a new variant from Brazil was detected in travelers from Brazil in Japan in January this year. It contains mutations that affect the variants’ traceability by the antibodies.

The double mutant COVID variant

A “double variant” of the novel coronavirus has been traced by Indian genome researchers in western Maharashtra. In the current scenario, the analysis has shown that the positive samples reported both E484Q and L452R mutations. These double mutants are likely to escape the immune system and confer increased infectivity,” as stated by the health ministry said in a statement.

What various tests can be conducted to know if a person has a new COVID variant?

The COVID-19 RT-PCR continues to remain the gold standard diagnostic test. The samples are collected from the person’s nose and throat with the help of a cotton swab. It is then sent for testing the viral genetic material. The positive result conveys about the COVID-19 infection but not about the variant that has caused the infection. If you want to check if you have had a COVID-19 infection in the past, get an antibody test done.

Is the current COVID-19 vaccine effective against these new variants?

While there has been a lot of research going on in this regard, most experts say, the current COVID-19 vaccines are at least expected to provide some protection against these new variants. The vaccines elicit a broad immune system that covers a multitude of antibodies and cells. Even if a few of the running COVID-19 vaccines prove ineffective, scientists predict they will be able to alter the composition of the vaccine to protect patients from the new variants.

The WHO has set up a dedicated SARS CoV-2 risk monitoring and evaluation framework team to identify and keep a check on the virus variants. They research, evaluate the impact, collect data and analyze the variants in and out in order to be a guiding light for vaccine manufactures around countries.

What measures can be taken to prevent the new variants of the Coronavirus?

Though people may expect some relief from the pandemic with the onset of the vaccination drive, one must not take it lightly. The precautions still remain the same as what was guided since day one, namely social distancing, avoiding crowded gatherings, wearing a mask at all times, coughing or sneezing onto your elbow, and washing/ sanitizing your hands often.  These are basic safety measures that the whole population, either vaccinated or not vaccinated, needs to follow to keep us safe from catching the virus especially when we don’t know who all are infected. With a surge in cases nationwide, make sure all of us get our elderly and high-risk people vaccinated. The virus still can be detrimental if caught by those who have preexisting medical conditions, elderly people, or anyone who has a compromised immune system. While it is assumed that we can encounter the second wave in India, follow the measures as recommended by the health experts- get tested well within time, isolate if tested positive, and let us ensure to care for each other at a distance.

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Jaggery is an unrefined sugar product popularly known as ‘Gur’ in India. It is becoming popular as a healthy replacement for refined sugar and often referred to as a superfood sweetener. Although both sugar and jaggery are obtained from sugarcane juice, they differ in terms of their properties and benefits. Though many people believe jaggery is better when compared with sugar, is it worth replacing refined white sugar with jaggery? Even before switching your sweetener, get aware about your HbA1c values and take charge of your blood sugar levels. Book HbA1c test here.

There is always a sugar vs jaggery war going on that often tends to confuse us. Should you switch to jaggery? Let’s explore the health benefits of jaggery first to reach the conclusion.

Greater nutritional value

According to one source, 100 grams of jaggery may contain 383 Calories, 65–85 grams sucrose, 10-15 grams fructose and glucose, 0.4 grams protein, 0.1 grams fat, 11 mg iron, 70-90 mg magnesium, 1050 mg potassium, 0.2–0.5 mg manganese.

Jaggery may also contain small amounts of vitamin B and minerals, including zinc, calcium, selenium, phosphorus, and copper. These micronutrients have many nutritional and medicinal aspects.

Keeps your gut healthy

In India, eating a piece of jaggery daily after meals is common. Some people claim jaggery helps with digestion by stimulating the secretion of digestive enzymes. It can stimulate bowel movements, making it a good choice for preventing constipation and flatulence.

Prevents anemia

Jaggery is quite rich in iron and folate and it helps in the prevention of anemia. Some studies suggest that the body can use iron in non-centrifugal sugars more easily than iron from other plant sources.

Boosts immunity

Minerals like zinc and selenium present in jaggery can help prevent cell damage caused by free-radicals. The phenol in jaggery can fight off oxidative stress and relax your body, hence building stronger immunity. Jaggery can even help alleviate the symptoms of common cold and flu.

Tackles water retention

The potassium in jaggery can help manage electrolyte balance in the body. This can further reduce water retention in the body tissues.

Detox the liver

Jaggery acts as a detox as it helps in cleansing the liver by flushing out nasty toxins from the body.

Eases menstrual pain

Jaggery can help as a natural remedy for menstrual problems. The sweetness of jaggery releases endorphins, which offer relief in cramps, premenstrual syndrome, depression, and anxiety. So it is advised to eat a small piece of jaggery daily to avoid sudden mood swings just before your period. It also helps reduce associated bloating and water retention.

Relieves joint pain

Eating jaggery can provide you with much-needed relief from aches and pain in your joints. It is claimed that drinking a glass of milk with jaggery daily can help strengthen the bones, thus preventing joint and bone problems such as arthritis.

Controls blood pressure

Since jaggery is rich in minerals like potassium and sodium, it plays an important role in the maintenance of acid levels in the body. It helps in maintaining a normal level of blood pressure.

Prevents respiratory problems

Although it is not clear how, jaggery also has known to show anti-asthmatic properties, eliminating the toxins and any mucus out of the respiratory system and easing breathing difficulties.

People claim that it can prevent many respiratory problems such as asthma, bronchitis, cough, and chest congestion by cleansing the passage, etc. Experts recommend eating jaggery with sesame seeds for wonderful benefits for the respiratory system.

In a nutshell, jaggery is said to help support immune,  digestive, bones, liver, lungs and menstrual health, as well as help, prevent asthma and anemia. However, there is no good evidence available that can support these claims.

A word of caution

Although sugar and jaggery differ in their nutritional profile, you must know that both the sweeteners have nearly the same calorific value. A 100 grams of sugar releases approximately 398 kcal of energy, while the same amount of jaggery delivers 383 kcal.  So, the true danger of these sweeteners, be it sugar or jaggery lies in its excessive consumption. Eating too much sugar from any source can increase your risk of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.

Moderation is the key. Do keep in mind that overindulgence of anything is detrimental to your health. It is important to note that jaggery must be consumed in a limited quantity to avail of its complete health benefits. On average, one should not eat more than two teaspoons of jaggery per day.

Jaggery for diabetics?

A common misconception about jaggery is that it could be safely consumed by diabetic patients. Interestingly, a study showed that jaggery and sugar when consumed, both raise blood glucose levels by approximately equal values. So, frequent use of jaggery is certainly not recommended for a diabetic person. Diabetic patients are strongly advised to consult a healthcare provider before including jaggery in their daily diet.

Take home message

You’ll get in a few extra nutrients as jaggery contains more nutrients than refined sugar. Refined white sugar contains only empty calories, i.e., calories without any vitamins or minerals.

It is safe to say that swapping sugar with jaggery is a healthier option- as long as you don’t overdo it. Remember, jaggery is essentially still sugar and any extra nutrients you get to come with a lot of calories. So, one should use it very sparingly.  In order to cut down on sugar, it is very important to lower sugar intake gradually. You can opt for natural sugars, such as the ones found in fruits to satisfy your sweet cravings. Other substitutes for white sugar can be stevia, date, or palm sugar. Artificial sweeteners can be attractive substitutes for sugar because they add virtually no calories to your diet.

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