Not long back were HIV patients treated as untouchables. People hesitated to talk, laugh or be in the presence of HIV-affected people fearing communication of the disease. But thanks to various awareness programs and days such as the World AIDS Day that has proved all of this wrong and helped people with AIDS lead better lives.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that can leave a person with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) for a lifetime. Its unlike certain other viruses that leave the body with progressive treatment. Here, a person remains affected by AIDS for life once you get HIV. The virus reduces the number of CD4 cells (these cells help the immune system fight off infection) thereby leaving an individual vulnerable to other infections and diseases as well. Read more about our body’s immune system and how its functioning affects us at www.firsteatright.com.
AIDS is the last stage of HIV and people living with it are at a greater risk of diseases such as cancer too. AIDS-affected patients survive on medications every single day of life but by taking these survival rates of these people are equivalent to the survival rates of other individuals (when diagnosed during early stages of the disease).
A person can be infected with HIV for years before it becomes AIDS. The infection occurs through blood, semen or vaginal secretions. These secretions enter the body via vaginal/oral sex, blood transfusions, shared needles/syringes and from a pregnant/breast-feeding mother to her child. One must also clearly understand that HIV doesn’t spread through hugging, kissing, dancing or a handshake and neither can it spread via air or water.
Though different symptoms exist the only reliable way to confirm the disease is to get it tested. The disease progresses through four different stages of which AIDS is the last stage. Common symptoms during the initial stages include fatigue, fever, weight loss, diarrhea, shingles and swollen lymph nodes. AIDS leaves a person’s immune system damaged badly and the common signs at this stage include weight loss, skin rash, chronic diarrhea, recurrent fever, continuous fatigue or persist white spots on the tongue.
Although AIDS has no cure nor is there a vaccine for HIV it is possible to protect yourself by taking certain precautionary measures:
Humanity has come a long way since 1988 when the campaign was first initiated by WHO and this year marks the 30th anniversary of the World AIDS day. Still, we have a longer road to travel as there are more than 1 million individuals who die from HIV because many of them don’t realize that they have the virus, seek treatment very late or don’t seek treatment at all. Above all, there are around 36.7 million people living with HIV worldwide making these figures the highest till date of which a quarter of them are ignorant that they have the virus.
The theme for this year is ‘Know your status’ and it seems to fit the bill perfectly as many people are still hesitant to take up a HIV test. Most do it only after falling sick and showing symptoms. WHO hopes to encourage people to test for HIV and motivate those with HIV to seek treatment. Its good to know that three of four people with HIV know that they have the disease, but they still don’t know how to protect themselves. Even the discrimination and stigma surrounding the disease remain a reality till date. World AIDS day provides the perfect platform to improve monetary funds, raise awareness and fight discrimination.
Educational qualification and your work profile may not always reflect your choices or thoughts and in many cases are taken up due to social pressure and monetary restrictions/needs. A hobby comes as a breath of fresh air in between all this. We have heard of none who has taken up a hobby owing to external factors. Hobbies provide an enriching personal experience and act as stress busters in this hectic world.
The craze for collecting stamps or currency notes/coins of various countries has been a part of most of us during our childhood days. Don’t we all still possess the treasured stamp book? In fact, the smell of aging currency notes stacked in our cupboards fill us with refreshing memories of our sweet past. Some of us have even been crazy enough to collect our bus tickets or bills and load up our draws. These hobbies have been our savior rescuing us in times of boredom or relieving us of our exam stress. But are you aware that these hobbies can do good to our mental and physical health as well?
Hobby for Health
There’s no second opinion that we take up a hobby only because we enjoy doing it. The world has become health-conscious and I am sure that taking up something that would benefit your health would only be a welcome change in your monotonous life. Leading a healthy life includes much more than eating right and doing exercise. It includes overall wellbeing which in turn depends on doing things you love, spending time for yourself and being happy engaging in leisure activities. These boost productivity, activate brain cells and make you feel wholesome. There are a number of hobby activities that can be quite engaging, fun-filled and healthy as well. For each of you wanting to bet on your good health pursue any or all of these:
Dancing: Not long ago in our apartment a friend of mine came with an innovative dance class offer to all residents. She knew a master who excelled in various dance forms and he was conducting classes that combined quite aplenty dance varieties in the form of a physical exercise class. Basically, it was dance form-based exercise. The experience was great and we are still continuing the class with the number of registrations only increasing. Aerobic classes were one of the initial exercise forms that involved dance steps and the latest trend is Zumba.
Dancing doesn’t need much-not even a pair of shoes but only yourself, some fast-paced songs and maybe some good company to keep you lively. If you are not yet ready to dance on the dance floor you have always got your cozy home. Make up a few steps and dance to the tunes unconcerned about anyone or anything in the room. Firstly, dancing is fun and above all, it is an excellent cardiovascular workout. Any cardio workout benefits health by strengthening bones and muscles, improving cardiovascular health and improving stamina. Studies show that dancing improves balance in the older population and also improves brain activity thereby decreasing the risk of dementia.
Cooking: Cooking is a great pastime that opens to you a plethora of new recipes. Passionate about cooking? This is the right hobby to eat nutritious meals that are healthy and tasty too. Try your hands on different healthy dishes, cook up interesting salads and try different mains sticking to your portion sizes while eating them.
Gardening: While gardening was not appreciated sometime back, nowadays more and more individuals are in love with the sowing, digging and reaping process. Getting your hands soiled is a great way to improve hand strength, decrease stress and getting a dose of vitamin D. Pulling out weeds, planting seeds and plucking flowers activate our muscles, improve stamina and add to aerobic exercise. Not only this, you get to enjoy the lush greenery surrounding you, the deliciously fresh veggies and juicy fruits right from your backyard garden. Read more about gardening, its advantages and the studies supporting it from the website www.firsteatright.com.
Music: This is not something new and mankind has relied upon music and instruments to relieve stress, feel relaxed and be happy. Just a silly thought but this has never escaped my mind whenever I listen to music-We find solace in listening to songs but do musicians and singers too find the same? I’ve always been a person who has always relied on music to boost my confidence, make me feel stronger and also during happy times. Listening to music benefits both physical and mental health. Even a few studies show that music is advantageous on the immune system, decreases stress, anxiety and keeps depression at bay. Listening to music right before a surgery decreases a person’s anxiety far better than taking prescription drugs as music was linked to lower levels of stress hormone, cortisol.
Keeping pets: Newspapers and magazines are filled with more and more articles on the advantages of owning a pet. Having an animal at home improves well-being, decreases stress, increases self-esteem, lowers BP and keeps you active. Pets at home also decrease the feeling of loneliness among the elderly population. Though studies exist showing that having a pet keeps a person healthier these studies do doubt whether it is the other way round-it might just be that healthy people are those who have a pet.
Pen down your thoughts: How on earth can sitting at your desk and writing be beneficial for your health? Writing your thoughts on a sheet of paper or on your laptop helps you express your feelings, reduce stress and improve sleep. Blogging or creative writing is a great way to bond with others and build new relationships with people having similar interests.
I hope that after reading through many of you would have already prioritized these hobbies according to your interest. Take up any of these hobbies to improvise your health, well-being and quality of life.
Toddlers as well as parents are anxious and overwhelmed with emotions on the child’s first day of schooling for very different reasons. Children obviously feel perplexed and uneasy thinking about the new environment and people after enjoying thoroughly at the comfort of their home. Parents are equally anxious thinking about their children and hope that everything goes well for their kids. As parents, we would have done our duty of searching for a great school that satisfies our individual priorities (some might prefer schools that excel academically while others might wish for extra-curricular activities too) and admitted our children into one of the best schools. All these aside, have we ever taken a minute to ponder and check whether our kids are school-ready?
Pediatricians set milestones for the child as soon as he/she is born assigning tasks such as rolling over at the age of three months, crawling at the age of six months and so on. Doctors assess newborns between 1 and 5 minutes after birth and declare the Apgar score for the baby based on five different categories. Frequent visits to the doctor keep the parent up-to-date on the baby’s health status. Despite all these, problems with speech, senses or language go unnoticed and the trouble begins once the child starts attending school.
Sensing Your Child’s Sense-readiness
Parents fully equip their children with books, stationary and bags while sending off kids to kindergarten or class 1. Satisfying these needs don’t sound convincing enough but parents rarely look beyond these to gauge whether their kids are ready for school. One must fully understand that a child learns to enjoy schooling only when his/her hearing, vision, speech and language are fully developed as per age. Any disparities regarding these must be addressed first before packing off your kids to the school.
As you read this, some might even brand this measure as ‘over-precaution’, but this strongly exists as a mandatory requirement for the wellness of your child. You might have sent your toddler to the daycare without any complaints or he/she might have seemed fine at home. That’s because rarely problems pertaining to the senses, speech or language are not detected or the child might have a lazy eye or slight hearing loss that goes unnoticed.
Ears to Hear
Almost all infants are screened for hearing and vision soon after birth and when any newborn is diagnosed with hearing loss/impaired vision, the physician arranges for necessary intervention such as hearing aids or cochlear implants. These standby aids must start no later than the infant’s sixth month so that children with hearing loss can develop language skills that help them converse and share their happiness. It might also be possible that the kid suffers from no hearing loss problem since birth but suddenly develop it later due to many different reasons such as head injuries, meningitis or repeated ear infections.
A noisy classroom proves to be a tough fight for kids suffering from mild hearing problems and the teachers might even misunderstand the unnoticed hearing loss as attention deficiency in such kids as these children miss out on many instructions and lessons simply because they don’t hear clearly.
Hearing others speak helps a child learn new words and understand different concepts. Children become functional with a new language by listening to others and engaging in conversations. When hearing impairments are present, the kids might lack a full-fledged comprehension of the language nor do they possess 100% speech skills. Another kind of language problem called the specific language impairment or developmental language disorder affects around 7% of children in kindergarten. Children with this problem do not possess the ability to learn new words, might have minimal vocabulary skills or might speak grammatically incorrect sentences.
Blame on Parents
Sometime back, the blame was shouldered by parents entirely for their child’s language disability. They were accused of spending less time reading books or speaking with their kids, but research shows multiple other causes too related to this. A study that included children with learning disabilities or dyslexia directed the cause to genes, meaning that language impairments tend to run in families. Genes can inject dyslexia into a person, but it also remains within the person’s territories to delay or minimize its impact on the person with a healthy lifestyle and exercise. Read more about this at www.firsteatright.com.
Despite continuous learning, kids don’t overcome language impairments completely. While their vocabulary expands and their language skills improve they do suffer from side effects even after graduation or starting to work. To bring this to bare minimum it is advisable to diagnose specific language impairment before kindergarten and start the kid on language therapy.
Eyes to See
Small kids too can suffer from poor vision and this is common among preschoolers who tend to ignore the problem owing to lack of knowledge. These children feel that its normal to see double or to possess a blurry vision. But this might lead to headache, straining the eyes to see clearly or attention difficulties due to lack of clarity to view the blackboard. Improper vision is mostly due to amblyopia or lazy eye which happens when the two eyes point in two different directions or when one eye produces a better image than the other.
Some kids have trouble reading words on the blackboard (nearsighted) while rarely some kids might find difficulty reading books that produce a nearby image (farsighted). Wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses can correct this problem.
Screening Before Learning
The best way to identify the problem at the earliest stage is to screen preschoolers for hearing loss or vision impairment. But, screening only identifies the problem and it is advisable that the child goes for regular examination to an eye specialist. Detecting the problem at an early stage and treating it help kids achieve better a hearing, vision and language experience. Overall, they get to enjoy a full-fledged learning experience.
Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a chronic liver disorder that is increasing rapidly due to staggering obesity rates. Almost 70-80% of individuals with obesity and type 2 diabetes have ‘fatty liver.’ NAFDL is the accumulation of excess fat in liver cells that is not due to alcohol. Normally any liver can contain fat but when the fat is more than 5-10% of the liver’s weight, then it is termed as fatty liver (steatosis).
NAFLD is generally seen in overweight/obese people and in those who have diabetes, high cholesterol and high triglycerides. Rapid weight loss and poor eating habits may also lead to the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Often present with no symptoms, when symptoms do occur they manifest in the form of fatigue, weakness, weight loss, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal pain, spider-like blood vessels, skin and eyes (jaundice) turning yellow, itching, fluid buildup, mind confusion and swelling of the legs (edema) and abdomen (ascites). Fatty liver disease is increasingly seen in childhood and adolescent obesity and exists as the most common form of chronic liver disease in these age groups.
The gut microbiota acts just like an Akshaya Patra (meaning an inexhaustible vessel according to Hindu mythology that keeps supplying food indefinitely) surprising us with a continuous rendering of news and facts that are decoded while exploring it. There is a plethora of information available about the gut microbiota in the website www.firsteatright.com.
The human gut consists of a large number of microbiota that play important roles right from absorbing nutrients to energy homeostasis. The liver exists as the first point of contact for bacterial and microbial components, endogenous and exogenous toxins present in the portal blood and acts as the first one to trigger an immunological response to these molecules.
A new study published in the journal ‘Nature Medicine’ shows how certain gut bacteria cause the accumulation of fat in the liver and play a crucial role in fatty liver disease (hepatic steatosis). The research could make way for the availability of biomarkers to predict the disease and suggest solutions based on nutritional and pharmacological approaches along with the use of probiotics.
Fat accumulation in the liver is associated with inflammation, chances of liver failure and a diminished ability to filter environmental and dietary toxins enhancing the risk of cancer. Fatty liver is a cunning disease, in the sense that there is no medical treatment as such available till date. The only treatment options exist in the form of diet modifications and liver transplant.
The study split 800 obese men and women into two groups depending on the presence or absence of fatty liver noting down a huge set of medical data. In a small group of 100 obese women, molecular analysis was done on liver biopsies and urine, fecal and plasma samples. The main concern of the researchers was to find out whether the microbiota was majorly involved in the onset of fatty liver due to obesity and type 2 diabetes. The researchers used a big data approach to get an answer to their queries. A huge database comprising of various molecular details of the microbiota, liver genes, plasma proteins and urine proteins were created and the information collected on female patients’ biopsies and clinical data was used. Algorithms were later developed to catch hold of any link between these data sets.
The algorithm scanned through three million bacterial genes and the researchers found two things of primary importance:
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.