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Friday, January 25, 2013

HYPERTENSION AT A GLANCE

The term ‘Hypertension’ medical name for high blood pressure is flung around so much in conversations, in doctors’ waiting rooms, in social gatherings that it is hard to ignore the ubiquitousness of this malady. It is estimated that roughly one in three adults’ world over are afflicted with it. Its scary nomenclature the ‘silent killer’ implies that it is a serious health issue and requires immediate  medical attention. It has no outward symptoms, though.

‘Blood pressure is the force of the blood pulsing against the walls of arteries. The pressure when the heart beats is called the systolic pressure. The pressure between beats when the heart is at rest is called the diastolic pressure. Any blood pressure below 140/90 is considered normal for an adult.’ ‘Hypertension’ if left untreated can lead to heart attack, stroke and kidney damage.

Till about a decade back I’d not even a passing interest in its presence. It was the other people who were suffering from it and I just switched off my ears when the conversation on the subject got animated in social gatherings. However, one of my colleagues in the college would always swallow a few tablets after the first period. She’d tell me some details of her ailments but I hardly took notice. I always thought  that if my friend would lose some weight her problems would be solved. I did not know at that time that it is not as simple as that.

But my approach changed dramatically when my hubby was diagnosed with hypertension. Onwards both of us devoured any information we laid our hands on. And before long I possessed fair knowledge of the ailment, its causes and how to keep it under check.

The foremost concern was dietary changes. My mother’s recipes helped in fixing simple but palatable meals. In retrospect I bless her for goading the reluctant me to the kitchen, to cook one dish every Sunday.
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The other day while sorting out old magazines and papers, I came across a magazine USA WEEKEND, which was a supplement in the local newspaper there which I’d brought back to India. While leafing through it, I spotted an article on Hypertension suggesting a specific diet plan for reducing and preventing the ailment. So I decided to share some tips culled from there. A professor of Medicine at John Hopkins University says that apart from medication and exercise, diet can equal drugs at controlling blood pressure. Following a special diet plan also lowers artery clogging cholesterol and homocysteine, promotes bone mass, cuts weight and may help prevent cancer. Further adds that by restricting sodium and alcohol intake one can achieve maximum health benefits.

Life style changes are the best bet for controlling high blood pressure. Reducing salt consumption through preferring fresh vegetables and fruit over canned or packaged stuff, which have loads of salt, is the first step on the road to adopting healthy eating habits. Shifting to lean cuts of meat, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low fat dairy products, provide sufficient micro nutrients our body needs for all round well being. Moreover fresh vegetables, fruit and nuts have more of heart friendly potassium, magnesium, calcium, fiber and very little salt. Eating these foods has double benefit of losing weight also. Being overweight contributes significantly to hypertension, diabetes and allied troubles.

Benefits are greater if consumption of saturated fats and sugary beverages are also restricted to minimum which have only calories and no nutrition. Confectionary items always contain loads of sugar, hydrogenated oils and salts which are no friends of good health. Only occasional food indulgences would do.

Something which is of utmost significance in preventing hypertension is regular exercise regimen. It is one single factor which can transform one’s life. Exercising your limbs, lubricates joints and promotes flexibility. It injects a new enthusiasm and love for life and smoothes away the depressive tendencies. Internet is overflowing with workable exercises which one can follow. But nothing can beat the effectiveness of walking as a form of exercise. It may not empty your mind but ideas are born and emotions are reflected upon and equanimity regained. The brain is stimulated for successfully taking upon life’s challenges.

Everyday hassles and other stressors trigger high pressure in the vessels and cause host of medical problems by reducing body’s immunity. Stress and tensions of modern day living are an accepted phenomenon now. We can’t ignore their deleterious effects on our body and mind. Learning relaxation techniques to deal with stress and taking things easy ought to be our mantra. Exercise also helps in releasing pent up emotions. Socializing is a good stress buster.

Cultivating faith in some supreme power that looks after the universe and adopting spiritual mindset boosts confidence and allays unfounded fears. By being kind and helpful to others unconditionally makes one feel good inside. Accepting things gracefully which you can’t change, bring harmony and peace of mind.

Meditating only for a few minutes daily while focusing on your breathing, calms the mind and heart. These simple steps can go a long way in helping us to live a better life.





 P.S:The post is based on some research, my own general readings and experiences.It is not a substitute for medical advice. Sources: USA WEEKEND Feb13-15,2004; Issues of HEALTHbeat, A Harvard Medical School publication and KAISER PERMANENTE, HEALTHWISE handbook

Image courtesy:Google

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Sunday, January 13, 2013

BEWARE OF CHATTERERS

Do you think the dictionary meaning of socialization pertains to, what actually is exhibited around us? Doesn’t socialization entail, sitting together and having a healthy exchange of views amongst members of a social group? Or is it mindless babbling, or competing for one-upmanship? In this regard there is always a shocker ready to unzip these days.

One day, while in the throes of a ruminating session on a few existential matters, sitting in the lawn of my second ‘home’ in the hills, I was joined by two matriarchs who came strutting noisily. They belong to the community and like us, move temporarily to hills in summers to escape the scorching sun of plains. Whenever in their company, I fail to avoid annoying consciousness of their self congratulatory attitude. Don’t they have any inkling of this, I always wonder. One of them flaunts an inflated image of herself, blowing her own trumpet about her spacious bungalows and wealth (though her husband started life at a low level) to the muted chagrin, supposedly, of almost all her listeners. However, the other lady outsmarts her in garrulity more often. The poor gentle soul, who gets trapped solo in their verbal manacles, ends up bewildered and bemused.

After ensconcing themselves in their chairs, without any preliminaries, they start articulating their stream of inanities nonstop. They even refuse a customary necessity of a smile or a nod from anyone, lest somebody usurps the space. So much so, when one of them stops momentarily for a breather the other immediately grabs the space. It is like constant cacophonic hammering on temples which long hopelessly for an escape from the vocal mauling. Always their compulsive verbosity makes one feel like an inanimate mass. But there is no stopping their harangue. In fact, the act of listening to them, is as repulsive as a taboo.

Their blah blah ranges from the likes and dislikes of their husbands and their grandchildren, to pet dogs and their fussy eating habits, to pet bunnies with their ubiquitous burrows and unending litters, to pet parrots and other canary birds. The chattering also covers kitchen gardens and the upkeep of sprawling lawns in their first homes, birth and wedding anniversaries of their kith and kin and a lot more. They vie with each other to steal space by raising voice decibel to drown each other’s voice. Why do they go on and on unveiling the details of their private lives, which smack of deeply rooted hypocrisy is inexplicable? May be it is their way of shrouding the reality of their complexes beneath their personas.

I have encountered such annoyances in the course of my life but what perplexes me is the dumbness of these people who continue to exploit your good manners without realizing, why other people should take to their prosaic lives?

Apparently, such people close their thinking minds to believe that they impress their listeners. It never shows on the radar of their minds that their listeners form a poor opinion of them and would turn their back on seeing them approaching. Their disgusting monologues leave none any wiser for that.
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Thursday, January 3, 2013

WINTER BLUES AND BOONS





We in North India are under the tight hold of extreme cold conditions. Temperature is plummeting every day, sending shivers down our spines. It is making us sit doubled up in quilts with hot water bottles or electric blankets. While up and working, we wear many layers of woolens, including leggings and socks to retain heat inside. One looks like a stuffed toy with restricted body movements because of overload of clothing. The constant cloudy sky with episodes of dense blinding fog, makes the scenario gloomy with inertia setting in. The depressive feel of the foggy days is like life sucked out of life, due to inactivity and sloth. One feels a bit shrunk.

William Shakespeare in his sonnet No.97 compares his absence from his beloved to the dark and freezing December.
                               How like a winter hath my absence been
                               From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year!
                               What freezing have i felt,what dark days seen!
                               What old Decembers' barenness every where!

Winter is hard for old folks. Lack of mobility leads to aches and pains and worsens heart condition.

Yellow leaves on the branches and on the ground, leafless deciduous trees and withering flora speak of the combined onslaught of first autumn and then intense and chilling cold. Birds too go on vacation somewhere to warmer climes.

But winter has its own boons. One fine day sun wriggles out of the obdurate blue cover; its mellow warmth rejuvenates the sagging spirits by opening up the limbs, enclosed in extra woolens. Basking in the sun, munching groundnuts and enjoying winter goodies, prepared with jaggery and sesame seeds are  experiences available only in winter. Sunny days in winter lift up moods, motivate and inspire positivity. Sunshine also is a source of vitamin D, which energizes weak muscles. Winter without sunshine is like a bride without Shingar

Healthy soups:  To liven up there is ample choice of nutritious, healthy and warm foods. All kinds of vegetable soups, warm up dull, dark evenings. Watching TV wrapped up in shawls with a bowl of steaming hot soup act as welcome pick me up. Clear soups without croutons or noodles are great low caloric appetizers.

 Carrot Dishes:  Carrots contain large amounts of antioxidants. Carrot dishes (Gajrela obsequious in winter) prepared when the mood is upbeat and savoured at will, more than compensates the discomfort of cold and provides needed energy and satiation.

 Vegetables in plenty: On another level we should feel blessed of the winter gifts. Availability of fresh vegetables, mustard greens and fresh spinach, which one can use to prepare scores of simple but mouth watering dishes and  which stay fresh much longer are possible only in winter. Who can ignore the delectable sag and makki di roti with generous chunks of butter to tickle the taste buds. There is surfeit of gourmet delights in this season.

Celebrations:  Winter gifts us celebratory opportunities in plenty.With the onset of winter we have festival of lights, Christmas, Guru nanak Dev' Ji's Birth Anniversary and then Lohri, Republic day and so many others which are celebrated on low scale.

Winter Sports:  Winter season is also time to enjoy and participate in winter sports. In the western world people go for skiing, sledding and ice hockey. In India Gulmarg in Kashmir and higher reaches of Himachal Pradesh attract fun and sports loving enthusiasts.

 Winter is an occasion for romance, family reunions, renewing and affirming relationships and sharing fond remembrances, sitting cozily around fireplace.