Category Archives: Hygiene

Settled and Healthier

Nearly two months since I came back from Rodrigues. It was somewhat hectic but I have managed to settle down smoothly in the normal daily routine. You remember when I first wrote from Hill in the Sea in February I pledged to throw at least four kilos by the end of my stay there? Any guess how much I lost? I left Rodrigues on 8 August with three kilos less. But you’ll be amazed I’ve gone down another three kilos since then.

While many people thrive with various slimming and weight loss strategies often at onerous costs, I chose the natural way, healthier and with no extra penny. Just do what you are capable of and don’t rely too much on the over-the-counter formulae which will do no more than deplete your purse, slowly but surely. So what did I do? Simple. No magic formula.

I adopted a health regime with respect to my bodily constitution, which I maintained after my return from Rodrigues. Believe me, as simple as it might appear, it worked. I made it a point to do the following on a sustained basis:

– walking (briskly at least an hour on each occasion) four to six kilometers;
– swimming;
– avoiding oily and fried foods;
– cutting down on rice and all that make heavy meals;
– favouring raw salads and boiled veggies;
– reducing salt content, and avoiding it altogether where possible; and
– above all keeping regular medical follow up.

One more thing: I don’t drink or smoke. All for a healthier lifestyle.

Interested in knowing more about how you can adopt a healthier lifestyle? Go back to my post Five Rituals for a Healthier You.

Five Rituals for a Healthier You

We always hear about keeping fit, healthy and adopting a healthy lifestyle. What does that mean? You’ll often come across people saying: “Oh, I eat well, work well, sleep well, and I have no disease; I’m a healthy person.

 

Well, the fact is despite these assertions a person may still be leading an unhealthy life. Have you heard of this: “I just met Mr. X; we had a good time together; he was OK; I can’t believe he’s passed away? Aren’t you joking?

 

Yes, this is a common feature today. Many people suffer from health problems like high blood pressure, stress, cardiovascular disease and diabetes without knowing, until they find themselves in the doctor’s consultation room for an emergency.

 

Yet there are visible risk factors associated with these. Physical inactivity, bad eating, smoking and alcohol consumption habits, obesity, age, and family history are all factors that contribute to worsen your health, slowly but surely.

 

Oh, I mentioned “habits”; the topic of the post is about “rituals”. So let’s get things clear before going any further.

 

A habit is a passive, automatic and often unconscious behaviour, done in repetition although the outcomes may not be positive.

 

Whereas a ritual is something you do deliberately and consciously with a clear purpose in mind. It is more powerful than habit.

 

A habit may be good or bad. What you need to do is to adopt those habits that are good and turn them into rituals with a clear and specific objective in mind.

 

OK? Right, over now to the rituals to help you maintain a healthier lifestyle.

 

1. Eat healthy

  • Know what you eat, how and how much. Don’t eat with your eyes; they may mislead you over a sensible portion. Don’t eat in between meals. Be reasonable. Be moderate.
  • Eat more fruits, salads and veggies
  • Take low fat or fat free dairy foods
  • If you are non-vegetarian, go for lean meat, poultry and fish
  • Check your sodium intake: less of it, more of herbs and spices
  • Grains, nuts, seeds and dry beans are all right
  • Check your sugar consumption
  • Check if you have enough daily fluid intake. Six to eight glasses (about 1.2 litres) of fluid a day are recommended by the UK Food Standard Agency, based on fluid lost by the body; although a recent study by scientists at University of Pennsylvania rules out the actual beneficial toxin-flushing-ability of water. “There’s no clear evidence of benefit from drinking increased amounts of water,” they say. Anyhow, remember that you need to take adequate fluid to avoid dehydration.

2. Be physically active

  • Unfortunately, modern technology has rendered life more sedentary. People confine themselves to their car, office and home with little if at all any significant physical activity. You need not do vigorous physical activity, nor run or jog. Just simple activities can help maintain a good posture, lower blood pressure, burn the calories and the body fat and improve the circulatory and heart problems. So what in essence can you do?
  • Walk. The Executive Health Organisation says walking is a very efficient exercise and is the only one that you can follow all the years of your life. Studies have yielded definite improvement in health and proved beneficial to the heart and weight-loss of thousands of people.
  • Do some household chores, like gardening, sweeping, washing (car, floor, etc), cleaning the yard. These may not be vigorous exercises, yet will keep you on the move usefully.
  • Leave your car or motorcycle when you proceed to the nearby grocery, bakery or market. Walk. The idea is to break your sedentariness.
  • If you can, do some exercise, like swimming, cycling, dancing, skiing, etc. This will help reduce stress, improve your mood, reduce anxiety and depression, maintain bone mass, prevent osteoporosis and fractures and improve memory in the elderly.

Remember however that there are conflicting views about how much exercise you should do. Some believe 20 minutes per day is sufficient; others recommend one hour per day. Scientific research and studies indicate that a roughly-20-minute-a-day exercise, although will not melt off your kilos, can significantly prevent your cardiac risks.

3. Keep your weight under control

  • Heavy weight is considered a major cardiac risk factor. So all you need to do is maintain a healthy weight. Now what is a healthy weight? Put simply it is one that respects your Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. It is obtained from dividing your body weight (in kg) by the square of your height (in centimetres). 

Consider yourself:

  • Underweight if your BMI is equal to or below 18.5
  • Normal weight, between 18.5 and 24.9
  • Overweight, between 25.0 and 29.9
  • Obese, if your BMI is 30 and above.

4. Quit or avoid smoking and drinking

  • It’s no news: smoking tobacco has negative effects on nearly every organ of the body. It impairs overall health. From lung cancer to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases smoking remains the leading cause of death that can be prevented.
  • Like smoking, alcohol affects every organ in the body. Beer, wine, and liquor contain an intoxicating ingredient in the form of ethyl alcohol or ethanol. Alcohol is readily absorbed into the bloodstream. It acts on the central nervous system with depressive outcomes. How intense is the effect of alcohol on the body depends on the amount consumed, not the type of alcoholic drink.
  • The choice is clear. If you smoke or consume alcohol quit, or simply avoid.

5. Keep a medical watch

A medical surveillance will go a long way in keeping any health inconsistencies in check. Make it a ritual to:

  • Visit your health institution. Talk to your doctor. Keep a health diary and follow-up regularly.
  • Take any prescribed drugs as may be directed.
  • Don’t grab any dietary medication or “health pills” from the street corner shop; seek appropriate specialized medical advice if you intend to go for a dietary programme. Pseudo-medical advisors and self-medication can do more harm than good. Your health control needs to be adapted to your metabolic set up.

If you follow these rituals there’s no reason why you should not enjoy a better health. You can start at any age. A small step can make all the difference. If you eat healthy, stop smoking and do more exercise you could have an extra 12 years’ life. In fact, a study from the University of Cambridge reveals that: 

  • You can live up to five years longer if you eat five fruits and vegetables
  • You could have another four to five years if you stop smoking
  • You can have up to three years extra life if you do more exercise.

The choice is yours now.

 

If you have any other suggestions for an improved lifestyle I’d be pleased to read about them.

 

To your health.

 

You Can START a STROKE Treatment

Leading killer

Stroke is the killer number three and adult disability factor number one in the United States and Europe. It takes away the life of more than 150 000 people every year in the US; and affects some 800 000 new or recurrent stroke sufferers yearly. A definite medical emergency and life-threatening neurological injury affecting people’s health on a global scale, stroke can cause permanent brain damage and death. More than 65 billion USD will be required this year to meet related medical costs.

Tough but possible

If left undiagnosed, stroke will become the leading cause of worldwide deaths. Although the symptoms are not easily identifiable it is vital to recognise, diagnose and treat a stroke victim as quick as possible. Tough but possible, neurologists are optimistic. They say they can reverse the effects completely provided the stroke victim is brought for treatment within three hours. There’s very little hope beyond that time frame.

Scene of stroke

But a stroke occurs suddenly, so fast that it shocks bystanders. It may happen anywhere, at home, on the road, at work; and you may be the only person on site. Imagine yourself with a victim headlong or otherwise, in a weak and confused state. It could be anyone from your close relative to a dear friend, or a fellow worker. What do you do?

Unless you have been trained to deal with emergencies you’ll panic. Won’t you?

But if you know the techniques of recognising a stroke you can make all the difference. You can save a life; you can prevent the victim from getting crippled for life. How? Let us first of all try to find out what a stroke is and how it affects people.

What is a stroke?

A stroke which is also called a cerebrovascular accident (CVA) or cerebral infarction is a cardiovascular disease. There are two ways a stroke can strike.

First when the blood vessel carrying oxygen and nutrients to the brain is blocked by a clot (thrombus). This condition is called ischemia (lack of blood supply).

And, secondly, when the blood vessel bursts and causes hemorrhage. In either case the brain is deprived and starts to die.

It is therefore vital to restore the blood flow as quickly as possible. A long period of blood deprivation to the brain may cause nerve cells to die. The brain can be damaged permanently and irreversibly.

A higher death rate is associated with hemorrhagic stroke. But ischemic stroke, also called thrombotic stroke, is more common and accounts for more than 85 per cent of all strokes. It occurs mostly at night or in the early morning. It is often preceded by what is called a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or a “warning stroke” which lasts only a few minutes. If you identify a TIA victim bring him to immediate medical care.

What are the effects of a stroke?

The effects depend largely on where the obstruction or disruption is located and how much the brain is damaged. The brain is a complex organ and functions such that one side of it controls the opposite side of the body.

A stroke in the right side of the brain will affect the left side of the body and the right side of the face. The left side of the body is paralysed and the victim may experience vision problems and memory loss, and display quick, inquisitive behaviour.

A stroke in the left side will affect the right side of the body and left side of the face. The victim may suffer right side body paralysis, experience memory loss and speech problems and display slow, cautious behaviour.

Treatment

As a layman it’s not your job to administer treatment. Leave it to the professionals; neurologists and emergency physicians will act according to the type of stroke. For ischemic stroke they’ll usually administer clot-busting drugs while a surgical intervention would be necessary for hemorrhagic stroke. But these medical specialists are not always on the scene of the accident. Can you as a bystander do anything? How will you handle the situation?

What you can do

Well, at least you can START the process of treatment. Note I said “process”, which means there are other things you can do before effective (professional) treatment is available. Fair enough if you know a bit of first aid principles. It shouldn’t be a big deal if you don’t.

The most important thing is to act promptly. Remember every minute counts. Don’t panic. Recognise the problem and call the ambulance immediately. If you are in Mauritius dial 114; in the US it’s 911, otherwise check your country’s emergency number. You are the key person here. You are going to START the treatment. How will you recognise the symptoms? Follow the steps below and give a clear description of your own observations to the emergency team once they are on site:

S – The patient cannot SMILE if asked to; there’s sudden numbness of the face
T – If you ask him to TALK he is incoherent
A – He is not ALERT; has trouble seeing and suffers severe headache
R – He cannot RAISE both arms; there’s loss of balance; he cannot walk
T – His TONGUE is crooked or sways sideways.

Don’t forget you have only three hours for a proper treatment; and the victim needs to be hospitalized within an hour of the occurrence of the stroke in order to allow for appropriate evaluation, diagnosis and treatment.

Learn also to know who are vulnerable to stroke

Basically the risk factors are the same as for other cardiovascular diseases. People with hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, migraine with aura, previous history of stroke or TIA; cigarette smokers; cases of atrial fibrillation, thrombophilia (a thrombosis tendency) and older aged persons are most at risk.

What next?

Take your health in your hands. Doctors cannot do it all. Once you are aware of the risk factors you can take action to reduce the risk of recurrent episodes of stroke. Cardiovascular complications are the result of unhealthy lifestyle, lack of exercise, improper diet or uncontrolled medication. You can prevent a stroke if you adopt a healthier lifestyle. If you feel you are at risk or you have ever experienced a TIA there’s no better way to keep it under control. Here’s what you can do:

• If you are diabetic and hypertensive try to keep these under control. Very often people are not aware they have diabetes and hypertension until they are diagnosed as a result of an emergency
• Practise physical exercise, control your weight
• Control your diet, eat healthy
• If you smoke, quit.

Alternatively medical specialists may prescribe drugs to “thin” the blood.

If you follow the above carefully you’ll go a long towards keeping the stroke incidence at a low level. Not only you’ll contribute to a healthier world population, you’ll also help save billions of dollars for fighting against this big killer.

Further reading:

American Heart Association
National Institutes of Health and National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
KNOW STROKE: KNOW THE SIGNS. ACT IN TIME

Alfa King is a Mauritius-based blogger and emerging copywriter and freelance writer. He is a former editor of trade union newsletter and has contributed articles for various in-house magazines and newsletters. He has written technical papers for trade unions, employers and professional organisations. As a professional in Occupational Safety & Health, First Aider and advisor in Human Resources he has worked with both public and private bodies and conducted training programmes at various levels.

Swallow your veggie saliva, improve your cardiovascular health

From exercise to good dieting there are a number of factors that impact on our cardiovascular health. Medical specialists and dieticians are better placed to explain how these are important and the steps you need to follow to achieve better health.

For instance they’ll tell you green leafy vegetables are better than cooked food. But for the common people that we are, the reasoning behind this is not always clear to us. Things complicate even more when we are told “Eat vegetables, and don’t spit if you want to achieve better cardiovascular health”. Does that make sense?

Funny and awkward as it may seem, researchers have indeed found that eating vegetables and not spitting afterwards is linked with improved cardiovascular health. They’ve carried out tests with positive results. Are you still with me? Let’s see how.

Vegetables contain nitrate which is concentrated in our saliva after eating. The nitrate is not the “good stuff” we’ll be talking about. Don’t jiggle already. Nitrate is biologically inactive. The “good stuff” is nitrite (“i” not “a”) which results by the action of bacteria in our mouths (yeah, the bacteria that stink our mouths) on the nitrate. Our saliva is thus enriched in nitrite. When we swallow it the nitrite is absorbed in our bloodstream, thus reducing our blood pressure and improving our vascular well-being.

Want to know more? Why not read “Eat Your Vegetables and Don’t Spit” at Dr. Richard N. Fogoros’s Heart Disease Blog which deals with a variety of heart health related issues.

You may also wish to refer to the following links:

Losing weight with bananas!

A healthier heart

To your health.

Information Sheet on Diabetes

On the occasion of World Diabetes Day, I’m reproducing an information sheet on diabetes from the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life in Mauritius. It gives an insight of the types of diabetes, the situation in the world and at the local level, risk factors, signs and symptoms, and management and prevention of diabetes. I hope you find it useful as it’s becoming one of the most common ailments of the century.

What is Type 1 diabetes?

Under the influence of the hormone insulin produced by the pancreas, sugar is converted into heat and energy in the body. If too little or no insulin is formed by the pancreas, the sugar is no longer adequately utilized; the sugar content of the blood rises, and the unused sugar is excreted in the urine. This condition is known as Type 1 diabetes and develops frequently in children and adolescents.

What is Type 2 diabetes?

In certain people, enough insulin is produced by the pancreas but the body is resistant to the action of insulin. Again the sugar in the body is not adequately used, the sugar content of the blood rises and the unused sugar is excreted in the urine. This condition is known as Type 2 diabetes, occurs most frequently in adults and accounts for about 90% of all cases.

What is the global situation?

According to the World Health Organization, more than 240 million people worldwide have diabetes. Within 20 years, this number is expected to rise to 380 million. And much of this increase will occur in developing countries.

What is the situation in Mauritius?

The Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) Survey carried out in 2004 indicates that 20 % of the adult population aged 30 years and above have diabetes. This amounts to above 110,000 Mauritians who have diabetes. Furthermore, 12% of Mauritians have Impaired Glucose Tolerance (IGT), that is, borderline diabetes.

Is diabetes a problem among children?

Children are not spared from this global epidemic, with its debilitating and threatening complications. Type 1 diabetes is growing by 3 % per year among children and adolescents, and at an alarming rate of 5% per year among school children. It is estimated that 70,000 children under 15 develop Type 1 diabetes each year (almost 200 per day).

Type 2 diabetes also is growing at an alarming rate in children and adolescents. For example, in the United States of America, it is estimated that Type 2 diabetes represents between 8 and 45% of new-onset diabetes cases in children. In Japan, over a period of 20 years, Type 2 diabetes has doubled in children, so that it is now more common than Type 1.

For this reason, the theme of this year’s World Diabetes Day, usually marked on 14 November each year, is “Diabetes and Children“. The campaign aims to raise awareness on the rising prevalence of both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents. Early diagnosis and early education are crucial to reducing complications and saving lives. The healthcare community, educators, parents and guardians must join forces to help children living with diabetes, prevent the condition in those at risk, and avoid unnecessary death and disability.

What are the risk factors?

A number of factors are known to be related to the development of diabetes. These are:

– heredity;
– unhealthy eating habits;
– overweight or/and obesity;
– physical inactivity;
– smoking;
– alcohol abuse; and
– stress.

What are the signs and symptoms of diabetes?

The person:
– always feels thirsty, and his/her mouth feels dry;
– feels tired always;
– urinates more frequently than normal, including at night;
– begins to lose weight;
– may not see clearly;
– has frequent itching around the genitals;
– has pins and needles (‘picotements’) in the legs and hands;
– has injuries and infections that are difficult to treat.

What are the complications of diabetes?

If diabetes is not properly controlled, it leads to severe complications of the systems of the body, some of which are:

– retinopathy (affection of the retina), causing visual impairment and blindness;
– neuropathy (affection of the nerves), leading to loss of sensation and injuries to the feet and sexual impotence in men;
– nephropathy (affection of the kidneys), leading to renal failure;
– premature obstruction of the arteries, leading to hypertension, heart attack, stroke and amputation of the leg.

How can diabetes be managed properly?

(i) take the medicine or insulin injection as recommended by your doctor;
(ii) avoid eating fatty/oily foods;
(iii) reduce the intake of sugar;
(iv) eat more vegetables, fruits and pulses;
(v) control your weight;
(vi) avoid alcoholic drinks or take them in moderation;
(vii) avoid smoking; and
(viii) perform daily physical activity.
(ix) examine your feet daily in order to treat injury if any to avoid infection;
(x) check your eyes once a year.

How can diabetes be prevented?

The adoption of a healthy lifestyle is essential to prevent diabetes as well as other non-communicable diseases. Preventive measures include the following:

– moderate consumption of fatty/oily foods;
– moderate intake of sugar;
– consumption of more vegetables, fruits and pulses;
– avoiding or moderate consumption of alcoholic drinks;
– avoiding smoking;
– physical activity for at least 30 minutes daily.”

Courtesy: Ministry of Health & Quality of Life, Mauritius.

Losing weight with bananas!

Did you know you could lose weight eating bananas? Low sodium and high potassium foods can help reduce the water weight in the body. Bananas are rich in potassium but they have low calories and fat. Eaten at breakfast they can help boost your energy. It’s even better if you take them about half an hour before a physical exercise.

Bananas are also known to:

– improve blood pressure
– protect from strokes and cardiovascular problems
– protect from ulcers
– facilitate bowels

If you want to know more about the benefits of eating bananas Wakish highlights 10 reasons for eating bananas daily and enumerates some facts about them at Wakish Wonderz.

Take a good boost and keep on writing.

Childhood Asthma Probe

ORMDL3. Does that mean anything to you? Perhaps only a set of letters and a figure. That’s all. Idem for me too. Not for scientists though. It seems to be the culprit. It’s a gene found in a more significant amount in the blood cells of children with asthma than in those without. This higher level of ORMDL3 could increase the risk of having asthma by about 70%.

That’s what a group of researchers from Imperial College London, along with others from UK, France, Germany, USA and Austria, have concluded after a study carried out on more than 2000 children.

Childhood asthma is a common chronic disease. 10% of children in the UK are currently affected. It’s a tough time indeed, for the children as it is for the parents. Therapies have hitherto been limited to attenuating the episodes of asthma, without significant progress into its cure.

Deep probe has yet to be effected into the exact causes of asthma. It is not well understood how ORMLD3 exacerbates the risk of asthmatic conditions in children. But the combination of genetic and environmental factors provides a definite clue.

The researchers compared the genetic makeup of childhood asthmatic and non-asthmatic patients. They probed into the mutational behavior of the nucleotides, the building blocks of genes making up the DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid – a self-replicating material present in nearly all living organisms carrying the genetic information). Mutations were observed and the researchers unveiled those specific to childhood asthma.

The new findings will, it is hoped, pave the way for the development of new therapies. For further information see links below:

More about the gene linked with childhood asthma.

What is asthma?

How can I treat my asthma?

Give…a drop of life!

Let us stop a moment in remembrance of the millions of anonymous, voluntary and unpaid people who donate their blood to save lives and to improve the health of others around the world. Let us recognize their efforts for a good cause. Let us thank them from the bottom of our heart for their altruism on the occasion of the World Blood Donor Day celebrated on June 14 every year.

Giving blood is saving life. Blood is never in excess. Someone somewhere needs some blood to remain alive. The importance of regular blood donation can never be overemphasized. A regular and timely supply of safe blood is vital for victims of accidents, women giving births and others requiring urgent surgical care.

There’s no race, no creed, no color, neither rich nor poor. Shortage of safe blood accounts for more than half a million deaths every year among women as a result of complications leading to severe bleeding during delivery. Although 99% of maternal deaths occur in developing countries with about 34% in Africa, 31% in Asia and more than 21% in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Countries around the world will focus on the theme for this year: Safe Blood for Safe Motherhoodto highlight the life-saving role of safe blood donation transfusion in maternal and perinatal care”. The celebrations are sponsored by four international organizations working to promote voluntary blood donation:

– World Health Organization
– International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
International Federation of Blood Donor Organizations
– International Society of Blood Transfusion

Blood donation campaigns are on. Don’t forget that little drop, it can save a life.

Smoke-free environments

Do you smoke? If you are a smoker, do you know that you don’t have the right to endanger the health of non-smokers? Are you current on the latest initiatives or legal provisions in your country?

I was a casual smoker at one time. I used to take a few puffs from my friends during outings and fun times. Like many hard smokers, I didn’t pay heed to the harmful effects tobacco smoke can have on my health. The only thing I realised and I hated the most is the bad breath that came out; stinky mouth. How disgusting when you have to approach your partner or your mate or anyone who doesn’t smoke.

As I had started to experience unstable blood pressure I decided for a check up in 1998. I was shocked when the doctor asked me if I was a heavy smoker. Reason? The echocardiography revealed dark spots; well this is what he told me. He didn’t trust my word when I insisted that I smoked only on rare occasions; not even one cigarette in a week. If I had dark spots what would be the case with regular smokers? I felt so much remorse that I stopped tobacco consumption for good. No first hand smoking at all. I’m not so sure whether it applies for passive smoking as we are all somehow exposed to smoke in the environment.

Tobacco is known to be the second major cause of death in the world. It is responsible for about five million deaths each year. It accounts for numerous diseases, disability, and malnutrition, loss of productivity, increased health care costs and serious economic problems. In a report in 1994 it was estimated that the use of tobacco caused an annual global net loss of USD 200,000 millions. The current pattern in smoking is expected to result in some 10 million deaths each year by the year 2020.

Studies have shown that smoke contains some 4000 toxic chemicals. These affect not only the smoker but also non-smokers who live in the surrounding by a phenomenon known as secondhand smoking or passive smoking. Secondhand smoke is other people’s tobacco smoke. It can cause serious damage to the human body, like blood clotting, increased risk of lung cancer and heart disease. The risk of such diseases is the same in smokers and secondhand smokers. Secondhand smoking occurs mainly in enclosed environments, in rooms, offices, bars, restaurants, casinos, vehicles and other such places where people smoke.

Secondhand smoke stays in the environment for long and is most of the time invisible and odourless. In a room it may be present after two and half hours even if you open the windows. In a car it’s even worse as all the smoke is concentrated in a small area.

Scared? Well, there’s every reason to be. But we can do something about it, together. Although most smokers would argue it’s not easy to quit smoking. If you can choose to smoke at your own risk and peril, you have no right to put other people’s health at risk. Non-smokers have the right to a smoke-free environment.

That’s why the United Kingdom will be introducing a law “to protect employees and the public from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke”. As from 1 July this year, therefore, smoking in all “enclosed” and “substantially enclosed” public places and workplaces will be prohibited by law. The law aims at a smoke-free environment.

Enclosed premises would include those having a ceiling or roof and fully enclosed except for doors, windows or passageways. Substantially enclosed premises would be those with a ceiling or roof but having an opening in the walls that is less than half the total area of the walls.

So you won’t be allowed to smoke in a public transport and work vehicles carrying more than one person. Smoking signs will have to be displayed in all smoke-free premises and vehicles. Indoor smoking areas including staff smoking rooms will be forbidden; and anyone willing to smoke will have to go outside. There will be a legal responsibility on managers to prevent people from smoking in smoke-free premises and vehicles. It will be a criminal offence if you don’t comply with the requirements of the law and you’ll be liable to fixed penalties or maximum fines upon conviction.

What better initiative than the upcoming UK legislation to crack down on smokers in the context of World No-Tobacco Day to be celebrated on 31 May with the theme: “Smoke-free environments”.

In Mauritius the campaign has started on 23 May and will last until 7 June to sensitize people on the ill-effects of smoking and the need to promote a smoke-free environment. TV spots, forums, radio talks, poster competitions and regional workshops are scheduled during that period.

But it’s all a question of personal choice and conscience. If each of us could contribute in bringing a halt to tobacco smoking, the world would be a healthier place to live.

Hepatitis Awareness

Yesterday I couldn’t make it to my blog. I came back very late. It was 10.30 pm and I was exhausted. I had a long day’s work. On Thursdays I usually do consultancy for a private enterprise after my normal work. After a quick bath, a coffee sip and a light snack I rushed to Quatre Bornes. It’s about 15 minutes’ drive from where I live. I had to be at the Gold Crest Hotel by seven to attend a talk on hepatitis awareness in the context of World Safety Day which is celebrated on 28 April every year for quite some years now. It was organized by a pharmaceutical company in collaboration with the Institution of Occupational Safety & Health Management (Mauritius) of which I am a member.

I really didn’t feel like approaching my computer after a copious and relatively late dinner served following the presentation made by three eminent doctors in the field of virology and occupational health.

So what did I learn? I must confess that I had a very superficial view of hepatitis. I took it for granted, like any other disease that infects, affects and then leaves after a certain period. But it’s more than that, as I learnt that it can be a deadly disease.

By now you should be asking yourself (unless you already know about it) what the hell hepatitis is. Ho does it affect people? Are we all at risk? What are the symptoms? Can it be prevented? Don’t worry folks; I’ll give you a feed back of the talk, if you can follow me. Just bear with me.

Well, hepatitis is an inflammatory disease of the liver, caused by a virus. Different kinds of the virus cause different types of hepatitis, namely hepatitis A, B, C, D, E. The most common are hepatitis A and B. They are different diseases caused by different viruses and different modes of transmission, although they are both characterized by the development of what is known as jaundice if the condition persists. But hepatitis B is more dangerous and may even develop into liver cancer. I couldn’t imagine it’s 100 times more infectious than the Human Immune-deficiency Virus (HIV).

The main mode of transmission of hepatitis A is by the fecal-oral route from an infected person. It may be excreted in the saliva. It is also spread through blood (for example by contaminated blood transfusion) or by the use of contaminated syringes and needles. If you drink or swim in water contaminated by fecal matter, or consume contaminated food which has been handled by an unaware infected food handler with poor hygiene, or eat raw food like salads, cold meat and fruit handled by unwashed (contaminated) hands, then you may be at risk. Don’t take shellfish for granted. If they’ve been harvested from dirty water they may be contaminated and put you at risk.

Hepatitis B is transmitted in practically the same way as HIV; by personal contact with an infected person, sexual contact or contact with infected body fluids or contaminated blood, by use of infected syringes or needles. Beware if you are fond of acupuncture, body piercing or tattooing. Whereas HIV is not transmitted through bites, hepatitis B is. If you are bitten by an infected person, you may get infected too. Skin conditions like abrasions, eczema and bites have also been found to be common routes of transmission.

You may also be at risk of hepatitis if you work in sewage plants or emergency services, or if you are a health care worker, day care centre worker, doctor, nurse, dentist, food handler or you work in a food handling industry or prison. Dialysis patients and frequent travelers are also prone, reports have shown.

If you’ve been infected you’ll feel feverish, nauseated, unwell, and experience lack of appetite and abdominal discomfort. Jaundice may develop some days later. The virus is very resistant and able to survive in water and food from about 12 weeks to about 10 months.

The most effective preventive measure is vaccination, although safe and good hygiene practices are essential in curbing the spread.

A healthier heart

Today I had an appointment for the routine health check-up. There’s nothing serious, thank God, except the high blood pressure, which I manage to keep under control with the daily intake of Atenolol 100 mg. Usually the blood pressure is OK in the morning and the evening, especially when I’m at home. But at the health centre during mid-day it wasn’t. It never is whenever I attend the health centre.

“Stressed?” asked the nurse.

“No… why?” I stared at her.

“It’s 140/90”.

“So?”

“…”

I knew that’s why I wasn’t worried. Sometimes it’s even higher. Last time, three months ago, it was 150/100. My problem, I am told, is not so much the systolic pressure; it’s the diastole that’s usually abnormally high.

Today’s visit reminded me also of the diets and the physical exercise which I often skip. I may be regular over one week, and just pass on it the next. And you know I can’t leave my keyboard. Anyway, to keep up with the physical exercise which the doctor advised I resumed the evening walk.

It’s normally recommended to have a half hour walk every day, which, it is said, reduces the risk of a heart attack by some 30 per cent. I don’t know whether it’s a coincidence, but I read about it (this evening itself after the walk) in an article in the Reader’s Digest Asia of this month, “10 Steps to a healthy heart” by a certain Dr Michael F. Roizen. The article goes further in recommending that one should do whatever it takes to get their blood pressure down to 115/75. Means I got to do something about it.

But I walked longer than the half hour; and I always do more. I actually did it for exactly, yes exactly one hour. I didn’t time it. I mean I didn’t do it in the sense of a “course contre la montre” (race against time). Well, I noted the time instinctively when I left and then again when I came back home, my departure point. It was 6.13 pm. Amazing. And I walked six to seven kilometers. Almost. As if I was out to catch up with the backlogs.

Anyway, if you are interested to read the article and know more about ways to have a healthier heart follow the link here.  You may have to login first. Registration is free.