The Telegraph
Friday , June 29 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Eat less, walk more, stay happy

Diabetes, lung problems, heart problems and arthritis — if you had the option of forgoing any one illness out of these, which would it be? While most people in the BJ Block community hall opted to do away with diabetes, Dr Tanvir Reza, who had posed the question, disagreed.

“Diabetes, heart problems and arthritis have effective medicines and surgeries to keep them under control, but when senior citizens come to me with breathing problems, saying they have been smoking for decades, it is a dead end,” said Dr Reza, consultant pulmonologist. “There are medicines for lung problems but smoking has permanently damaged so much of the lungs that the medicines will only work on the remaining bit. This is inadequate.”s

The awareness camp, conducted by Columbia Asia Hospital in association with Purba Prantik Cooperative Society, had brought down two doctors and a physiotherapist to interact with an audience of patients, most of whom were senior citizens.

For a healthy set of lungs, Dr Reza asked smokers to quit smoking immediately, adding that his hospital has counselling programmes for those trying to quit. “A pollution-free environment is good for the lungs, but I know that is difficult today. Those working in mines are at high risk, so are those cooking before clay ovens.”

To test awareness levels in the audience, the doctor asked who all had heard of the ECG test. All hands went up. But when asked who had heard of the PFT (pulmonary function test), the number of hands dwindled. For those not in the know, the organisers had arranged for a PFT test at the venue, with the doctor advising patients later based on their results.

Prescriptions for the aged

Dr Kausik Majumdar, consultant in geriatric medicine, fielded questions on age-related problems and offered some tips.

Loss of sleep: Some elderly people complained that they had difficulty in sleeping. The doctor told them that it was natural to sleep less after the age of 60. “This is because the body’s requirement of sleep reduces. Even if you dose off easily, you may wake up quickly and sooner than it’s time. This is natural,” said Dr Majumdar.

Constipation: While the doctor said this condition happens with age, the audience was full of questions on its remedies. “If the constipation is stubborn you may have purgatives up to thrice a week. Do not have it daily as they have minerals like iron and magnesium, an excess of which may cause other problems. Also, their efficiency will reduce if you overuse it.” But he said patients could have wood-apple (bel) daily.

Memory loss: There is no reason to worry if you open the fridge and forget why you did so or go to the market and forget what you had to buy. To keep the mind active, he advised elderly people to pen a dairy everyday. “It will help you recapitulate the whole day’s activities and gather your thoughts. It helps combat short term memory loss. Also, those who are right-handed should write a few sentences daily with their left hand and vice versa.”

Loss of appetite: Dr Majumdar asked senior citizens to eat small quantities of food several times a day rather than three heavy meals. He also advised drinking lots of water. “Carry water in a bottle if you are going out. And in summer, add sugar and salt to it. If you are diabetic, replace the sugar with lime.”

Exercise: Singling out walking as the best exercise at this age, he advised walking five times a week, for 30 minutes each. Yoga, pranayam and the like are also suitable.

Check-ups: Two health check-ups a year are a must for the aged. Also, Dr Majumdar urged patients not to practise self-treatment. “If your fever does not subside even after a week, it is a matter of concern. Do not tell yourself you will be cured after having a few more paracetamols. It could be something more serious than that. Consult a doctor.”

Blood pressure: For those checking BP on their own at home, check it on both hands and accept the higher reading. Also, remember to check your pressure at different times of the day.

Insulin: “Those injecting insulin must eat immediately afterwards,” said Dr Majumdar. Those checking sugar levels at home should check it at different times of the day, before different meals and call the doctor if any reading is high.

Dr Majumdar also busted a myth about the PP (postprandial blood sugar test) conducted two hours after eating a meal. While everyone in the audience claimed they count the two hours from the time they complete a meal, the doctor said that the count must begin from the time one starts eating. “So for instance if you start eating at 4pm and finish at 4.30pm, your two hour count starts from 4pm. You have to take your test at 6pm. Also, you cannot be more than five minutes early or late for this test.”

Finally, the doctor asked the elderly to stay happy and to keep their minds tension-free.