Unlock the power of mindfulness for office stress relief. ‘From Zero to Zen’ offers tailored techniques to achieve calm and focus at work. Begin your mindful journey now!
Ever felt like a fish out of water in the hustle and bustle of the office? You’re not alone.
For many, the modern workplace can seem like a pressure cooker, bubbling with looming deadlines, incessant emails, and never-ending meetings.
This relentless pace can leave even the most seasoned professionals gasping for breath. But what if there was a way to navigate this sea of stress, charting a course from flustered to focused?
Mastering the Mind: The Basics of Mindfulness
Think of the mind as an ocean, sometimes calm and at times tumultuous. Practicing mindfulness helps us navigate these waters without getting overwhelmed. Similarly, it ensures we’re not on autopilot in life, but actively engaged and present.
Scientific studies show that mindfulness and meditation can rewire the brain’s response to stress, enhancing working memory and executive functioning. Neuroimaging studies confirm these benefits. Mindfulness practices help manage difficult emotions effectively, promoting equanimity and better stress management in the workplace.
Office Oasis: Techniques for Daily Calm Amidst Chaos
Amidst the swirling tornado of tasks, emails, and meetings, the workplace can often feel anything but serene. But with the right techniques, you can transform your office environment into an oasis of calm and focus. Here are five techniques to help you do just that.
The Science Behind It: Deep breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, activates the body’s relaxation response. It reduces the production of stress hormones, leading to a state of calm.
Expand Your Practice: To amplify the benefits, incorporate visualization with deep breathing. Imagine each inhalation bringing in calmness and each exhalation expelling stress and negativity.
Quick Tip: Set hourly reminders on your computer or phone to take a couple of deep breaths. Over time, this practice can significantly reduce overall stress levels.
Situations it Helps With:
Pre-meeting Jitters: Those few minutes before an important meeting can be anxiety-inducing. A deep breathing session can help center you.
Conflict Resolution: If you’re amid a heated discussion, a few deep breaths can help you respond calmly.
Overwhelm: When the workload seems insurmountable, taking a deep breathing break can help to regain perspective.
The Science Behind It: Even simple stretches can enhance blood circulation, ensuring that oxygen reaches all parts of the body and brain, thus boosting energy and focus.
Expand Your Practice: Consider incorporating a mini-routine of 3-5 stretches each morning and afternoon. Over time, you might find that not only does your mental clarity improve, but physical aches and pains diminish.
Quick Tip: Share the benefits with colleagues by initiating a 5-minute group stretching session. It’s a great way to break the ice and boost team morale.
Situations it Helps With:
Prolonged Sitting: If you’ve been at your desk for hours, some stretches can alleviate the stiffness.
Mid-afternoon Slump: Instead of reaching for another coffee, some simple desk yoga can rejuvenate you.
Post-lunch Digestion: Gentle stretches can help stimulate digestion, especially if you’re feeling sluggish after a meal.
The Science Behind It: Regular breaks can prevent decision fatigue, a cognitive decline that occurs after making too many decisions in a short time.
Expand Your Practice: Try a technique called the “5-4-3-2-1” sensory grounding exercise. Identify five things you can see, four you can touch, three you can hear, two you can smell, and one you can taste. This practice swiftly grounds you in the present moment.
Quick Tip: If you’re working from home, consider stepping out for a brief nature break. Just a few moments of listening to birds or feeling the wind can be immensely refreshing.
Situations it Helps With:
Decision Fatigue: If you’ve been making decisions all day, a mindful break can help reset your brain.
Creative Block: When you’re stuck on a problem or project, stepping away mindfully can help you return with a fresh perspective.
Post-task Transition: After completing a significant task, a mindful break can help you transition smoothly to the next activity.
The Science Behind It: Visualization can prime the brain for success. By imagining a task’s successful completion, we can train our brains to create pathways for the actual performance of that task.
Expand Your Practice: Beyond calm scenarios, visualize yourself handling difficult situations with grace, be it a challenging conversation or a tough project.
Quick Tip: Visualization becomes more potent with consistency. Carve out 5 minutes daily, preferably in the morning, to set a positive tone for the day.
Situations it Helps With:
Preparation for Big Projects: Visualizing the steps and successful completion can boost confidence.
Public Speaking: If you’re nervous about a presentation, visualize yourself succeeding and receiving positive feedback.
By integrating mindfulness practices, individuals can navigate professional challenges with grace and poise. The techniques offered are not just coping mechanisms, but tools to cultivate inner peace and boost productivity, making the workplace a more harmonious environment.
Unmask the hidden truths behind ultra-processed foods and artificial sweeteners – explore their complex health implications and possible long-term side effects with us.
In today’s world of convenience and haste, ultra-processed foods and artificial sweeteners have become the ‘bread and butter’ of many diets. Yet, beneath the appealing wrapper of these ‘quick-fix’ meals and ‘sugar-free’ delights, lurk complex realities. Researchers alarmingly assert that nearly 60% of our caloric intake stems from such foods. Remember the adage, ‘You are what you eat’?
This blog aims to turn over a new leaf in your understanding, by unmasking the intricate dance between the seemingly attractive benefits and potential long-term side effects of these modern dietary ‘norms’.
Spilling the Beans: The True Nature of Ultra-Processed Foods & Sweeteners”
Let’s face it: in today’s fast-paced world, convenience often trumps quality, especially when it comes to food. Ultra-processed foods – the ‘big cheeses’ in our daily diet – are those products that have undergone several stages of processing, often laden with additives, preservatives, and, most notably, artificial sweeteners. They are the poster child for the idiom “fast food, fast problems”.
Research reports that ultra-processed foods make up almost 60% of total dietary energy in the United States. This statistic might not ‘sit well’ with most of us. Imagine your diet as a large pie; over half of it is filled with foods such as pre-packaged snacks, sodas, ready-to-eat meals, and a myriad of products often high in sugar, salt, and fat – a recipe for health troubles.
Artificial sweeteners, the ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’, give us the illusion of enjoying sweetness without the caloric guilt. Saccharin, aspartame, and sucralose, among others, are common substitutes that allow us to have our cake and eat it too.
But should we? Stay tuned as we slice through the sugar-coated myths and lay bare the often-overlooked realities of these dietary staples.
Silver Lining: Unveiling Benefits of Ultra-Processed Foods & Sweeteners
While ultra-processed foods and artificial sweeteners often get a bad rap, there’s a reason why they’re ‘selling like hotcakes’. The truth is, there are some undeniable benefits nestled within these ‘guilty pleasures’.
Ultra-processed foods are often the ‘apple of our eye’ when it comes to convenience. In our ‘rat-race’ lives, these foods – ready meals, snack bars, and processed meats – offer the luxury of time.
Meanwhile, artificial sweeteners play the role of ‘saving grace’ for individuals managing weight or blood sugar levels. By mimicking the sweetness of sugar sans the calories, these substances ‘hit the sweet spot’. The American Diabetes Association acknowledges its utility in managing carbohydrate intake without compromising taste.
But before we ‘put all our eggs in one basket’, it’s crucial to acknowledge that these benefits come with a side of caution. Delve deeper with us as we continue to peel back the layers of ultra-processed foods and artificial sweeteners.
Tip of the Iceberg: Long-Term Side Effects of Ultra-Processed Foods & Sweeteners
As we ‘navigate the waters’ of the world of ultra-processed foods and artificial sweeteners, it’s crucial to keep an eye on the potential ‘hidden rocks’ – the long-term side effects. The potential harm of these convenient culinary options might just be the ‘tip of the iceberg.’
According to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, a 10% increase in the consumption of ultra-processed foods is linked with a 14% higher risk of mortality. Ultra-processed foods can be a ‘double-edged sword’; while they save us time, they could potentially ‘shave off’ years from our lives. These foods tend to be high in sodium, leading to increased blood pressure – a ‘silent killer’.
Artificial sweeteners, despite being ‘sweeter than sugar,’ may have a ‘bitter aftertaste‘. Research indicates a potential link between these sugar substitutes and an increased risk of glucose intolerance and metabolic syndrome, ironically the very conditions they’re often used to combat. Let’s take each one of them and understand why you must be mindful of your choices.
Obesity and Weight Gain: Ultra-processed foods are typically high in calories and low in nutrients, leading to overeating and subsequent weight gain. A study published in BMJ found that people who eat more ultra-processed foods have higher risks of obesity and rapid weight gain.
Heart Disease: Due to high levels of saturated and trans fats, regular consumption of ultra-processed foods can increase levels of harmful cholesterol in the blood, potentially leading to heart disease. The Journal of the American Medical Association published a study correlating ultra-processed food intake with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
Diabetes: Ultra-processed foods often have high sugar content, contributing to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. Research in JAMA Internal Medicine found a connection between ultra-processed food consumption and increased risk of developing diabetes.
Cancer: Certain studies, such as one published in The BMJ Today, suggest a link between ultra-processed foods and an increased risk of cancer, although more research is needed to definitively establish this connection.
Hypertension: The high sodium content in many ultra-processed foods can contribute to high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
Nutrient Deficiency: Despite their caloric content, ultra-processed foods often lack essential nutrients, which can lead to deficiencies if these foods constitute a large part of your diet.
Long-term side effects of Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners, also known as sugar substitutes, are commonly used to sweeten food and drink products without the calorie load of sugar. While they’re often considered a healthier alternative, potential long-term side effects have been studied and suggested by scientific research. It’s important to note that research on artificial sweeteners is ongoing and sometimes offers mixed results.
Metabolic Syndrome and Diabetes: Contrary to their intended purpose, some studies suggest that artificial sweeteners might contribute to the development of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. This is thought to occur because they may negatively affect gut bacteria and trigger changes in metabolism.
Weight Gain: Despite being low or zero-calorie, artificial sweeteners could contribute to weight gain. One theory suggests that they may increase cravings for sweet food and drink by conditioning the taste buds to a higher level of sweetness.
Heart Disease: Some research, including a study from the American Heart Association, hasfound a correlation between the consumption of artificially sweetened beverages and a higher risk of heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular conditions.
Gut Health Issues: Artificial sweeteners could negatively affect gut health by altering the microbiome, potentially leading to digestion problems. This is still an emerging area of research.
Neurological Effects: Some sweeteners, like aspartame, have been linked in certain studies to headaches and migraines. There are also ongoing debates about potential neurological effects, including a potential increased risk of conditions like depression and Alzheimer’s disease. In conclusion, while ultra-processed foods and artificial sweeteners offer convenience and taste, they may pose long-term health risks. Balance and moderation in our diets are key to a healthier lifestyle.
When you’re under the weather, the common query that often pops up is whether you should push through your regular workout routine or take some time off to recover. Many subscribe to the belief that you can ‘sweat out a cold,’ implying that vigorous exercise might help speed up the recovery process.
But is there any truth to this widely held belief, or is it a mere myth?
Scientific research offers some insights. According to a study, moderate-intensity exercise can boost your immune system’s response to respiratory viruses. However, the same research also shows that prolonged, high-intensity workouts can temporarily suppress immune function, potentially worsening your symptoms or prolonging the illness.
Additionally, the American College of Sports Medicine advises that if your symptoms are ‘above the neck’ – such as a runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, or minor sore throat – light to moderate exercise isn’t likely to harm you. It might even make you feel better by relieving congestion.
However, if your symptoms are ‘below the neck,’ like coughing, body aches, fever, and fatigue, it’s best to rest and refrain from exercising. So, while mild exercise might not be detrimental when you’re battling a simple cold and could potentially make you feel better, it’s not going to ‘sweat out’ the illness or accelerate your recovery. Particularly when dealing with severe symptoms or systemic illnesses, the priority should always be to rest, hydrate, and nourish your body to aid in recovery.
Always remember, every individual is different, and while these general guidelines can be helpful, it’s crucial to listen to your body and consult with a healthcare professional if you’re unsure.
Frequently Asked Questions
How often should I exercise each week?
The World Health Organization recommends adults do at least 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or at least 75-150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity each week.
What is the best time of day to exercise?
This largely depends on personal preference and lifestyle. Some people find they have more energy in the morning, while others may prefer to exercise in the evening.
Should I eat before or after I exercise?
It’s important to fuel your body before a workout, but the type and timing of meals can depend on the intensity and duration of exercise. A mix of carbohydrates and protein after a workout can help with recovery.
Can I exercise every day?
While daily physical activity is beneficial, it’s also essential to allow your body time to rest and recover. This is particularly important after intense workouts.
How long should I rest between workouts?
This can depend on the type of exercise and your fitness level. As a rule, it’s often suggested to take at least one rest day per week and avoid training the same muscle groups two days in a row.
Can I exercise immediately after a meal?
It’s typically recommended to wait at least 1-2 hours after a large meal before exercising to allow for digestion and prevent discomfort or gastrointestinal issues.
How can I prevent injury while exercising?
Proper form, warming up and cooling down, gradually increasing intensity and duration of workouts, and wearing appropriate gear can help prevent injury.
How much water should I drink when exercising?
Hydration needs can vary based on the intensity and duration of exercise, as well as individual factors like sweat rate. A common recommendation is to drink water before, during, and after a workout to maintain hydration.
I have been diagnosed with a health condition; can I still exercise?
Exercise can be beneficial for many health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis, as it can help manage symptoms and improve overall health. However, the type, intensity, and duration of exercise may need to be adapted to suit your specific condition and fitness level.
For instance, with heart disease, gentle aerobic activity may be recommended, while with arthritis, low-impact exercises might be preferable. Those with diabetes can benefit from regular activity, but monitoring of blood sugar levels around exercise is important. Many people with asthma can safely exercise. It’s important, however, to manage your asthma properly, which may include using inhalers before exercise if advised by your doctor.
In contrast, if you’re dealing with an acute condition like a respiratory infection or influenza, it’s generally recommended to rest until your symptoms improve.
Every situation is unique, so it’s important to consult with your healthcare provider or a qualified exercise professional for personalized advice before starting or altering your exercise routine. They can help develop a safe and effective exercise plan considering your current health status, limitations, and personal goals.
Keep moving, keep breathing, and keep your cool because health is a perfect symphony of body, mind, and spirit.
From fad diets to fitness challenges and viral healthy recipe reels on social media, the world’s fascination with healthier lifestyles grew during the Covid -19 pandemic and has since only picked up pace. According to a survey, around 78% of adults living in urban India made conscious efforts to build their immunity, amidst the pandemic. While the pandemic-induced consciousness about health might goad us into becoming a fitter version of ourselves, there’s also a lot of misinformation doing rounds.
Given the deluge of information available online, nutritional advice is often confusing. What might work for one, may not for another. A locally-sourced ingredient available in one state might not be found in another. It’s not uncommon to see people lose sight of basic nutritional advice like eating on time, avoiding processed food, or exercising regularly in their rush to follow the latest diet that’s gone viral on social media. That brings us to the question – how does one eat right?
The science of eating right
Eating might be a physical reaction to hunger but what follows next is purely science. Once you eat your food, it mixes with digestive juices in the gastrointestinal tract. Next, molecules break it down into even smaller molecules which are then absorbed by the intestine.
Given that a healthy diet supplies the body with all the necessary nutrients, eating right shouldn’t be more complex than choosing the right foods. Then, how is it that so many of us struggle with our diets? There are multiple reasons why this might be happening, but the most common ones are related to misinterpretation of nutritional advice.
For instance, for many people ‘eating consciously’ would automatically mean starving themselves. Contrary to starving, dietitians recommend people to eat mindfully rather than less. The focus should be on feeling full rather than the quantity of food. So, the next time your heart and stomach are at war over an extra slice of pizza, always listen to your stomach.
Another example would be the consumption of healthy foods. Low-fat biscuits, zero-cholesterol chips, juices, and low-calorie sweeteners, we all have fallen for these products in our pursuit of being healthy. What many people don’t realize is that not every low-calorie or healthy food would be nutritious for them. Many of these products have added sugars, artificial colors, high sodium levels, and preservatives that may hamper your health. Experts have estimated that ultra-processed foods contribute around 90% of the total calories that are obtained from added sugars.
The same goes for ultra-processed foods. Choosing bread or a sugar-rich cereal over a nutritious breakfast option like upma isn’t going to magically help you lose the extra kilos. There’s ample research that highlights the link between high intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and diabetes.
The Good vs Bad food argument
Having made the said argument, the next question that arises is what food should be ideal for a healthy diet and
how does food become good or bad?
Is the occasional eating out affecting your health?
Thanks to restrictive diets and unverified nutritional advice, a lot of us unknowingly end up demonizing food by labelling them as ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
The truth is that healthy eating is different for everybody. For instance, a post-dinner dessert might not do much to your health but can seriously affect a diabetes patient’s physical well-being.
Giving in to the occasional craving does not make you an undisciplined person. You need fuel to function as it provides your body the required energy and nourishment to function. So, the enemy here is not calories but how you consume them. In fact, such restrictive eating may also lead to eating disorders or binge-eating cycles.
The Verdict on the Traditional Indian diet
We are definitely eating a very diverse diet than what our parents and grandparents did. As traditional Indian cuisine evolves over time, there are a lot of doubts cast about if it’s healthy and balanced enough. This is again a myth that needs to be busted. Take the example of pulses. You won’t find a diet that has so many vegetarian protein options.
The spices used in Indian cuisines are replete with healthy compounds and aromatic properties. Next, the diverse range of vegetables we consume supply the much-needed fiber that our body needs for functioning well. Then there are options like millets which are great for gut health. So, the next time you want to hit the supermarket for vegan and gluten-free options, just check your pantry first.
Sure, not all of these ingredients might be good for everyone but that’s where lifestyles factor in. As we lead very different lifestyles than our parents or grandparents, our bodies also react very differently to these traditional Indian ingredients.
Undoing years of unhealthy eating might take time but that doesn’t mean that you should give up on it altogether. Instead, you can start small. You can start with a few changes in your lifestyle and diet and gradually build up a new routine. Here are a few tips to get you started:
Focus on quality and not quantity.
Eating right doesn’t have to be rocket science. It’s more about intuition and focusing on having balanced meals. As you start prioritizing quality over quantity, you would get more comfortable with listening to your body and eating mindfully. If you are having trouble figuring this out, you can always seek professional help from a dietitian or nutritionist to help you eat the right way.
It starts with that nagging feeling that maybe you are hungry. As you start to wonder about your options, your feet automatically take you to the fridge or the pantry, where you stock the essentials. And, before you know it, you have polished off an entire packet of chips or cookies. Sounds familiar? Indeed, midnight snacking is a flaw that most of us are guilty of.
Having said that, as harmless as it might sound, post-dinner snacking is costing you your health.
You have heard doctors and gym trainers warning you against the habit, but what can some harmless snacking in the late hours do? Turns out a lot. According to a 2022 study by the Harvard Medical School, late-night eating was found to be linked with hunger and higher obesity risk. And it’s not just weight gain, doctors claim that making midnight snacking a habit can lead to a myriad of health problems including acid reflux, diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders, and sluggish metabolism, among others.
“Midnight cravings aka nocturnal eating has many side effects on our wellbeing. At night, our metabolism is slow. Consuming calorie-rich snacks may not be burned efficiently which may cause discomfort as it puts a strain on our digestive system. It may even lead to acid reflux, indigestion, or discomfort. Not only do these interfere with our sleep and overall wellbeing but also contribute to weight gain. Moreover, midnight cravings affect appetite hormones such as leptin and ghrelin, potentially leading to increased hunger and difficulty in regulating appetite. Excessive late-night snacking also increases the risk of developing chronic conditions like obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases,” says Afreen Dilshad, Senior Dietician, HCL Healthcare.
Why do you get those hunger pangs?
The reason why you reach out for a snack post-dinner might vary with your lifestyle, routine, and health levels. Let’s explore a few of them.
Improper nutritional levels: The lack of nutrition in your body will end up making you feel weaker and hungry more often. The same goes for irregular meals. If you skip a meal, it leads to lower blood sugar levels and your body will work to balance it. So, every time your blood sugar level dips, you tend to become hungry. This can lead to midnight cravings for food if the intervals between your meals are too long.
Hormonal changes and emotional responses: An imbalance in hormonal levels can lead the body to crave calorie-rich foods and sugar. The same stands for emotional responses or mental health. People diagnosed with mental health conditions like depression and anxiety tend to use food as an emotional crutch. Hence, they tend to binge eat or snack late at night whenever they might be feeling anxious or depressed.
Dehydration: Sometimes when it’s food you crave, it’s water that your body needs. So, when you feel the hunger pangs, try drinking water first. If experts are to be believed, it’s common for us to misinterpret our body’s need for hydration for hunger. So, keep a bottle of water handy and keep your body hydrated.
Not sleeping enough: When you don’t sleep enough, it impacts hormones that regulate your appetite. By sleeping less, you tend to eat more during your waking hours and also crave junk food.
Night Eating Syndrome (NES): NES is a kind of eating disorder that leads people to eat after having dinner and whenever they are awake at night. Those diagnosed with the disorder experience low hunger levels in the morning and feel more hungry towards night time. The erratic eating pattern interferes with sleep patterns and ultimately promotes midnight snacking.
What can you do to tame the hunger monster?
There’s little that we can’t achieve once we put our minds to it and midnight snacking isn’t any different. All you need is a bit of self-restraint. Here are a few simple ways to follow:
Try eating balanced meals: It’s one of the most common pieces of advice but among the most ignored too. Balanced meals ensure that you get the energy and nourishment that your body needs to keep you going. So, you keep full throughout the day.
Pack up the protein: According to experts, protein can help keep you fuller for longer hours. So, try including protein-rich foods like leafy vegetables, cottage cheese, lean meats, and dairy products in your meal to curb cravings at night.
Get enough sleep: Have you noticed that you tend to eat more when you are tired or stressed? The lack of sleep affects leptin and ghrelin – better known as the ‘hunger hormones’ – which leads to increased appetite.
Try eating mindfully: Eating mindfully or intuitively helps you tune into your instinct and stop when you feel full. Experts suggest the practice of intuitive eating as it focuses on rationale, emotions, and your instinct to unlearn eating mindlessly. If you are someone who is struggling with emotional eating, it’s a great practice to improve your body’s relationship with food.
Get creative with your food options: When you feel hungry at night, don’t reach out for the ice cream in the fridge or the jar of cookies. Instead, look for healthier options. For instance, you can microwave a bowl of popcorn or munch on some nuts to stave off hunger. If you don’t mind putting in some effort, you could rustle up a light salad or yogurt with fruit or even peanut butter on toast.
* Around one-fourth of all men and women in India are struggling with obesity.
* More than 77 million Indians above the age of 18 years are suffering from Type 2 diabetes.
The above-mentioned two facts might be about two completely different health conditions but have an underlying connection that is often ignored – one of how being obese can increase your chances of developing diabetes. Research studies over the years have established a strong causal relationship between diabetes and obesity. Studies have also highlighted that obesity is a common health risk that can lead to a person developing Type 2 diabetes.
How obesity leads to Diabetes
To understand how being overweight puts you at a higher risk of developing diabetes, you first need to understand what the disease is all about.
Insulin is a hormone that is secreted by the pancreas to move glucose from the blood to either the muscles or the liver. If you are diagnosed with diabetes, it means that your body doesn’t produce enough insulin. The lack of insulin will lead to increased blood sugar levels causing health problems like cardiovascular diseases, kidney diseases, and loss of vision, among others.
Now, if you are obese, the cells in your body will inhibit the movement of insulin which ends up increasing glucose levels in your bloodstream. In addition, the part of the liver where excess glucose is stored is now occupied by fat. With the space in the liver occupied, the excess glucose ends up entering your bloodstream. As the glucose is now stuck in the bloodstream, the pancreas overworks to produce more insulin to do the job. The cycle continues until the pancreas wears out and starts reducing lower levels of insulin which puts you at a higher risk of diabetes.
The ‘unsavory’ side of artificial sweeteners
In the pursuit of a healthy weight, people sometimes also use healthier variants of calorie-heavy ingredients like artificial sweeteners and low-sodium salt. Their USP is that they provide the required taste without impacting your health. Their high demand has created a thriving market for low-calorie products that target calorie-conscious people.
While these products can help you regulate your calorie intake, they’re not ideal for long-term use and can even lead to serious health issues. The WHO recently released guidelines wherein it has advised people against using non-sugar sweeteners (NSS). According to a 2022 study, the sustained and daily usage of artificial sweeteners was found to be linked with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.
There’s a lot of debate about whether artificial sweeteners are worth the hype. The common reason why a doctor might advise you to use one is that artificial sweeteners provide the calories or glucose needed by your body without activating the body’s insulin production – which can lead you to consume more calories to feel full. However, there’s a flipside to this. Now, that your brain has become more tolerant to sweetness means there’s a risk of overeating which might lead to weight gain.
The overconsumption of artificial sweeteners can change your body’s ability to process real sugar by disrupting the functioning of gut microbiota and insulin levels. Over time, such disruption can create conducive conditions for developing conditions like Type 2 diabetes.
Why a healthy lifestyle matters
If you are obese, you can lower your chances of developing diabetes by making a few changes inyour lifestyle and diet. These small steps can go a long way in helping you not only control your weight but also improve your overall health. Remember every bit counts, so a small step today can mean a healthy habit after a few weeks and a healthy lifestyle in a couple of months. Here are a few steps that you can take to reduce your chances of developing diabetes:
Exercise more often: Not just weight management, regular exercise can lead to multiple health benefits. When you exercise, it boosts your insulin sensitivity which in turn helps in burning calories and avoiding diabetes.
Watch what you’re eating: You can significantly improve your diabetes-prone health by opting for healthier meals and cutting down on processed foods. Eating more of fiber, cereals and probiotic foods will help you reach your targeted weight faster.
Get enough shuteye: Getting at least six to seven hours of sleep can be crucial to how you manage your weight levels. Lack of adequate sleep can increase insulin resistance which affects hormones that regulate your metabolism and appetite. As a result, you wake up feeling hungrier and may not feel full enough despite having hearty meals.
Cut down smoking: Did you know that the chances of people who smoke developing Type 2 diabetes are 30-40% higher than those who don’t? Kicking the habit can not only help in weight management but also increase insulin sensitivity. According to doctors, the other benefits associated with giving up smoking include an improved metabolic rate, reduced calorie intake, and higher energy levels.
Maintaining a calorie deficit: When you maintain a calorie deficit, you consume fewer calories than what your body uses up. Rather than opting for a crash diet, consult a certified nutritionist or dietician to get guidance on how you can achieve a healthy balance of calories through your meals.
Many times a person might be obese due to factors that are not related to their diet or exercise routine. Sometimes factors like genetics and underlying health conditions can also impact weight levels. In case your efforts to attain a healthy weight are not yielding results, it is advisable to consult a doctor for guidance. A doctor can help you not only determine a healthy weight but also to build an optimal diet and exercise routine to achieve it.
It is a seasonal virus, and the occurrence of this infection normally peaks during seasonal changes. In India, H3N2 cases are on the rise which has become a matter of serious concern for all.
What is the H3N2 virus?
H3N2 influenza is a type of influenza virus that can cause respiratory illness in humans. It is a highly contagious respiratory illness that can cause mild to severe sickness, and in some cases, can be life-threatening, especially for those with underlying health conditions or weakened immune systems.
It is a seasonal virus, and the occurrence of this infection normally peaks during seasonal changes. In India, H3N2 cases are on the rise which has become a matter of serious concern for all. The drastically changing weather from severe cold to sudden warm temperatures are also a reason to blame.
Current Situation in India:
So far, India reported 9.66 lakh cases of flu in 2023, and 15,826 affected patients were hospitalized with severe acute respiratory
illness. Out of these, 451 were confirmed cases of H3N2, and two infected patients succumbed to the virus.
How is it spread?
H3N2 influenza is highly contagious and can spread in the following ways if adequate precautions and preventive measures are not followed.
From person to person through droplets generated when an infected person talks, coughs, or sneezes.
By touching a surface contaminated with the virus and then touching one’s mouth or nose.
The virus usually preys on individuals below the age of 15 years or above 50 years of age. Children and those with co-morbidities like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, weakened immune systems, and neurological or neurodevelopmental conditions are at a higher risk.
What are the common signs & symptoms of H3N2?
H3N2 carries symptoms that are similar to any other seasonal flu. These include chronic cough, fever, body ache and headache, sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, and extreme fatigue. In some cases, the flu may lead to nausea, vomiting, and also diarrhea. Occasionally, an infection caused by H3N2 generally lasts for five to seven days and the fever starts turning away after three days. However, the coughing can persist for up to three weeks.
What are the Do’s & Don’ts?
Avoid self-medication and do not take antibiotics without consulting a doctor.
Avoid contact with people suffering from H3N2 or any other seasonal flu.
Avoid going in crowded or public areas if you feel infected with any of the symptoms.
It is also advised to those who are at higher risk for severe
illness from the flu, such as the elderly and individuals with underlying health conditions, to take extra precautions to protect themselves. This includes avoiding large gatherings and maintaining social distancing whenever possible.
Regularly wash your hands with water and soap.
Wear face masks, especially in crowded areas.
Avoid touching your nose and mouth.
Cover your nose and mouth properly while coughing and sneezing.
Stay hydrated and consume plenty of fluids.
Always carry a pocket sanitizer.
A healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables can also play a significant role in improving immunity.
Maintain social distancing wherever necessary.
How effective are Flu Vaccinations?
The flu vaccination protects us against various types of influenza and reduces the chances of severe symptoms, hospitalization, and other complications. Therefore, it becomes relevant for everyone but more so for the elderly and those with chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, etc. to take the vaccination.
HCL Healthcare Medical Helpline
At HCL healthcare, we are taking additional precautions to ensure the safety of our patients and staff during the flu season. This includes regular disinfection of our facilities, wearing masks and other personal protective equipment, and screening patients for flu-like symptoms.
(Authors: Dr. Amit Kumar Gupta MD, MBA and Dr. Roopesh Gupta MD)
Monkeypox is a viral infection, first discovered in monkeys, that can also transmit to humans and cause symptoms and complications. Of late, its incidence has risen globally, with cases reported from more than 75 countries, including India. On 23rd July 2022, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced Monkeypox as a global health emergency.
How does Monkeypox infection happen and spread?
person can catch this infection from an infected person, an infected animal, or through contaminated objects and surfaces.
Human-to-human transmission mostly happens through close contact – either direct skin-to-skin contact with someone who has a Monkeypox rash, or, less commonly, by touching items (such as clothing or bedding) that have encountered an infectious person’s sores or bodily fluids. Unprotected sex can also spread this infection. Infected pregnant women can pass this virus to their babies in the womb.
Common Symptoms of Monkeypox Disease
An infected person may remain symptom-free or develop symptoms after an incubation period of 5 to 21 days. Common symptoms include:
· Flu-like illness (fever, headaches, body aches, etc.)
· Swollen lymph nodes
· Blister-like rashes
Although it may mimic the erstwhile Smallpox (which has already been eradicated several decades ago), the Monkeypox Disease is much less severe and rarely fatal.
The Monkeypox rash generally appears on the face, arms, legs, genitals, and even inside the mouth. It presents as multiple lesions with fluid-filled blisters which may be itchy and painful.
Most persons with this disease improve within 2-4 weeks, without any complications. However, a few may develop complications such as pneumonia, sepsis, secondary infections, and eye involvement (which may lead to loss of vision).
Individuals at High Risk
Pregnant women, young children, and persons with underlying immune deficiencies are more likely to have severe symptoms and complications. At present, it is not clear whether having COVID-19 or Post COVID-19 condition (Long-COVID Syndrome) puts a person at an increased risk of Monkeypox.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Monkeypox Disease
Monkeypox infection can be suspected in a person if suggestive symptoms appear within 21 days of risk exposure (such as close contact with an infected person, animal, or object and/or travel to a country or region reporting such cases).
The diagnosis can be confirmed through RT-PCR testing on an appropriate sample, particularly the fluid from blisters and dry skin crusts. At present, these testing facilities are available at select government labs only. Symptoms often go away on their own without the need for active treatment.
However, the following caution is advised:
· The infected person is advised to stay in isolation to prevent the further spread of the disease
· The affected skin should not be scratched and should be protected from further damage.
· The person should eat well, drink plenty of fluids, and take adequate rest and sleep.
· Common symptoms like fever, aches, itch, etc. can be alleviated by using appropriate anti-fever, painkiller, and anti-itch medications.
The Do’s and Don’ts to follow
• Be aware and generate awareness among others about Monkeypox and its precautionary measures.
• If you suspect that you or someone at your home has Monkeypox (due to suggestive symptoms or relevant risk exposure):
· Seek medical assistance without delay and follow the advice.
· Isolate yourself as per the medical advice.
· Employees should inform their HR and Reporting Manager.
• One must Continue to follow COVID-appropriate behaviour (as the COVID-19 Pandemic is yet not over and the relationship of COVID-19 with Monkeypox is yet not clear):
• Practice safe sexual habits with your partner (s) and take precautions.
• Avoid contact with any substance or materials, such as bedding, that has been in contact with a patient suffering with Monkeypox.
• Avoid unprotected contact with wild animals, particularly those that are sick or dead.
• Avoid eating raw or undercooked meat (important for those countries and regions where Monkeypox is endemic and reported in animals).
• Avoid unnecessary travel to an affected area. If you or your partner have traveled through an affected area, talk to your doctor for advice.
• Wear masks and gloves when caring for patients.
The Role of Vaccination
· Some studies suggest that several vaccines that have been developed for the prevention of Smallpox may also provide some protection against Monkeypox. However, these vaccines are yet not widely available. Moreover, researchers are still trying to understand the benefits of such vaccination.
Studies also suggest that people who have been vaccinated against Smallpox in the past will also have some protection against Monkeypox.
Maintaining the Workplace Safety
· Raising awareness of this disease and its preventive & protective measures is the key.
· Screening and surveillance at the workplace, including facilitating a sick employee for prompt isolation and further support can help stop the spread of Monkeypox.
· Routine cleaning of all frequently touched surfaces (such as workstations, countertops, doorknobs, lift buttons, etc.) by using the cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas.
· Keeping appropriate preparedness and response measures in place (including contact tracing).
About the Authors – The authors are medical doctors cum public health experts and part of the Central Quality Team at HCL Healthcare