Monthly Archives: October, 2013

Strike Away Stroke..FAST

Its World Stroke it might be timely to reiterate what I consider the most important point in handling someone who is suspected of suffering from ‘brain attack‘ – acting FAST.

stroke_prevention2Of the four points, perhaps the last is most crucial in determining the chances of survival and the probability of recovery. Every second delayed in receiving treatment means more brain cells die . The thing about the brain is once cells die, they do not get replaced, unlike other organs in the body like the liver.

Nowadays, its possible to dissolve the clot causing the stroke (the ischemic variety, not the bleeding form) by injecting a clot-dissolving medicine into the veins; but to re-emphasize, time is of utmost importance.

One might wonder – how do you prevent stroke in the first place?

A study conducted in England by four researchers, one of whom came from Malaysia and was a classmate of mine, showed quite conclusively that one could reduce the chances of getting stroke by 50% if one adopted the following measures:

  • not smoking
  • being physically active
  • limiting their alcohol intake to not more than 14 units a week
  • fruit and vegetable intake of at least five servings a day.

Apart from the above, it is well-known that the presence of the following risk-factors also predispose to stroke: high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, atrial fibrillation (irregular heart-beats), heart disease and certain blood diseases which cause clotting.

As they say, prevention is better than cure.


Housework Is NOT Exercise


The age-old concept is now being challenged

People who count housework as exercise could be fooling themselves, research has suggested. Until now, studies have suggested housework counts towards a weekly round-up of moderate exercise activity.Such housework activities included gardening, DIY, vacuuming or cleaning.

In a study published in the journal BMC Public Health, experts found that those who counted housework as exercise were actually heavier than people choosing other forms of exercise. The study, published in more detail here went on to say that such activity may not be sufficient to provide all of the benefits normally associated with meeting the physical activity guidelines. In other words, the energy expended during housework was insufficient to burn off enough calories to make one maintain or lose their weight.

Personally, I’ve maintained for a long time that when it comes to exercise, in particular heart (cardiovascular) fitness, the intensity and duration should be any form of continuous strenuous physical activity which should be at least 25 minutes duration three times a week. Even the so-called weekend ‘jogging’ does not meet this criteria if there is no midweek activity put in place.


This does not count..


..but this does.

Get A Second Opinion After Seeing Dr Google

I wasn’t too surprised reading the other day that health-related matters take up 2% of all queries on internet search engines. In fact, I thought the figure would be higher, judging from day-to-day conversations with patients.


Reading too many Health web-sites may lead to one imagining having various dire diseases, resulting in cyberchondria.

The big question of course is: how reliable are the facts dished out on the Internet? Obviously, its important that these websites are reliable and churn out accurate information. Even so, healthcare information is complicated by a few other factors not related to the reliability of these websites, as explained later.

How do you identify reliable websites? First of all, as a yardstick, websites sponsored by the governments, not-for-profit health or medical organizations, and university medical centers are the most reliable resources on the Internet.  Sites supported by for-profit drug companies, for instance, who may be trying to sell you their products, are usually not your best option. Also note that medical info changes rapidly with time and a look at the dateline of the article is important. Here are a few such sites: sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and managed by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus provides information on more than 900 diseases and conditions in their “Health Topics” section, and links to other trusted resources.


WebMD  provides a wealth of health information and tools for managing your health from an award-winning website, which is continuously reviewed for accuracy and timeliness.

webMD – owned by the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, this site is produced by more than 3,300 physicians, scientists and researchers from Mayo Clinic, and provides in-depth, easy-to-understand information on hundreds of diseases and conditions, drugs and supplements, tests and procedures.


Sometimes,even with reliable trustworthy information, its rather difficult for the untrained public to give due weightage  to the complex info that is being bombarded onto them.  For instance, when reading the side-effects of a particular medication, it is difficult to appreciate that not all the listed side-effects will invariably occur when one consumes the drug.

This is why its better to consult a doctor to obtain clarification. It takes years of medical training to adequately decipher fully what’s found on  web health-sites and to fully appreciate its implications.

In fact, the over-reliance of info on the internet has given rise to a new condition called cyberchondria (aka internet self-diagnosis) – this refers to the practice of leaping to dire conclusions while researching health matters online. If that severe headache haunting you in the morning led you to the Web search-engine and a search on ‘headaches’  led to ‘brain tumours’ or ‘meningitis’,  people tend to look at the first few results in the search-engine which forms the basis for them to probe further till they are convinced  that they have a brain tumour. The likely diagnosis is probably cyberchondria than anything else!   The phenomenon has become so pervasive that Microsoft did its own study on the causes of cyberchondria way back in 2008.

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