Only 24 Hours to Work and Workout!

“Office, commuting, kids, household chores... so much to do in a day. ah.. who has the time to exercise?”
Really? I mean really?
Time and responsibilities are never a constraint for something you actually want to do.
Several ‘BUSY’ people have proved this time and again. Take a look.
Dhirubhai Ambani, the Founder of Reliance Industries told his sons, "You can buy any luxury you want in life – home, clothes, food, holiday but you can never buy health.”
Today, Anil Ambani, the ‘Marathon Man’ at 53 is among the country's fittest business tycoons. He has shed one-third of his earlier weight.
George Bush, former US President, despite being in his mid-50s with an extensively busy calendar, would run few kilometres every day.
Nike CEO, Mark Parker wakes up at 5 in the morning and works out for two hours, 4 days a week.
First Lady, Michelle Obama hits the gym at 4:30 a.m., before the kids wake up.
Most of the high profile people/celebrities work beyond 12 hours in a day and have packed schedules. And they Do Not give time limitation as an excuse to not exercising!
They wakeup. They workout. And it works for them!!
Let’s get enthused from them for their dedication to ‘work’ and ‘workout’.
Exercise, healthy diet and regular health checkups are mantras to a happy and healthy life.
Wishing to be a celebrity is just not enough. Act like one!
So, stop putting time as an excuse for not exercising. Try following the
Rule of 4,
4 Kilometers in 40 Minutes, 4 days a Week
Even if you are not able to keep up with the required amount of exercise, try and do whatever you can.
Wash your car, walk the dog, climb stairs, dance, play a running game with kids, swim... do whatever, where ever, whenever you can to keep yourself moving.
As they say, “When there is a wish, there is a way."
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Diabetes – Genes load the gun, unhealthy lifestyle triggers it!

Not all that you get in inheritance is good and for the keeps. Same goes for certain diseases like diabetes, which has a strong connotation with one’s family history.
Both my parents are diabetics (Type II). Their parents were too. Am I next in the queue?
Possibility is indeed high considering my increasing waistline, unhealthy eating habits and lack of physical activity (let me put the onus on my 9 hr desk job!).
With a strong family history to shoot my chances up of getting the disease, as a proactive measure, I took an appointment with a Diabetologist. I am glad I did that!
On discussing my case and family background with him, my physician also was of an opinion that diabetes does have a strong genetic influence and that’s why categorised as a genetic disorder.
He said,
  • If either of the parents is diabetic, then the chances of the person suffering from it increase by 20-30%
  • If both the parents are diabetic, the probability increases up to 60%
  • If diabetes is present in two generations, the person then falls into a high-risk zone
A high-risk group is the one where people are above the age of 35, obese, have a family history of diabetes or females who have had diabetes during pregnancy. Such people should check their blood sugar levels at regular intervals (once in six months).
People genetically predisposed to the disease should observe healthy eating habits, regular exercise and keep the weight within normal limits.
Moral of the story: Since you can’t change the legacy of diseases, change your lifestyle!

Mind Your Risks Ladies!

Every woman is eager and curious to know what causes this disease – breast cancer and how can she lower and eliminate the chances of getting it? Sadly, the concern cannot be resolved in black and white.

No researcher or doctor can take 100% guarantee of a risk free life even with all negatives taken care of. But yes, one can definitely bring down the risk factors to a large extent.
Come, let’s walk through them.

Simply Being a Woman

What an irony but the fact is that being a woman itself is a major risk factor for developing breast cancer during the lifetime. Now, a sex change is not the most realistic or a reasonable option to curb this risk. So do we have choices? Yes, indeed.

Following a healthy lifestyle, maintaining an ideal weight, exercising and limiting alcohol intake is the best a female can do to keep the disease at the farthest end.


Just like many other diseases, risk of breast cancer goes up as the female ages. 2 out of 3 invasive breast cancers, women are found to be 55 or older. The best reasoning given to support this could be that the longer we live, there are more opportunities for genetic mutation (damage) in the cells and with age our bodies become less capable of repairing that genetic damage.

Family History & Genetics

Yes, it does run in families! Women who have their close relatives diagnosed with breast cancer have a little higher (up to 10%) risk of developing the disease. The risk increases manifold if first-degree female relatives like sister, mother or daughter are diagnosed with breast cancer.

Only 5 to 10% of breast cancers are caused by abnormal genes that get passed from parent to child. Mostly, the inherited cases of breast cancer are associated with two types of abnormal genes- BRCA1 and BRCA2.

Everyone has these BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes and the function of the BRCA genes is to repair cellular damage and keep breast cells to grow normally. But when these genes start mutating or contain abnormalities that are passed from generation to generation, they stopped functioning normally and breast cancer risk of the person increases.

Being Overweight

Obese women are at a higher risk as compared to women who are within limits of a healthy weight, especially post menopause.

This higher risk is related to obese females having more fat cells, resulting in more estrogen production. This over production of estrogen can make the hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers to develop and grow.

Radiation Exposure to Chest or Face Before 30

Previous radiation to the chest (to treat another type of cancer such as Hodgkin's disease or non-Hodgkin's lymphoma) or face may increase the chances of breast cancer.

Pregnancy and Breast Feeding History

Women who have their first child after 30 years have an increased risk. Breastfeeding can lower breast cancer risk, especially if a woman breastfeeds for longer than 1 year.

Before a full term pregnancy, the breast cells are immature and respond hugely to estrogen as well as hormone-disrupting chemicals in products. Pregnancy makes the breast cells mature and grow normally.

Menstrual History

Early onset (younger than age 12) of periods (early menarche) and late finishing (post 55 years) of periods (menopause) in women brings her closer to the risk of breast cancer later in life, possibly because of increased number of period cycles.

Drinking Alcohol and smoking

Consistently researches have shown that drinking alcohol and smoking increases a female’s risk of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer. Alcohol increases the levels of estrogen and other hormones linked with hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer. Alcohol may also increase the risk of breast cancer by damaging DNA in cells.

Having Dense Breasts

Dense breast tissue can be 6 times more likely to develop breast cancer and also makes it harder for mammograms to detect it. Dense breast tissue runs in families.

Using HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy)

Females on hormone replacement therapy to ease menopausal symptoms and also to reduce bone loss have a higher risk of falling for breast cancer.
Some of the factors mentioned above are modifiable, other are not.

This means risk factors that can be modified and dealt with are the ones we should focus and pay attention to. For the rest, we should keep a close vigil by undergoing regular breast examination and screening tests.

By choosing the healthiest lifestyle options, making small but significant changes in life like exercising, not smoking or drinking or maintaining a healthy weight can empower your to make sure your breast cancer risks are lowered to the max.

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Go PINK this October...

Pink - Not merely a fragile girly colour anymore!
It screams loud, the power of Breast Cancer Awareness too.
October is being celebrated as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Oh yeah! It is going to be an over dose of pink for a while. But are we really paying much heed to all the promotion and commotion happening all around us in the pretext of breast cancer awareness? Simply sporting a pink ribbon on your dress or reading and watching all the ‘gyan’ in media is not just enough.
Ladies....Slip into little privacy and do a self breast exam’ NOW!
No excuses please. If you don’t know how to do it, read here. Stand in front of a mirror and start feeling from about an inch below the breast till the collarbone. There are six major steps in a breast self examination:
  • Step 1 – Stand straight and visually check for any abnormalities with the arms hanging by the side
  • Step 2 – Raise both hands and puts them behind the head
  • Step 3 – Place the arms on waist and try to flex the breast muscles to check for any changes in the breast tissue
  • Step 4 – Feel breasts for any unusual lumps, dimpling, puckering, rashes or change in colour of skin
  • Step 5 – Examine the nipples. Check for any discharge, hardness or difference in colour from before
  • Step 6 – Lie down and pat the breast. Feel for lumps till armpit.
Once these six steps are done, feel and check the armpits and neck for any swollen lymph nodes.
Three cheers for you to have done it! Make it a practice to do it every month.
Smaller the Better - A self exam will detect a breast cancer when it reaches the size of a cherry but a mammogram will pick it when it is still as tiny as a pea.
And if at all you come across any little abnormality while doing a BSE, please DO NOT panic! Even if you have felt a little hardening here and there, do not jump into any conclusions. Not all lumps are CANCERS. But yes, not any lump should be ignored as well.
Do you know, one in every 22 urban women and 1 in every 60 rural women are at risk of getting breast cancer in their lifetime? The high risk category is women of 43-46 years of age group.
Know your risks...
  • First child birth after 30s
  • Less or no breast feeding
  • Early onset and late finishing (menopause) of periods
  • Hereditary (only in up to 10% cases)
  • Dense breast tissue
  • Poor lifestyle habits (stress, high fat diet, obesity & alcohol)
See RED if you notice any of these...
  • A hard lump or mass in the breast or armpits, which feels fixed and does not move inside
  • Any unilateral abnormal discharge from nipple
  • Puckering or dimpling of breast skin at one particular area (orange peel like appearance)
  • Inversion of nipple
  • Do a Self Breast Exam once a month
  • Get a clinical breast exam done by a physician once in 3 years
  • After 40, a mammogram once in three years
  • After 50, a mammogram once every year
But remember, your physician is the best person to chalk out your individual periodic screening schedules, considering yours and your family’s medical history, age and other risk factors.
Be you own BREAST friend and remain in the PINK of your health!

Ladies!! Stand Up and Refuse to Succumb Quietly

Last week just out of curiosity, I asked 10 females whom I met causally, about what they know of cervical and breast cancer?
Answers ranged from funny to strange to bizarre.
  • 8 knew a lot about breast cancer. Causes, stages, treatment procedures... (of’course in their own distorted versions of medical knowledge)
  • 1 even told me about the upcoming gene testing to predict breast cancer in advance and talked in length about the double-mastectomy (thanks to Angelina Jolie!!)
  • 6 had no idea about the site or location of cervical cancer in the body (they were like..“Cervix? Where is that in our body”?)
  • 2 thought cervical cancer is the cancer of neck (something similar to cervical spondylosis of neck)
  • 3 were under impression that breast cancer happens to females who wear tight bras (now, how funny can that be?)
This little exercise of mine made me comprehend that it’s the ignorance and lack of knowledge about the subject which is killing more people than the disease itself! That’s the reason why world’s 1/4th cervical cancer patients are found in our country.
Now I too believe.. Ignorance killed the cat, curiosity is only framed!!
Breast and cervical cancers are those two lucky ones among the lot, where abnormal changes in them can be at least seen superficially, through naked eyes.
Let’s begin by focusing on cervical cancer first and then we will move “upwards” and talk about breast cancer in our next blog.
For the beginners, cervical cancer is nothing but a tumour which arises from the birth canal in the woman. Precisely, that area is the mouth of birth canal (uterus), medically known as ‘cervix’.
Luckily, it is not as common among urban woman because the rate of child bearing is relatively low. Commercial sex workers are at higher risk of getting it as they get exposed to multiple partners and may get infected of cervical cancer causing virus – HPV. Cervical cancer cases in woman from lower strata and rural India are much higher than the educated and urban class.
So, the big question is what causes cervical cancer in a woman? The reason could be an infection from HPV (human papilloma virus) in 80% of the cases. There are several types of HPV and not all types cause cervical cancer. Some of them can cause genital warts too.
You must be wondering by now, what brings the woman at risk of getting attacked by this virus? The list goes like,
  • Multiple number of sexual partners
  • Early marriage (interpret as early onset of sexual activity)
  • Multiple pregnancies
  • Unhygienic ways of living
  • Other sexually transmitted diseases
  • Smoking (another reason to quit it right away girl!)
Like all other cancers, sadly cervical cancer also does not present with pronounced symptoms in its early stages. And by the time it becomes symptomatic, it reaches stage 3 and 4. At that stage the symptoms appear as,
  • A full blown florid tumor, visible at cervix (not to you but to your gynecologist during a per vaginal examination)
  • Foul smelling discharge
  • Per vaginal bleeding
  • Bleeding in between menstrual cycle
  • Bleeding during intercourse
Since this disease does not show any inkling of its arrival, so how would one ever come to know about it?
Well, not a rocket science but just one simple Pap smear test every three years after the time a female gets sexually active. And Viola!!
A Pap smear test is nothing but simply taking up a swab of cells from the area of cervix (high up in vagina) by a gynaecologist. Regular screening for cervical cancer through a Pap smear test can keep the female protected from getting cervical cancer as this test can pick the presence of smallest of the changes in the cervix due to cancerous invasion.
To keep a double check on cervical cancer and be 100% sure of staying away from it, another measure is available. That’s a vaccine!
Basically it is not a vaccine against “cervical cancer” per se´ but a vaccine against HPV, which prevents not only cervical cancer but genital warts (another STD) as well.
The best period to take this vaccine is from the age 13 to 25, for it to be most effective. When a virgin has this vaccine, it builds antibodies like all other vaccine do. And if or when there is an on slot of infection, the virus gets killed. It is recommended only until 35 years and then there is no use taking it.
Cervical vaccine comes in three shots model. 0 months – 1 month – 6 months. The cost is approximately Rs. 2000 per shot (it may vary little bit) but then it gives a lifelong immunity so it is every bit worth it!
So, a vaccine + Pap every three years = two together is almost a 100% prevention from cervical cancer.
From the time infection enters the body till it becomes cervical cancer, it is a lengthy period of up to 20 years. That means God has given ample time for us to detect and treat it.
So ladies, it’s almost criminal for today’s woman to get caught by cervical cancer even with the advent of so many preventive measures. Go take one today and say aloud....
I can certainly prevent it!
P.S. Keep checking this space for our next blog on breast cancer.

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