Good mental health entails balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems

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A lot can be achieved if the stigma surrounding mental health illnesses is removed

New Delhi, 9th June 2018: The recent suicides by celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain and fashion designer Kate Spade have once again brought mental health issues to the fore. Mental health problems affect people irrespective of their age. If left undiagnosed and unmanaged for long, they can lead to a person committing suicide as well. There is a need to create awareness on the fact that understanding the warning signs and knowing who is at risk can prevent a crisis from becoming a tragedy.

India is facing a serious mental health crisis, with an estimated 56 million people suffering from depression and 38 million from anxiety disorders, according to a report by WHO. However, what exacerbates the situation is the fact that there is a lot of stigma associated with this condition.
Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr K K Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said, “Depression is a major public health problem as a leading predictor of functional disability and mortality. All depressed patients must be enquired specifically about suicidal ideations. Suicidal ideation is a medical emergency. Risk factors include psychiatric known disorders, medical illness, prior history of suicidal attempts, or family history of attempted suicide. The risk of suicide increases with increase in age; however, younger and adolescents attempt suicide more than the older. Females attempt suicide more frequently than males, but males are successful three times more often. The highest suicidal rate is amongst those individuals who are unmarried followed by widowed, separated, divorced, married without children and married with children in descending order. Living alone increases the risk of suicide.”
In those people where the sympathetic nervous system is dominant, there is a feeling of nervousness, jitteriness or tension. When a person is depressed, there is a disconnect between his physical and mental health.
Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Vice President of CMAAO, said, “Quantum physics explains that the mechanism of depression and anxiety can be an imbalance between understanding the way particle duality functions. Balancing this can further help in treating depression and other such mental disorders. The parasympathetic nervous system plays a vital role in maintaining both mental and physical health by helping the body to calm down from stress reactions that elevate blood pressure, dilate the pupils, and divert energy from other body processes to fighting or fleeing.”
HCFI tips to practice a parasympathetic lifestyle.
• Include foods that support your system Consume a diet based on whole foods. This includes green leafy vegetables, quality protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates.
• Hydrate the body adequately staying hydrated will help the lymphatic system flush out toxins and remove the metabolic waste out of the body. This is essential to detoxify, nourish, and regenerate tissue.
• Include some physical activity Exercise is positive physiological stress for the body. Yoga, for example, is known to accrue great benefits to both the mind and body.
• Practice mindfulness this includes a combination of practices, habits, thoughts, and behaviours to help you get through your daily life. Mindfulness means intentionally and actively seeking to lower the body’s response to stress.

WHO Priority Diseases: Disease X

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WHO has added a new, yet unknown disease, calling it ‘Disease X’, in its list of eight priority diseases, which pose a public health risk due to their epidemic potential and for which there are no drugs or vaccine to treat them or prevent them. And there is an urgent need for research into these diseases for better diagnostic methods, improved vaccines and treatment.

“Disease X represents the knowledge that a serious international epidemic could be caused by a pathogen currently unknown to cause human disease, and so the R&D Blueprint explicitly seeks to enable cross-cutting R&D preparedness that is also relevant for an unknown “Disease X” as far as possible,” says the WHO.

It is believed that the next big global epidemic could be even deadlier than the presently known diseases such as Ebola. Just as the pathogen is unknown, so is its probable source. But, it is presumed that it will most likely be a zoonotic disease, with animals as the source of infection. And, modern travel and transportation will only facilitate rapid spread of the infection so that it becomes a global threat. Mutations can change the existing viruses into genetically new virus types. Then lab-mutated viruses or creation of new viruses in labs can also be a likely source. We don’t know. These are only speculations.

Urbanization is a public health risk. Newer townships are coming up rapidly or cities are being expanded. The cost of urbanization is deforestation. This means that we are encroaching further into an ecosystem that was previously undisturbed by humans. The resulting closer contact of wild animals and humans allows unknown pathogens to be introduced into the urban areas increasing the risk of potential zoonoses and other diseases. Infectious diseases that were previously unknown or even rare are emerging and re-emerging now.

The need of the hour is to strengthen surveillance, public health care systems and research and development. A robust surveillance system to notice early, something that is unusual, not normal, is the basis of preparedness for an epidemic. Increasing public access to good health care will help in early detection of an epidemic and initiate measures to control it before it spreads further. Communication is crucial for sharing information.

The WHO has sounded a note of caution. Its up to us to be better prepared… “Forewarned is forearmed”.

Dr KK Aggarwal

Padma Shri Awardee

Vice President CMAAO

Group Editor-in-Chief IJCP Publications

President Heart Care Foundation of India

Immediate Past National President IMA