Folic acid during pregnancy can reduce risk of autism and other defects

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Higher doses recommended in women with certain medical conditions

New Delhi, 12th March 2018: Mothers taking the recommended amounts of folic acid during pregnancy can help lower the risk of their children developing pesticide-related autism, says recent research. Folate has an important role to play in DNA methylation, a process by which genes are turned off or on, as well as in DNA repair and synthesis. As there is a lot of cell division happening in a developing fetus, adding folic acid might help in a number of these genomic functions.

Folic acid, also called folate, is a B vitamin. It plays a role in cell production and division, including the production of red blood cells. A daily intake of 400-microgram (mcg) folic acid supplement is recommended while trying to conceive, and then for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.A higher dose is recommended for women with certain medical conditions or a personal or family history of neural tube defects.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee Dr K K Aggarwal, President Heart Care Foundation of India (HCFI) and Immediate Past National President Indian Medical Association (IMA), said, “Folic acid is important before and during pregnancy. It helps in preventing birth defects known as neural-tube defects, including spina bifida. Foods containing folate [the natural form of folic acid], such as green, leafy vegetables should be consumed regularly. However, it is not possible to get the amount of recommended folate from food alone, which is why it is important to take a folic acid supplement. Additionally, preconception folate supplementation is associated with a 50% to 70% reduction in the incidence of early spontaneous preterm birth.”

Apart from anemia and congenital deformities, folic acid deficiency can also result in the following: risk of developing clinical depression, possible problems with memory and brain function, higher risk of developing allergic diseases, and long-term risk of lower bone density.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Vice President of CMAAO, said, “Although the signs of a deficiency may be subtle, one can experience diarrhea, anemia, loss of appetite, and weight loss, as well as weakness, a sore tongue, headaches, heart palpitations, and irritability. Those who are mildly deficient may not notice any symptoms but will also be lacking the optimal amount of this nutrient needed for the baby’s early embryonic development.”

Some tips from HCFI.

  • Pregnant women should include as many food categories rich in Folic Acid as possible in their diet, apart from supplementation.
  • Fruit and vegetables should be eaten raw whenever possible as cooking destroys Folic Acid.
  • Avoid alcohol as it leads to Folic Acid deficiency
  • Pregnant women have higher requirements for Folic Acidand should take supplementsas advised by the doctor/dietician/nurse.
  • Increase the use of wheat flour and soya flour in baking and food preparation

Influenza A is a shape shifter, with new strains emerging each year

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This condition can be a huge economic burden and reduce productivity

New Delhi, 10 March 2018: Researchers have indicated that given the limitations of available drugs, flu-triggered respiratory diseases can claim up to 6,50,000 lives even in a non-pandemic year. While one-third of those infected may not have any symptoms, the remaining fall severely ill with the flu every year. This poses a huge burden on economies, in terms of medical care and lost productivity.

Influenza A is an archetypal shape shifter and causes most human outbreaks. The flu germ exists in dozens of sub-types of which two, H1N1 and H3N2, currently circulate in humans. Each of these further have many different strains, with new ones emerging all the time — each needing its own vaccine.

All healthcare workers and high risk patients must  ensure that they are vaccinated. Government must ensure that vaccines are available under prize control.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee Dr K K Aggarwal, President Heart Care Foundation of India (HCFI) and Immediate Past National President Indian Medical Association (IMA), said, “We need to understand how vaccines work. They mimic an infection, exposing the body to a germ, but in a weakened form. When confronted by another microorganism, the immune system takes a few days to produce an array of antibodies. The antibodies stay even after the microorganism has been vanquished in case it comes back. However, the virus that causes flu has evolved manifold to avoid this detection by antibodies. Called, antigenic drift, minute genetic changes happen as the virus replicates, which make it different every season. Another change is called the antigenic shift in which genetic material is exchanged between Influenza A subtypes to create a brand-new strain to which few people, if any, have immunity.”

Influenza or ‘the flu’ is a highly contagious disease caused by infection from influenza type A or B (or rarely C) virus. These viruses infect the upper airways and lungs. Flu is not similar to a common cold and can be a serious illness. It is particularly of harm to the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Group Editor of IJCP, said, “Influenza can also bring in other health complications such as bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, or diabetes. It is, therefore, important to not ignore symptoms of a flu. Chest pains and shortness of breath might indicate a lot more.”

The following tips can help prevent influenza.

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
  • If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. This will help prevent spreading your illness to others.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
  • Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

No woman should die of heart disease just because she cannot afford treatment, or it is ignored

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  • This and other aspects were discussed at an event organized by the Sameer Malik Heart Care Foundation Fund
  • The event also marked the celebration of International Women’s Day

New Delhi, 08th March 2018: The Sameer Malik Heart Care Foundation Fund, an initiative of the Heart Care Foundation of India (HCFI) organized an event on its annual day, which aimed at celebrating International Women’s Day by unveiling the stories of over 500 women whose lives were saved due to the work being done under HCFI’s flagship project – the Sameer Malik Fund. Twenty of them were present on the occasion. The basic ideology of the fund is that no person should die of heart disease just because he or she cannot afford treatment.

Chief guests for the event included Kathak exponent, Padma Bhushan Uma Sharma ji and Mr P K Bajaj, Managing Director, Mayapuri group (LOTPOT). Other dignitaries present included Padma Shri Awardee Dr K K Aggarwal, President Heart Care Foundation of India (HCFI) and Immediate Past National President Indian Medical Association (IMA), and Mr Deep Malik, Director of the Foundation.

The last two decades in India have seen a steady rise in incidences of heart attack among women, especially those in the reproductive age. Estimates suggest that of the 10 million deaths annually in India, about two million are due to diseases of circulatory system, and women form 40% of those who die due to cardiovascular issues.

Speaking at the press conference, Dr K K Aggarwal, said, “There is a need to create awareness on the fact that women are equally prone to heart diseases. Although most families can afford diagnosis and treatment for women, health problems in them are ignored until a much later stage. As per law those with an income of INR 21,000 or less are covered under ESI but those above 21,000 are not mandated.  This needs to be made mandatory for those above this benchmark as well, including women of the family. At the Sameer Malik Foundation, we believe that everyone, irrespective of the nature of heart disease, should be accorded timely treatment. Our work is evident in the many women present here today and leading healthy lives post treatment.”

Kali, a 66-year-old female from Nepal, approached the fund. She suffered an inferior wall heart attack and had severe blockages in two of the arteries supplying blood to the heart. Her family income was Rs 70,000 per year. As part of her treatment, a coronary artery bypass off pump surgery was done at the National Heart Institute. The grafts used were one arterial and one venous. This was followed by a pacemaker implant. She is now doing fine.

In another instance, Madhvi, 22-year-old girl from Mathura approached the fund.  She was diagnosed with moderate PDA – an artificial tunnel connecting the lung artery with the brain artery. She also suffered from episodes of breathlessness and one episode of loss of consciousness during her childhood. A PDA closure was done at the GB Pant hospital using Amplatzer ductal occluder (ADO). With this intervention, a surgical scar on the chest was avoided.

Lauding the efforts, Ms Uma Sharma, said, “It is indeed wonderful to know about the work that the Sameer Malik Foundation is doing for the health of women. Not just this, the fact that they provide treatment free of cost comes a sigh of relief to many who cannot afford it. I congratulate them and wish them all the best in their endeavours.”

Another successful case is that of one-year-old Baby Poorvi who was diagnosed with complex congenital heart disease. The heart defects included dextro transposition of the great arteries, large hole in the atrial chambers, and high hemoglobin. An Atrial Switch Procedure (Senning) was done for Poorvi at Medanta, and she is doing fine now.

Mr P K Bajaj, added, “In women, even if they can afford treatment, the level of ignorance gets them delayed diagnosis and treatment. This is something that needs to be addressed at every household level.”

The event was also a time to remember the recent tragic demise of veteran actress Sridevi, who may have suffered a sudden cardiac arrest. Whatever the reason be for her death, it is time to acknowledge, understand, and create awareness on women’s health and the conditions that affect them. Only a timely diagnosis and treatment can help prevent future complications in women

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