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Dr K K Aggarwal

Padma Shri and Dr B C Roy National Awardee

Spirituality – The Key To Health

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To stay healthy, we must eat right, get plenty of exercise and rest, and avoid bad habits, such as smoking. But now it is said that “what you believe in” can have a big impact on health and longevity. There have been a lot of studies that show how patients with strong spirituality can improve their health from a variety of chronic conditions, like hypertension, heart disease, recover from surgery and more.

Research indicates there are real health benefits from spirituality:

  • People with high levels of religious beliefs or spirituality have lower cortisol responses. Cortisol is a hormone the body releases in response to stress.
  • Positive thinking produces nearly a 30% drop in perception of pain.
  • Spirituality and the practice of religion have been associated with a slower progression of Alzheimers disease.
  • People who regularly attend religious activities may live longer than those who dont. Regular participation tends to decrease mortality rate by about 12% a year.
  • People undergoing cardiac rehabilitation are more confident and perceive greater improvements in their physical abilities if they have a strong faith.
  • Increased levels of spirituality and religious faith may help substance abusers get rid of their habit.
  • Spirituality stimulates the relaxation response. When the body is relaxed, your heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate all go down, which decreases the bodys stress response.
  • Spirituality can affect immunesystem function. Spirituality and faith improve immune function in ways that can be measured, like an increase in white blood cells.
  • Prayer heals the heart.
  • Positive talking and thinking in the ICU yields better results.

Spirituality is what brings you peace and safety. It can be achieved through God or Goddess, nature, a beautiful sunset, meditation, Pranayama, religious meeting, chanting, mind body relaxation, etc. Spirituality helpsin several ways, right from promoting wellness to helping with recovery.

All diabetics must get an eye check-up done

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The vast majority of diabetes patients who develop diabetic retinopathy (eye involvement) have no symptoms until the very late stages (by which time it may be too late for effective treatment). Since the rate of progression may be rapid, therapy can be beneficial for both symptom amelioration as well as reduction in the rate of disease progression. It is important to screen patients with diabetes for the development of retinal disease. The eyes carry important early clues to heart disease, signaling damage to tiny blood vessels long before symptoms start to show elsewhere. Diabetic people with retinopathy are more likely to die of heart disease over the next 12 years than those without it. As per a study from the University of Sydney and the University of Melbourne in Australia and the National University of Singapore, people with retinopathy have nearly twice the odds of dying of heart disease compared to people without it.

People with these changes in the eyes may be getting a first warning that damage has started in their arteries, and that work is needed to lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Patients with retinopathy have a greater risk of incident cardiovascular disease (CVD) events, including heart attack, stroke, revascularization, and CVD death, compared with those without retinopathy.

Three great sentences of importance apart from mahavakyas

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  • Brahma Satyam Jagan Mithya Jivo Brahmaiva Na Aparah. Brahman only exists truly, the world is false, and the individual soul is Brahman only and no other.
  • Ekam Evadvitiyam Brahma. Brahman is one, without a second (There is one absolute reality, without any secondary parts).
  • Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma. All of this is Brahman.

All diabetics must get an eye check-up done

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The vast majority of diabetes patients who develop diabetic retinopathy (eye involvement) have no symptoms until the very late stages (by which time it may be too late for effective treatment). Since the rate of progression may be rapid, therapy can be beneficial for both symptom amelioration as well as reduction in the rate of disease progression. It is important to screen patients with diabetes for the development of retinal disease. The eyes carry important early clues to heart disease, signaling damage to tiny blood vessels long before symptoms start to show elsewhere. Diabetic people with retinopathy are more likely to die of heart disease over the next 12 years than those without it. As per a study from the University of Sydney and the University of Melbourne in Australia and the National University of Singapore, people with retinopathy have nearly twice the odds of dying of heart disease compared to people without it.

People with these changes in the eyes may be getting a first warning that damage has started in their arteries, and that work is needed to lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Patients with retinopathy have a greater risk of incident cardiovascular disease (CVD) events, including heart attack, stroke, revascularization, and CVD death, compared with those without retinopathy.

Three great sentences of importance apart from mahavakyas

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  • Brahma Satyam Jagan Mithya Jivo Brahmaiva Na Aparah. Brahman only exists truly, the world is false, and the individual soul is Brahman only and no other.
  • Ekam Evadvitiyam Brahma. Brahman is one, without a second (There is one absolute reality, without any secondary parts).
  • Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma. All of this is Brahman.

Avoid drunk or drugged driving

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The dangers of drinking alcohol and driving are well known to all. But, it is also important to recognize that taking drugs and driving too can be as dangerous. Drugged driving or driving under the influence of any drug that acts on the brain can adversely affect your vision, reaction time and judgment and driving skills. This not only endangers your life but also of your co-passengers as well as others on the road.

Tips for safe driving

  • All through the year, especially during the holiday season, take steps to make sure that you and everyone you celebrate with avoids driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
  • Identify a non-drinking driver before any holiday party or celebration begins.
  • Arrange for someone to pick you up.
  • Do not let a friend drive if you think that they are under the influence of a drug or alcohol. Take the car keys.
  • Stay overnight at your friend’s place, if possible and drive back home in the morning.

Why is the Garud Puran not read in routine life?

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As per Hindu mythology, Garud Puran should not be read unless there is a death in the family. What can be the rationale for this?

One of the philosophies of Vedanta is that one should always talk and think positive and face adversity like a cricketer right from the first ball he faces. He always thinks he is going to score a 100 till he gets out. Similarly, every person should think that he will live up to 100 years until the last moment of death. Once he dies, he is not there to know how many years he lived. It is only the family who would know this. As far as he is concerned, till the last moment, he had been thinking that he would live for 100 years.

It is true that one should plan his old age and write a will in time but that is for the safety of the family and has nothing to do with your life.

Because Garud Puran talks about death, therefore, it is normally recommended that we do not talk about it in routine life.

Sodium phosphate enemas should be avoided in the elderly

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Sodium phosphate enemas are used in the treatment of constipation and for preparation for flexible sigmoidoscopy. Sodium phosphate enema use in older adults (mean age 80 years, range 61 to 89 years) is associated with hypotension, volume depletion, hyperphosphatemia, hypo- or hyperkalemia, metabolic acidosis, severe hypocalcemia, renal failure and EKG changes (prolonged QT interval). In patients over the age of 70 years, use warm water enemas rather than sodium phosphate enemas.

Why do we put on Tilak on the forehead?

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The Tilak signifies auspiciousness and invokes a feeling of respect in the wearer and others. It is recognized as a religious mark. Its form and color vary depending on one’s caste, religious sect or the form of worship of the person in question.

Tilak is applied on the forehead with sandal paste, sacred ash or kumkum, a red turmeric powder. In a wedding, a Kumkum tilak is applied on the forehead of both the bride and groom.

In earlier times, the four castes (based on varna or color) – Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Sudra – applied marks differently. The Brahminsused to apply a white chandan mark signifying purity, as they were involved in professions of a priestly or academic nature. The Kshatriya applied a red kumkum mark signifying valor as he belonged to the warrior race. The Vaishya used to apply a yellow kesar or turmeric mark that signified prosperity. Vaishya was a businessman or trader associated with creation of wealth. The Sudra applied a black bhasma, kasturi or charcoal mark signifying service as he supported the work of the other three castes.

Devotees of Vishnu apply a chandan (sandalwood) tilak of the shape of “U”, Shiva worshippers wear a Tripundra (of the shape of “º”) of bhasma; Devi worshippers wear a red dot of kumkum, and so on. The tilak is applied in the spot between the eyebrows, which is the seat of memory and thought. It is known as the Aajna Chakra in the language of Yoga.

The Tilak is applied with the prayer – “May I remember the Lord. May this pious feeling pervade all my activities. May I be righteous in my deeds.” Even when we temporarily forget this prayerful attitude, the mark on another reminds us of our resolve. The tilak is a blessing of the Lord and a protection against wrong tendencies and forces.

The entire body emanates energy in the form of electromagnetic waves – the forehead and the spot between the eyebrows especially so. Worry generates heat and causes a headache. The tilak cools the forehead, protects the wearer and prevents energy loss. Some people cover the entire forehead with chandan or bhasma.

Using plastic reusable stick bindis is not very beneficial, though it serves the purpose of decoration.

The devotees of Siva apply sacred ashes (Bhasma) on the forehead

The devotees of Vishnu apply sandal paste (Chandan)

The worshippers of Devi or Shakti apply Kumkum.

The scriptures say:

“A forehead without a Tilak, a woman without a husband, a Mantra the meaning of which is not known while doing Japa (recitation), the head that does not bend before holy personages, a heart without mercy, a body devoid of health, a custom without purity,… – all these are worthy of condemnation. They exist for name’s sake only.”

Think differently in mythology

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  • Lord Ganesha’s elephant head depicts that one should use his/her wisdom before taking any decision.
  • Vishnu’s first incarnation, fish, symbolizes need to learn to swim in the opposite direction.
  • Brahma’s five heads mean to use all five senses before taking any decision.
  • Shiva’s third eye means to think differently in difficulties.
  • Ravana’s 10 heads mean using your ten senses before taking any decision (but he used them for negative forces).
  • Mahamrityunjaya mantra starts with saying that we worship the three eyed Shiva.
  • Gayatri mantra means that one should ask the heart to direct the intellect to take the right decision.

The 3H philosophy is linked to the same. The first H is ask the head for options; second H is to ask the heart to choose one of the options and the third H means to order the hand to do the action.

Add fiber to the diet only slowly

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Fiber is a plant substance that is required for a healthy diet. Lots of fiber is needed each day to help reduce the risk of heart disease, improve digestion, prevent constipation and maintain a healthy body weight.

Fiber can be found in fruits, whole grains and vegetables. Most adults should eat at least 20 to 35 grams of fiber every day; though the doctors say most people only eat about half as much. It’s best to slowly increase the fiber in your diet instead of piling it on all at once. A sudden increase in fiber intake can cause abdominal discomfort.

Fiber intake should be at least 14 grams per 1000 calories daily; higher fiber intake may improve glycemic control. Saturated fat should be less than 7% of calories and there should be minimal trans fat. Total cholesterol should be less than 200 mg daily.

There is an average fall of 1.2/1.3 mmHg blood pressure with average 10 gram intake of fiber.

Certain soluble fibers (psyllium, pectin, wheat dextrin and oat products) reduce LDL cholesterol. Every gram increase in soluble fiber reduces LDL cholesterol by an average of 2.2 mg/dL. The message is incorporation of greater amounts of fiber, in which carbohydrate is derived from unprocessed whole foods.

A few tips on how to stay healthy during the winter months

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  • Don’t stress your heart, regularly step out in sunlight and indulge in adequate amounts of aerobic exercise.
  • Don’t indulge in high-intensity workouts; excessive exhaustion can overstress your heart. Take rest breaks so that you don’t feel too tired suddenly while walking.
  • Don’t go for a walk on extreme chilly mornings, instead go out when the sun is out.
  • Ask your doctor to adjust the dosage of your routine medicines
  • Keep a close check on your cholesterol levels, as they can fluctuate in the winters. Immediately consult your doctor in case you notice something unusual.Borderline high cholesterol levels can put you at an increased risk of a heart attack.
  • Hypothermia is one such problem that majority of heart patients encounter during winters. To keep the risk of hypothermia away, it is suggested that you stay warmly clad.
  • Don’t ignore any unusual symptoms like slight discomfort in the chest, sweating, pain in jaw and shoulders, pain in neck and arms and shortness of breath. Immediately, reach out for medical assistance in case you suffer from any of these symptoms.

Prevention is always better than cure. A little extra care can help make the winter months more enjoyable and heart healthy.

Sewa the best dharma

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Offering help is the best service to the humanity. As per Sikhism, Sewa (unconditional service), Simran (meditation) and Satsang (company of good people) constitute the trio to acquire happiness and spiritual health. In Sikhism, Sewa is the main path for acquiring spiritualism. In Gurudwara, one even offers sewa by cleaning the shoes of others or by cleaning the entry paths to any Gurudwara.

Offering help covers all the paths of being a Satyugi, i.e. truthfulness, unconditional hard work, purity of mind and finally, Daya and Daan. When you offer help, you always do it in a positive state of mind and it involves hard work, mercy and charity.

The five pillars of Jainism are Ahimsa (non-violence in action, speech and thoughts), satya (being synonymous in action, speech and thought), Brahmacharya (disciplined life), Asteya (non-stealing) and Aparigriha (not storing more than required).

Any offering therefore should be without any reward; the same applies to actions, thoughts and speech.

Jainism also prescribes not storing things which are not required and therefore anything more than required can be donated or offered to people in the form of sewa.

All professions which primarily do sewa are given special status in the society. For example, doctors are allowed to prefix ‘Dr.’ in front of their names and eminent people who offer help to the society are allowed to prefix names like Raja, Deewan, Rai Bahadur, Rotarian, Lion, etc.

As per Government policy, every PSU has to spend a 2% budget for charity in corporate social responsibility. Similarly, each one of us should spend 2% of our time, money or assets for charity or community service.

(Disclaimer: The views expressed in this write up are my own).

Normal Aging Changes

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  • Heart rate shows less variability.
  • There is altered circadian pattern (24-hour cycle of the body).
  • There is a delayed response of bone marrow to loss of blood or hypoxia (reduced oxygen).
  • The function of the white blood cells is impaired.
  • Advancing age is a procoagulant stage. This means that the blood gets clotted easily.
  • Reflux of the stomach acid in the food pipe is common.
  • Tendency to constipation is common.
  • Painkillers can quite easily cause ulcers in the stomach.
  • Renal functions decline with age.
  • Older kidney is more prone to be damaged with painkillers.
  • Calcification of heart valves may occur.
  • The maximum heart rate may not reach the level as that in the young age in response to exercise.
  • About one-third of the lung volume may be lost.
  • Aging slows the rate of fracture repair.
  • Skin may become atrophic (thin) and elasticity is reduced.
  • A person may not be able to read small print.
  • There may be impaired speech recognition in noisy environment.
  • There may be loss of taste and smell.
  • There may be high frequency hearing loss.
  • Immunity may be reduced.
  • With age, one is more prone to get urinary tract infection.
  • With age, ejaculation may get impaired.

Music as a Drug

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Our body is the largest pharmaceutical group in the world and has the capacity to heal each and every disease. The very fact that there is a receptor for every drug in the body means that the body has the capacity to produce that drug. Music is one such modality, which can heal by initiating various chains of chemical reactions in the body.

  • Chanting vowels produces interleukin-2 in the body, which works like a painkiller.
  • Chanting nasal consonants produces tranquilizers in the body.
  • Sounds like LUM are associated with fear, VUM with attachments, RUM with doubt, YUM with love, HUM with truthfulness and AUM with non-judgment.
  • Various chemicals can be produced in the body by chanting of various vowels and consonants.
  • Nasal consonants are vibrant sounds and produce vibrations of the autonomic plexus causing balance between sympathetic and parasympathetic states. More the nasal consonants in music, the more will be its relaxing healing power.
  • Listening to overtone chanting in music can also heal people in the vicinity of the music.
  • Recitation of music can also increase or decrease respiratory rate of the singer. Lyrics which reduce respiratory rate will lead to parasympathetic healing activity. The respiratory rate of a listener too can increase and decrease if he is absorbed in the song.
  • Listening to a song word by word and by understanding its meaning can also change the biochemistry of the listener. A song can create an excitement or a feeling of depression.
  • A song can also work like intent by speaking in the form of prayers. Group prayers can have powerful effects and convert intent into reality through the concept of spontaneous fulfilment of desire.
  • Music is often linked with dance, both classical and western, which provides additional healing.
  • Gestures, mudras, bhavs and emotions associated with songs produce parasympathetic state in both the singer and the listener.