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Dr K K Aggarwal

Padma Shri and Dr B C Roy National Awardee

Alcohol: Benefits vs. Risks

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  • There is consensus that non-drinkers should not start and the ones who drink can continue provided they do so in moderation and in absence of contraindications.
  • Persons who have been lifelong abstainers cannot be easily compared with moderate or even rare drinkers. Recommending alcohol intake to non-drinkers, even if they would agree to drink, is not justified.
  • The diseases that moderate alcohol use prevents (such as coronary heart disease, ischemic stroke, and diabetes) are most prevalent in the elderly, men, and people with coronary heart disease risk factors. For these groups, moderate alcohol use is associated with a considerable mortality benefit relative to abstention or rare drinking.
  • For young to middle-aged adults, especially women, moderate alcohol use increases the risk of the most common causes of death (such as trauma and breast cancer).
  • Women who drink alcohol should also take supplemental folate to help decrease the risk of breast cancer.
  • Men below 45 years of age may also experience more harm than benefit from alcohol consumption. In this age group, moderate alcohol use is not likely to provide any mortality benefit, but consumption of less than one drink a day appears to be safe if temporally removed from operation of dangerous equipment. For individuals with established contraindications to alcohol use, even this level of alcohol use is dangerous.
  • Men can tolerate more alcohol than women. The ideal therapeutic dose of alcohol is around 6 g per day. Medically safe limits are 10 g in one hour, 20 g in a day and 70 g in a week (50% for women).

Do unto yourselves what you do to God

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  1. There are two types of people – those who believe in Dvaita or Advaita philosophy.
  2. People who believe in Dvaita philosophy, for them God and human being are different.
  3. The people who believe in Advaita philosophy believe that God is within them.
  4. In Hinduism, the first group believes in Sanatan Dharma and does Moorti pooja (idol worship) and the second Arya Samaj, which does not believe in Moorti pooja.
  5. In both situations, medically, the message is one.
  6. If God is different than you, then you try to be like Him and if God is within you, then you are Him.
  7. In both situations, we should deal with our body the same way as we deal with God.
  8. Anything which is not offered to God should not be offered to our body, such as cigarettes, drugs, etc., or such things should be consumed in less quantity (onion, garlic, radish, etc.).
  9. We never worship God with hydrogenated oil; we always worship him either with oil or with Desi Ghee. The message is, we should not consume trans fats.
  10. “Bhagwan ko bhog lagate hain”; we never feed God. The message is eat less.
  11. Amongst all Gods, only Lord Shiva is said to consume Bhang and alcohol, that too only in his incarnation of Bhairon, which indicates that both alcohol and bhang can be consumed in some quantity only in special situations meaning that they cannot be consumed without medical supervision.
  12. Anything grown under the ground is not offered to God, thus, these items should not be eaten or eaten in moderation.
  13. We never offer white salt and white rice to God. They are also bad for human beings.
  14. Gur, shakkar, brown rice and puffed rice are offered to God. They can be consumed by human beings.

Treatment of acute leg cramps

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Patients with an acute leg cramp should forcefully stretch the affected muscle, for example, by active dorsiflexion of the foot with the knee extended, for a cramp is in the calf.

Some patients may find relief from passive stretching by getting out of bed and standing with the foot flat on the floor and pressing downward firmly. However, active dorsiflexion of the foot may be more effective.

Other measures that may bring relief from the acute cramp include:

  • Walking or leg jiggling followed by leg elevation
  • A hot shower with the stream directed at the cramp area, for about five minutes, or a warm tub bath
  • Ice massage.

Why do we not offer onions to God?

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Anything that grows under the ground is not offered to God. According to Vedic science, anything which is grown under the ground is Tamasik in nature and produces sluggishness, heaviness and extreme aggressiveness. Not only onion, all food products grown under the ground are not offered to God and are not supposed to be eaten during spiritual fasts. People who are spiritually-oriented like monks, rishis, munis, avoid underground food altogether. Some people try to convert Tamasik food into Satvik food by slow heating them or by sprouting them or by soaking them in water. This is one reason why boiled potato is eaten during Vrat.

Treatment of fatty liver

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  • A 10% weight loss can improve fatty liver and possibly inflammation.
  • Metformin and ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) are not recommended.
  • Statins are safe in patients with fatty liver but whether they can reduce fatty liver is not known.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids have been tried.
  • Pioglitazone is useful in the treatment of biopsy-proven fatty liver with inflammation.
  • Vitamin E at a dose of 800 IU/day improves liver inflammation.
  • Use of bariatric surgery for treatment of fatty liver is premature and should be avoided in patients with cirrhosis.

Facts about Soul and the Spirit

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  • Energy is the raw material of the universe.
  • Information is the organization of energy into reproducible patterns.
  • Consciousness is living information and energy (living energized information).
  • Consciousness is, therefore, intelligence.
  • Intelligence is information and energy that has self–referral or the ability to learn through experiences and the ability to reinterpret and influence one’s own information and energy states.
  • Consciousness is live, advanced, software–driven energized information.

Nearest example: Advanced computer software which can type, correct, interpret, edit and store spoken or read information.

Explaining cardiac interventions

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For any traffic management, following are the options:

  • Placing traffic signals can be equated to dos and don’ts of lifestyle management.
  • Posting a traffic inspector on the crossing – This can be equated with clinical cardiologist.
  • Diverting the traffic from main road to side roads – This can be equated to opening collaterals by drugs, exercise.
  • Hiring an architect to make maps – This can be equated to an angiographer doing angiography.
  • Looking for the possibility of widening the roads – This can be equated to balloon angioplasty.
  • To prevent encroachment of widened roads to place railing around the widened roads can be equated to placement of metallic stent.
  • To prevent mishandling of railing, safety grills are put. This can be equated to drug eluting stents.
  • When the roads cannot be widened, flyovers are made, which can be equated to bypass surgery.
  • Flyovers can be made by stopping the traffic. This can be equated to open bypass surgery.
  • Flyovers can be made without disturbing the traffic, this can be equated to heart bypass surgery.

Spiritual Prescription: Yoga, the Greatest Healer

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The Sanskrit word for ‘healthy’ is ‘Svastha’ – Sav-Stha – means being established in one’s own true self. This is only possible when the body is in union with the mind and the consciousness.

The Bhagavad Gita (Ch. IV shloka 36), says Api chedasi papebhya sarvebhya pap kritama or in other words “even if thou are the sinner of all sinners, you shall cross over all sin by the raft of knowledge”. Here sin can be equated with physical or mental sickness.

Again, in shloka 37, Krishna says “Gyanagni sarva karmani bhasmasat kurute tatha”. In other words, “as fire reduces fuel to ashes, the fire of knowledge reduces all karma to ashes”.

In shloka 38, Krishna said “Na hi gyanena sa drisham pavitram ih vidyate” or in other words “there is no greater purifier than knowledge. One realizes it in his own heart in time, as he practices yoga”.

The medical interpretation of these are that to acquire mind-body union, one needs to practice yoga which helps to establish pure consciousness. Once that is established, only then one can be called as healthy. This is further clarified in Ch II verse 65, where Krishna said “prasade sarva dukhanam hanirasya upjayte” or in other words “in peace all the troubles are destroyed”. Here ‘peace’ can be equated with one with pure consciousness and troubles with ‘sickness’.

Yoga sutras of Patanjali also describe the first sutras as “yoga chitta uritti nirodhe” or in other words “yoga is the cessation of fluctuations in the mind”.

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

Eating refined sugar can cause diabetes

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Eating too much refined white sugar can cause insulin resistance and future diabetes.

Diabetes does not mean that one cannot have desserts forever. While eating too many sugary foods should be avoided, one can have an occasional dessert, especially if one exercises and otherwise eats healthy. It’s better to substitute brown sugar or Jaggery in that case. Artificial sweeteners including stevia are the other options.

Fruits are healthy for diabetics but cannot be consumed in huge amounts, as they contain carbohydrates.

As per Ayurveda, diabetes is a Kapha disorder and diabetics should limit the intake of sweet, salt and sour taste in the diet. Any fruit or vegetable, which is bitter and dark green, has anti-diabetic properties.

One should combine a bitter taste with a sweet taste when choosing a vegetable or a fruit. For example, one should not combine peas with potatoes but one can combine potatoes with fenugreek (methi) leaves or spinach (palak).

Diabetics are not more susceptible to colds and other illnesses but may have more complications of flu.

Taking insulin does not cause hardening of the arteries or high blood pressure.

Diabetes is not contagious and one cannot catch diabetes from someone else.

Why do we not touch papers, books and people with our feet?

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In every traditional Gurukul, no studies start without chanting the following

Saraswati namasthubhyam

Varade kaama roopini

Vidyaarambham karishyaami

Sidhirbhavatu me sadaa

“O Goddess Saraswati, the giver of Boons and fulfiller of wishes, I prostrate to You before starting my studies. May you always fulfil me”

Indian Vedas consider knowledge about self as the supreme knowledge and all tools for the same are considered sacred and divine and must be given respect. The traditional custom is not to step on any sacred educational tool.

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

Debts in Mythology

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It is said that there are three debts, which everybody has to pay in his or her lifetime. In Vedic language, they are called Dev Rin, Pitra Rin and Rishi Rin.

In medical language, the body consists of soul, physical body, mind, intellect and ego. The soul is given to us by God or Devtas (Dev Rin), the physical body by our parents (Pitra Rin) and the mind, intellect and ego by our Gurus (Rishi Rin).

In terms of computer language, if I see my body as a computer, then my body as a computer is made by my parents; operating software and my inner internet represent the soul or consciousness given by the Devtas and the application softwares, i.e. Word, Excel and Power point, which we learn over a period of time are given to us by our Gurus. Therefore, we have to pay all these three debts while we are still alive.

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

How to keep your memory sharp?

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  • Manage your stress, especially deadline pressure and petty arguments.
  • The biggest stress is an ongoing sense of extreme anxiety. This can be managed by deep breathing, meditation, yoga and by mindful approach to living.
  • Get a good night’s sleep. The most common reason for poor sleep is difficulty in falling asleep and staying asleep. Many drugs used to treat insomnia can also impair memory.
  • If you need a sleeping medicine, it should be used in the lowest dose and for the shortest period of time.
  • Get up at the same time in the morning.
  • If you smoke, quit.
  • If you do not drink, do not start.
  • Alcohol makes it difficult to perform short-term memory tasks such as memorizing a list. It also induces vitamin B1 deficiency, which can cause dementia.
  • Protect your brain from injury as repeated minor head trauma can cause brain damage.
  • Wear seat belt when riding in a motor vehicle.
  • Wear helmet while driving or riding a motorcycle.

What is the importance of silence?

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True silence is the silence between the thoughts and represents the true self, consciousness or the soul. It is a web of energized information ready to take all, provided there is a right intent. The process of achieving silence is what meditation is.

Observing silence is another way of getting benefits of meditation. Many yogis in the past have recommended and observed silence now and then. Mahatma Gandhi used to spend one day of each week in silence. He believed that abstaining from speaking brought him inner peace and happiness. On all such days, he used to communicate with others only by writing on paper.

Hindu principles also talk about a correlation between mauna (silence) and shanti (harmony). Mauna Ekadashi is a ritual followed traditionally in our country. On this day, the person is not supposed to speak at all and observe complete silence throughout day and night. It gives immense peace to the mind and strength to the body. In Jainism, this ritual has a lot of importance. Nimith was a great saint in Jainism who long ago asked all Jains to observe this vrata. Some people recommend that on every ekadashi one should observe silence; if not the whole day, but for few hours in a day.

Deepak Chopra in his book “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success” talks in great detail about the importance of observing silence in day-to-day life. He recommends everyone should observe silence for 20 minutes every day. Silence helps redirecting our imagination towards self from the outer atmosphere. Even Swami Sivananda, in his teachings, recommended observing mauna daily for 2 hours for Ekadashi. Take milk and fruits every day, study one chapter of Bhagwad Gita every day, do regular charity and donate one-tenth of the income in the welfare of the society. Ekadashi is the 11th day of Hindu lunar fortnight. Ekadashi is the day of celebration occurring twice a month, meant for meditation and increasing soul consciousness. Vinoba Bhave was a great sage of our country who is known for the bhoodaan movement. He was a great advocator and practical preacher of mauna vrata.

Mauna means “silence” and vrata means “vow”. Mauna vrata, therefore, means vow of silence. Mauna was practiced by saints to end enmity and recoup their enmity. Prolonged silence as the form of silence is observed by the rishi munis involved for prolonged periods of silence. Silence is a source of all that exists. Silence is where conscience dwells. There is no religious tradition which does not talk about silence. It removes worldly communication and forces a dialogue towards inner communication. That is one reason why all prayer, meditation and worship or any other practice whether we attune our mains to the spiritual consciousness within are done in silence. After the death of a person, it is a practice to observe silence for two minutes. The immediate benefit is that it saves a tremendous amount of energy.

Silence is cessation of both sensory and mental activity. It is like having a still mind and listening to the inner mind. Behind this screen of our internal dialogue is the silence of spirit. Meditation is the combination of observing silence and the art of observation.

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

Tips on Water Hygiene

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  • Travelers should avoid consuming tap water.
  • Avoid ice made from tap water.
  • Avoid any food rinsed in tap water.
  • Chlorination kills most bacterial and viral pathogens.
  • Chlorination does not kill Giardia and Entamoeba cysts or Cryptosporidium.
  • Boiled/treated water is safe.
  • Carbonated drinks, wine and drinks made with boiled water are safe.
  • Freezing does not kill the organisms known to cause diarrhea. Ice in drinks is not safe unless it has been made from adequately boiled or filtered water.
  • Alcohol does not sterilize water or ice. Mixed drinks may still be contaminated.
  • Hot tea and coffee are the best alternates to boiled water.
  • Bottled drinks should be requested without ice and should be drunk from the bottle with a straw rather than with a glass.
  • Boiling water for 3 minutes followed by cooling to room temperature will kill bacteria.
  • Adding two drops of 5% sodium hydrochloride (bleach) to quarter of water (1 liter) will kill most bacteria in 30 minutes.
  • Adding 5 drops of tincture of iodine to 1 liter of water will kill bacteria within 30 minutes.

Clinicians should aggressively treat unhealthy lifestyles

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Unhealthy behaviors should be managed as aggressively as hypertension, high cholesterol, and other heart disease risk factors, according to an American Heart Association policy statement published in the journal Circulation.

Doctors should create “interprofessional practices” to connect patients with behavior-change specialists. They must implement five A’s when caring for patients –

  1. Assess a patient’s risk behaviors for heart disease
  2. Advise change, such as weight loss or exercise
  3. Agree on an action plan
  4. Assist with treatment
  5. Arrange for follow-up care.