Obtained naturally from the Sun, Vitamin D is one of the most important vitamins for our overall health. The main function of vitamin D is to maintain the amount of calcium and phosphorus, the two components required to keep the bones strong. Vitamin D helps not only building and maintaining strong bones and strengthen the immune system, but also reduces the risk of acute respiratory tract infections, cancer, diabetes, blood pressure and much more.
It can be stored in our body fat, the problem is that it is not so easy to get enough of it into our body. Most of our vitamin D comes from the sun, and about 60 percent of us have insufficient levels during winter. The amount of exposure we need to get enough of this important vitamin is generally low.
While only a few minutes of exposure during the summer can be sufficient, during the winter it might take a couple of hours of exposure in the middle of the day. Also, it is difficult to get enough vitamin D from food alone.
As we are slowly emerging out of our houses, after a long period of total lockdown, we are concerned about our safety at home and the workplace. For this reason, everyone is looking for a way to strengthen their immune system to prevent the menacing COVID-19 to get past the natural defense of the body. Also, since going out is only recommended for essential chores, people are not getting the necessary amount of sunlight that is needed to produce Vitamin D in the body, says Dr Dr. Ravi Gaur, COO, Oncquest labs ltd.
Studies have shown that Vitamin D may affect different components of our immune system and its response to infection. It may help modulate our lymphocytes and inflammation-producing chemicals like cytokines that are important components of our immune response to invading viruses, adds Dr Gaur.
Researchers have discovered a strong correlation between severe vitamin D deficiency and mortality rates due to novel coronavirus (COVID-19). In one of the studies, scientists have discovered a strong correlation between vitamin D levels and cytokine storm -- a hyperinflammatory condition caused by an overactive immune leading to complications and increasing mortality.
Not only does active Vitamin D hormone- Calcitriol, help regulate both the innate and adaptive immune systems, our first and second lines of defense against pathogens, but also its deficiency is associated with immune dysregulation, a breakdown or change in the control of immune system processes. Many of the ways Calcitriol affects the immune system are directly relevant to our ability to defend against viruses. This means that having healthy levels of Vitamin D does not prevent a patient from contracting the virus, but it may reduce complications and death.
How much is too much?
People should not take excessive doses of vitamin D, which might come with negative side effects. However, do not rush to the store and start hoarding Vitamin D supplements, the evidence is still in the study phase and more studies are required.
In such difficult times, when everyone is fighting against the pandemic, even a small contribution by taking care of oneself will benefit the entire world. Vitamin D levels can be easily measured by a simple blood test. Vitamin D supplementation could be especially important for older people and high-risk individuals including healthcare workers who are now mostly indoors and wearing PPEs.
So, embrace the miracle nutrient in your routine to strengthen your body response systems and keep the immunity on top shape.
Want to get married at a very young age? Kindly take note. Researchers have found that early marriage may lead to unsafe drinking behaviour in young adults with a higher genetic predisposition.
A genetic predisposition (sometimes also called genetic susceptibility) is an increased likelihood of developing a particular disease based on a person's genetic makeup.
The current findings, published in the journal Development and Psychopathology, follow previous research that found marriage protects against risky alcohol use and moderates genetic influences on alcohol outcomes. But previous studies generally focused on older adult samples.
"We found that marriage was not uniformly protective against alcohol misuse. In fact, we found that early marriage (i.e., by age 21) seemed to exacerbate risk for alcohol use among individuals with a higher genetic predisposition," said study author Rebecca Smith from the Virginia Commonwealth University in the US.
"Thus, early marriage does not have the same protective benefit in terms of attenuating genetic predispositions that have been observed for marriage later in adulthood," Smith added.
The study involved a sample of 937 individuals in a dataset of people who reported heavy episodic drinking and marital status between ages 21 and 25.
The findings showed that individuals who marry young tend to experience more consequences that are negative and face more challenges, such as mental health and substance use problems, than those who marry at a later age.
Individuals who marry young may not be the best influences on one another. This may create an environment in which other risk factors that contribute to alcohol use, such as genetic predispositions, are exacerbated, the study said.
"These findings are important because they demonstrate how risk and protective factors may intersect in different ways at different points across the lifespan," Smith said.
"Although marriage is typically considered to be protective, when considering the role of development a different picture emerges, such that early marriage may increase the risk of heavy episodic drinking among people who have high genetic predispositions for alcohol use. It contributes to a more nuanced understanding of the role of marriage," she added.
The researchers were somewhat surprised by their findings, given that marriage is generally considered to be protective against poor mental and physical health outcomes.
The year 2020 belongs to doctors and the healthcare workers who are risking their lives to fight the lethal, invisible virus Covid-19. While India stays at home to curb spread of the pandemic; armed with masks, gloves, and protective gears, the medical community is working tirelessly round the clock amid mounting pressure, fear of being infected and harassment and discrimination.
As we celebrate National Doctors day on July 1, IANSlife spoke to a few doctors who talk about the several challenges they face during this pandemic.
Dr Manoj Goel, Director, Pulmonology, Fortis Memorial Research Institute Gurugram, says the most challenging part is "communicating with patients and keeping them motivated". He tells IANSlife: "I have seen patients who feel discouraged by the thought that they will have to be isolated away from their families and cannot meet them or see them. Handling such patients, we doctors have to become a part of their families till the time treatment goes on."
Dr. Inder Kumar Kasturia, Consultant, Family Medicine, Aakash Healthcare, Dwarka, adds: "Patient education to a group of people, who have to start or continue their work to maintain their livelihood, is important because it enables them to save themselves from the risk of getting infected. Since the manifestation of Covid-19 is different in different patients, the management also should be flexible as we cannot generalized the same management for every patient."
The increase in the number of patients and decreasing number of medical staff as they are falling sick and getting quarantined is another challenge posed in front of them, points out Dr. Inder.
Due to this, pressure on the medical staff has increased. "I personally have close to 19 working hours in a day. When not seeing the patients physically I monitor them through tele consult and tele- ICU. There is a risk of staff being infected because they work in close contact with the positive patients. I have seen that scare in my staffs eyes... As the disease will spread further I know the challenges will further increase," states Dr. Goel.
"The pandemic has tested the mettle of healthcare organisations and workers. Creating awareness about this virus amongst their employees, especially non-clinical support staff or even paramedics is very challenging," says Dr Gauri Agarwal, Director of Seeds of Innocence (IVF Facility) & Genestrings (Genetic Lab).
"Most employees are facing pressure from their families to not work in the 'Covid Zone'. Hence, fear is the single biggest challenge which has resulted in quite a few support functions across hospitals, nursing homes and testing labs forced to work with lesser hands on the job," she adds.
Increased pressure and the fear to spreading the disease to their family is also taking a toll on their physical and mental health on the doctors. Despite using protective gears a moment's lapse can get one infected.
"There is always a constant fear that runs in my mind that what if I am spreading the deadly coronavirus to my children, who diligently follow the hygiene guidelines as suggested by the health bodies. I have really forgotten when was the last time we watched a film or show on TV together. Life has become an emergency drill. Being a doctor at a full-fledged Covid-19 hospital, my life revolves around emergencies. Though it's highly fulfilling to serve your nation at this time of need, at time we also crave for a normal life," says Dr Shuchin Bajaj, Internal Medicine, Ujala Cygnus Orthocare Hospital, New Delhi.
When it comes to mental health of the doctors fighting the pandemic, it has gone as far as a doctor committing suicide in the US as she was feeling helpless in treating the patients due to lack of resources. So for once the saviors are impacted and at highest risk for not only consist but also for depression, insomnia, anxiety, increased alcohol consumption and immense fear of spreading the virus to your loved ones, shares Dr. Preeti Singh, Sr. Consultant Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Paras Hospitals, Gurgaon.
"It is very distressing yet you continue to do the noble profession. Doctors should be discussing with their peers and watch their moods in terms of feeling sad, mood swings, increased irritability, increased anger. Please speak to someone competent to handle mental health," she concludes.
(Puja Gupta can be contacted at [email protected])
Building muscles and having an extraordinary body is quite a common trend in youngsters for which they often take supplements, including anabolic steroids.
Anabolic steroids are hormones prepared artificially, and resemble male hormones that is testosterone. Testosterone is essential in males for the development of characteristics such as facial and body hair growth, increased height and muscle mass, deepening of voice, and sex drive.
Dr. Parul Katiyar, Fertility Consultant, Nova IVF Fertility shares with IANSlife some pointers on the topic.
Steroids, friend or foe?
Katiyar: Steroids are used in medicine for the treatment of some medical issues like hormonal imbalance, life threatening allergies, arthritis etc but this should not be confused with the illegal use of anabolic steroids for body building. These anabolic steroids may involve doses 10 to 100 times higher than the normal prescription dose of steroids.
Taking anabolic steroids without consulting any medical expert may create havoc in the body in the long run, and result in significant side-effects in males which include impotency, erectile dysfunction and low-sperm count. They also increase the risk of life threatening heart attack and stroke.
Not only males, these steroids affect female reproductive systems too. The usage of these steroids increases the risk of pregnancy-related issues including ability to conceive. They also create an imbalance in the menstrual cycle, making them prone to excessive unwanted body hair, decreased breast size and deepening of the voice.
How anabolic steroids can affect male fertility?
Katiyar: Normally the brain sends signals to the testis to produce the male hormone, testosterone and sperms but with the intake of synthetic testosterone (anabolic steroids), the brain senses its high level in the body and stops the signals that are needed to stimulate the testis for natural production of testosterone as well as sperms, thus leading to low and in some cases even zero sperm count.This leads to male infertility.
In many cases, the sperm production recovers in 3 to 12 months after the man stops taking the drug but sometimes the impact is so severe that there is a total loss of sperm production capability in the male and infertility is irreversible even after stopping the steroids. Research has also concluded that anabolic steroid can cause structural damage to the sperm cells, which in turn can lead to abnormalities in the fetus. The damage in the male fertility is linked to the drugs(s), dose(s), and duration of steroids. Men who wish to father children must consult their doctor before starting any new supplement for body building.
Katiyar: Men, who are undergoing fertility issues because of the steroid abuse, should consult a fertility expert so that they can suggest the tests and treatment to help overcome the problem. The most important test to gauge male infertility is the semen analysis which gives information about the count and quality of sperms. Based on the result the doctor can also prescribe medications to reverse the effect of anabolic steroids.
In case this is not possible the couple may also need to undergo specialized fertility treatments so that they can fulfill their dream of having children.
To conclude, it is important to trigger the young thinking minds regarding the potential side effects of anabolic steroids. These steroids may promise stronger and muscular bodies in a short span but lead to infertility and other complications in the longer run.
Amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic -- when people are battling stress, uncertainties and health risks -- a study done by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) has found that yoga- and meditation-based lifestyle intervention (YMLI) increases neuroplasticity and reduces severity of major depressive disorder.
The 12-week study, to determine the effects of YMLI on depression severity, showed that if an individual has genetic depression then yoga can prove to be beneficial.
Speaking to IANS, Rima Dada, Professor at Department of Anatomy at AIIMS, said: "To combat stress anxiety and depression, yoga could play a key role. Yoga, especially pranayama, decreases expression of pro inflammatory genes and increases expression of anti inflammatory genes and may also play an important immune-modulatory role in cytokine storm."
She added depression can be initially managed by yoga, and only in severe cases medicines are required.
According to researchers, coronavirus can set off a cytokine storm and calming down this storm is key for survival. Cytokines are molecules which regulate the activity of the immune system.
The study concluded that YMLI can be considered as a therapeutic intervention in major depressive disorder (MDD) management.
"Short term yoga- and meditation-based lifestyle intervention in MDD decreased clinical severity in association with an increase in neuroplasticity, by significantly improving brain physiology, mind-body communication (MBC), and cellular health," concluded the study.
The study also suggests that increased neuroplasticity may be part of underlying biologicl mechanisms to decrease clinical severity in MDD.
"Moreover, it may prevent complications that are related to drug therapy, reduce relapses and provide long-lasting clinical remission.
"It may also increase cognitive reserve to decrease the risk of dementia and increase functional reserves to decrease risk for age-related chronic medical conditions. Thus it can be considered as a significant component of integrative health strategy in the prevention and management of MDD and increase both healthspan and lifespan," said the study.
The study found that YMLI may not only help to decrease severity in major depressive disorder but also offer hope for complete remission from it that result from heterogeneous biological mechanisms.
The sample size in the study was small and included adult groups only, limiting its generalize-ability to other age groups. "Our work is on depression but in all our studies we found yoga decreases expression of various inflammatory genes," added Dada.
Now you know why your wife keeps her blood pressure down even when you keep on sulking during a quarrel at home. According to an interesting research, females have an innate ability to increase levels of anti-inflammatory T cells to keep their blood pressure down.
Called Tregs, the cells are known to help protect us from an excessive immune response, and are naturally associated with lower blood pressures and less organ damage.
Females, at least before menopause, tend to have lower blood pressures than males.
"We think, based on studies in this and other models, that the ability of the female to maintain or upregulate those T regulatory cells is critical to their ability to maintain a lower pressure," said Dr. Jennifer C. Sullivan, professor in the Department of Physiology at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University.
In the face of a multipronged front to drive blood pressure up, including a high-salt diet, females are better able to keep their pressure down by increasing levels of a T cell that selectively dials back inflammation.
The cell's levels are known to increase to help maintain a healthy pregnancy, for example, so the immune system does not attack the fetus, which has DNA from both parents.
"This is just a different challenge, but we are using those same protective pathways to do something else good for us," said Sullivan.
Sullivan's work, published in the journal Hypertension, supports the hypothesis that females rely heavily on Tregs for blood pressure control and this mechanism accounts for at least one of the sex differences in that control.
"It's a compensatory response to an increase in blood pressure to help the overall cardiovascular impact," Sullivan said of this innate ability that could provide a promising new hypertension treatment strategy, particularly for women.
Sullivan suspects males and females likely make similar numbers of Tregs -- they have found similar numbers in the spleen, for example -- but differences may be in the recruitment and proliferation to organs key to blood pressure control like the kidneys, one reason she wanted to look specifically at Treg levels there.
Both sexes actually experienced increases in pro-inflammatory T cells, which contribute to infection fighting.
In rats, blood pressure increased significantly in both sexes by day two, but by the end of 21 days of treatment, male blood pressures were significantly higher.
And, females experienced significantly more of the blood pressure-mitigating Tregs along with their lower pressures, the scientists report.
The fact that decreasing Tregs in males did not affect blood pressure may indicate that male blood pressure is not as dependent on this mechanism during normal conditions.
However the clear impact in females supports the hypothesis that females are "highly dependent" on Tregs to maintain their blood pressure.
The hormone DOCA, or deoxycorticosterone acetate, prompts the kidneys to hold onto both more sodium and water, so there is a higher fluid volume in the blood vessels, which drives up blood pressure.
Then, as with some humans, a high-salt diet magnifies the problem and so does the removal of a single kidney.
This DOCA-salt model is a commonly used hypertension model, which provides scientists a good window for when hypertension sets in.
"If we can better understand how and why females are increasing their Tregs that could lead to therapies, potentially for both sexes, to also avoid or treat high-inflammation conditions like autoimmune and cardiovascular disease," Sullivan noted. (Agency)