Friday, November 17, 2017

130/80 is the new high



A few months before beginning home hemodialysis, I was diagnosed with Left Ventricular Hypertrophy (LVH), a condition that is associated with long term kidney failure. I was put on some medication to try and control the problem. Gradually my blood pressure started reducing. At one point I used to be at pressures of around 90/60 to 100/70. During my next visit to the cardiologist, I asked him what is a good blood pressure? Was 90/60 too low?

“Lower the better” was his response. He said as long as I did not have symptoms of hypotension like feeling dizzy, the lower the pressure the better it was for my heart.

New research released recently has found that a blood pressure of 130/80 or above is dangerous for the human body. The earlier guideline had pegged this at 140/90. This would bring a lot of people into the ‘hypertensives’ bucket. The important thing to note, as the co-chairman of the group that released this report says is, “The risk hasn't changed. What's changed is our recognition of the risk.”

People with high blood pressure are known to be at risk for “cardiovascular disease, strokes, severe kidney disease and several other problems” that can kill them. Not everyone with this blood pressure needs to be put on medication. Many people who are diagnosed in early stages of the condition can correct it simply with “lifestyle changes such as losing weight, improving their diet, getting more exercise, consuming less alcohol and sodium and lowering stress”.

It is important to check your blood pressure from time to time. Early diagnosis, like in almost every other condition, is the key. 

It is sad that despite knowing that lifestyle changes can correct this problem, people all around me will still live in denial, refusing to acknowledge that they have a problem, refusing to change their lives and ridiculing the people who actually do.

People give me examples of their uncle who drank, smoked, never exercised and ate all the unhealthy food you could ever imagine and yet lived to a ripe old age of 90. What they do not realise, very sadly for them, is that for every such uncle, there are a hundred other people who died early, in the prime of their lives just because they did not take care of themselves.

I read this important advice somewhere: “It is ok to lie to your parents, to your children, to your boss, to your spouse, heck, it is ok to even lie to your God. But one thing it is not ok to do is to lie to yourself.” These people are lying to themselves. It is going to be a very expensive lie.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Overusing the exclamation point!!!!



So many people get this so horribly wrong. Especially on social media, the exclamation point is probably the most abused punctuation. I have friends and colleagues who overuse exclamations like nobody’s business. I probably overuse it a little myself. In fact, earlier posts on this very blog have probably one exclamation too many.

I read somewhere that for most people, one exclamation per month of writing is all that is actually needed if used the right way. I know people who use an average of one per sentence. 


Exclamation points were originally called the “note of admiration.” They are still, to this day, used to express excitement. They are also used to express surprise, astonishment, or any other such strong emotion. Any exclamatory sentence can be properly followed by an exclamation mark, to add additional emphasis.”

Simple enough?

With the increasing use of social media to express opinions on every single issue these days, people use exclamation points even when completely unnecessary. Good writing should convey the same excitement with an appropriate choice of words rather than rely on punctuation to express strong emotion.

The most abhorrent of all exclamation point abuses is the use of multiple exclamation points. I know people who use five to six after wishing anyone about anything. Sample this:

Happy Birthday XYZ!!!!!!

It’s as if he was even more excited about XYZ’s birthday than his own.

I think it’s high time the exploitation of this punctuation be made a worldwide crime and exemplary action be taken against the offenders.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Drug interactions

I was put on a new medication recently. The trouble with this medication is that it needs a slightly acidic medium in the body to act effectively. So, I was asked to stop an antacid in the ‘Proton Pump Inhibitor’ (PPI) class which I have been taking for a long time now. I was told to take another milder antacid and take a syrup for times when the symptoms were bad. 

Within a few days, my appetite has gone down dramatically. I can barely eat a third of what I used to. Due to this, I have lost about 3 kgs in less than three weeks!

I am not sure if my appetite with the PPI was unnaturally high but I do remember being hungry all the time. I remember my nephrologist saying that a very strong antacid will not allow the minerals and vitamins to be absorbed by the body (or something like that). I tried looking this up on the internet. I did not find any mention of antacids increasing the appetite. 

For now though, I am unable to have a full pizza or more than a couple of idlis which is disastrous news! I hope I will not need to take this medicine for a long time - the doctor says a few more weeks. So, there’s still hope.

There’s a silver lining to this though - the weight loss. With no effort, I have lost 3 kgs! I don’t feel like I’ve eaten less. I am not hungry. My fluid weight gain between sessions has also gone down. Yesterday after a dialysis gap of a day, I had only 3.1 kgs of fluid on me!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Let’s not force people to wear patriotism on their sleeve



In an outstanding example of judicial overreach, the honourable Supreme Court passed a judgement a few months back that the national anthem must be played at the beginning of screening in all movie halls. Ever since then, during our Sunday evening picture routine, my parents and I have been standing for the national anthem. Just when we would have settled down in our seats with pop corn and a cool drink, suddenly the screen would say, “Please stand for the national anthem.” My father, forever the willing patriot would happily stand up, my mother would also stand up, not with that much enthusiasm and I would have a tough time getting up from the seat due to my knee problem with a curse muttered under my breath to the honourable Supreme Court.

When you force someone to do something, they develop an aversion to it. Why do we need such symbolic gestures to display our patriotism? Why do we need these forced shows of proving our love for the motherland? 

Thankfully, the honourable Supreme Court looks like it is going to reverse that decision. In remarks made a couple of days back, it questioned the concept and said that the words “national anthem should be played” could be changed to “national anthem may be played”. 

I so wish that the time spent by the honourable court on this silly, trivial issue could have been spent in dealing with the thousands of more serious cases pending before it.


Just 3 days to go for the Indian Dialysis Olympiad!

The second edition of the Indian Dialysis Olympiad is this Sunday in Delhi. If you’re on dialysis and in Delhi or close by, you should definitely attend. Even if you are not close by, you should try to attend as are many people from around the country. It will be an experience you will never forget.

Why attend the Olympiad? Well, people in India have a bad misconception that when you get onto dialysis, life as you know it comes to an end. Your life will be restricted to the dialysis centre and your home (bed specifically!). Nothing could be farther from the truth. People on dialysis lead active lives. Many dialysis patients trek, swim, work and lead almost normal lives.

You can see this for yourself on Sunday where people on dialysis will participate in various events like running, cycling, basketball, table tennis, cricket etc. On Sunday we expect about 400-500 patients say to the world, “I can!”

Come to participate if you’re on dialysis. Come to cheer them if you are not. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Why I’m not excited about tea houses anymore?


I like tea. Second Flush, Single Estate, Darjeeling Black please. I relish my three big cups every day, made with precision, measuring out the leaves in specially made spoons, boiling water in my own kettle and then steeping it for just the right time by using Siri on my iPhone. I absolutely hate it when people disturb me when I am sipping my tea. If you want to be my friend, don’t ever disturb me when I’m having tea!

So, when I saw Tea Trails open in Hyderabad, I was excited. I thought it would be a great place to hang out. I went there a few times. I was honestly disappointed. I don’t have any control over the types of leaves, the steeping time or the temperature. The result was some insipid cups of a drink that was supposed to be tea.

I tried a wide variety.The only two teas I liked were the Kashmiri Qahwah and the Second Flush Darjeeling (for obvious reasons). But it wasn’t close to what I had hoped it would be.

Now, I really don’t think it is the fault of Tea Trails. They were probably doing their job well. It’s just that I am too fussy about my tea.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

What does happiness actually mean?

All of us want to be happy. What does it mean to be truly happy? What does it take to be truly happy?

I read this excellent article that talks about the work in this area by Emily Esfahani Smith. She has also done a TED Talk on the same topic. 

This article made a lot of sense to me when I look back upon my life and see the effect of the four factors that she talks about - belonging, transcendence, purpose and story telling.