Wednesday, February 24, 2016

A 75 year old Harvard study finally unravels the secret to happiness

Someone on my Facebook wall shared a link to a TED talk about a 75-year old Harvard study that tried to figure out what really was the key to happiness.

A 75-year study is first of all incredibly difficult to do. It requires multiple generations of researchers to be equally committed. Not only that, it also requires participants to co-operate with equal commitment over decades. Only an extra-ordinary effort can pull this off!

They studied over 700 participants. One group was students from Harvard while the other were some poor people from Boston. The group was followed up from the 1930s to recently and every two years, various questions were asked related to life-events, their way of thinking. Blood investigations, and brain scans were done. One of the participants eventually became President of the US! Who would've thunk?

The conclusion of this study was fairly simple.

But first, some background. A recent poll of millenials revealed that money and fame were the most important life-goals of almost all the people. They thought that money and fame would make them really happy. I think that would be true for most of us. What else could be the top priority? Obviously, more money would equal more happiness. Right?

Well, the study concluded that neither money nor fame turned out to be important in the end. The most important was - hold your breath - the strength and quality of the relationships people had - relationships with families and friends.

The study actually found that actual physiological and psychological well-being depended a lot on the quality of the relationships one had. People who had someone to count on to be there for them in their hour of need were less likely to be affected by dementia and other mental disorders. They had better cardiovascular outcomes as well.

The cellphone age has actually ruined us quite a bit. We have the entire world on our phone - including friends. I have dozens of people on my Facebook friends list whom I don't even know! I have not even said Hi to them after befriending them! What's the point in such meaningless relationships?

We need to take time to cultivate family relationships and friendships. We need to talk to them, not 'chat' with them. We need to meet them, not do a 'video chat'. We need to take this study seriously. A 75 year old study cannot be wrong. In the end money and fame really do not matter. This seems very logical to me when I think about it. Here is the actual TED talk:

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

On Jain Sadhus and Sadhvis: Why 'they are better than us' is not reason enough for respect

These days, many Jain sadhus and sadhvis have adopted technology and modern materialism like never before. The use of mobile phones, electricity, computers and shockingly, even bank accounts has become rampant. Under the guise of changing with the times, many of them have forgotten the five sacred vows they have taken.

The Jain laity has actively encouraged these practices. For them, things have become more convenient. They don't need to travel to where the sadhus are to hear the manglik. They simply call them up or have the manglik delivered by a Whatsapp audio message!

When these practices are questioned by people like me, who do not like this change, the answer given is, "How can we question this? They are at least better than us. They do a lot more than us."

I am sorry but I do not agree with this.

What we are conveniently forgetting is that these sadhus and sadhvis have taken the five mahavrats which strictly forbid the use of such things. Electricity and mobile phones violate the ahinsa mahavrat. Keeping bank accounts (even if the money is used only for religious purposes) violates the aparigraha mahavrat. While they may be doing much more than us, violating the mahavrats they have taken is inexcusable and they are no more deserving of much respect.

The primary reason the Jain clergy was respected so much was their unflinching commitment and adherence to the five mahavrats. Everything comes later. Their ability to speak well, write well and impress people all come after this. If the foundation of monkhood is not strong, the buildings built on top of this would collapse easily.

સૂક્ષ્મની તાકાત ગજબની હોય છે. કટ્ટર સંયમ પાલનની શક્તિ ગજબની હોય છે. તેના વગર સાધુ જે પણ કરે, તે બધુજ એકડા વગરના મીંડા બરાબર છે. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Stopped Enalapril: When to treat a medical condition?

A few months back, I was diagnosed with some cardiac issues for which I was advised to take Enalapril. Now, this was a little unusual as Enalapril is an ACE Inhibitor (ACEi) which is generally used to reduce the Blood Pressure (BP). My BP was low to begin with. My normal BP is around 90/60. The Enalapril would make it even lower.

Despite this, I was advised to take the drug. I was started on a very, very small dose. My nephrologist felt it would help correct the heart condition, even at a low dose.

I also had a condition called Postprandial Hypotension (PPH) which would make the BP worse after a heavy breakfast. Strangely enough, the BP would not plummet on the mornings after I have skipped dialysis.

The low BPs, coupled with the PPH and the ACEi made my life living hell for a few months. I was taking a low dose every alternate day. Everything would be fine the day I would take the tablet. But the next morning would bring with it severe dizziness and discomfort.

I stopped going for my Sunday morning routine of Idlis as well. That was the unkindest cut of all.

About 3 weeks back, I had an episode of fainting. At that point, my doctors decided that it was time to stop the Enalapril. They felt that even though we would lose the chance to correct the heart condition, it was not worth prolonging this since it was so severely impacting my Quality of Life (QoL).

I feel much better now. One more thing I also tried last week was to skip dialysis on Saturday. That way Sunday morning, I would not feel dizzy even after a heavy breakfast. I had a sumptuous breakfast at Govind's near Charminar after ages and felt really good!

This brings me to the reason behind treating any medical condition. I firmly believe it should primarily be to improve QoL. Merely prolonging life is of little meaning. If you are going to increase life-span by worsening QoL, then is there any point in treating? Yes, there could be temporary worsening of QoL in some cases in which cases treatment can be justified but if this is not the case, treatment does not achieve the primary purpose, in my view.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Tanker Awards Nite and Speech

The Tanker Foundation in Chennai is one of the oldest trusts in the country doing amazing work for dialysis patients. They have 4 dialysis centres and are offering free dialysis to patients who cannot afford treatment. The trust was founded by Dr. Georgi Abraham, one of the leading nephrologists of the country, an extremely down-to-earth person and one who genuinely cares for the well-being of dialysis patients.

The Tanker Foundation has an annual awards nite where they have a lecture and give away some awards to people who have done exemplary work in the field of nephrology and dialysis.

I am very happy to let you all know that I was asked to deliver the Malathi Venkatesan Memorial Lecture at the Annual Tanker Awards Nite on the 25th of January in Chennai. I was also selected for the La Renon Tanker Foundation For the Sake of Honour Award which consisted of a gold medallion, a citation and a cash award.

The speech was very well received. Here is the video of the speech:

Click here to see the presentation.

Here is a video of me receiving the award:

Here are some pictures from the event: