Psychosocial counseling can reverse heart disease

Psychosocial counseling simply means getting individual or group sessions with a healthcare professional experienced in ‘mind matters’. You might be taking your medicines regularly, getting your parameters checked and visiting your doctor periodically, but these measures will only help you monitor your health. It takes a little more effort to reverse heart disease!

You need to strike at the root cause of the problem if you would like to see the end of it. As psychosocial issues like chronic stress, depression and anxiety play a major role in causing coronary artery blocks and are often hidden or unnoticed, it takes an expert to address these issues of the mind. We have already seen in an earlier post that poorly managed stress can repeatedly attack the coronaries and ruin your heart as well as your overall health.

It is for this reason that a psychosocial counselor has become an integral part of the cardiac rehab team. A comprehensive cardiac rehab program like the one we provide at Cardiac Wellness Institute includes supervised exercise, dietary modification and psychosocial counseling in addition to health education and targeted behavior change. The counselor helps individuals understand the concepts of feelings, emotions and habits and paves the way for unraveling the stress triggers. Stress management techniques, non-pharmacologic treatment of depression, anger reduction methods, coping skills after a cardiac procedure,  ways to overcome anxiety, sleep problems and addiction are just a few things that a counselor can help you with. The image you see here is from one of the group counseling sessions at our centre where our counselor made participants do role-play (something like a mini-drama) to help them understand everyday stress triggers and coping strategies.

As counseling is defined as listening to someone and providing advice to overcome his/her problems, the counselor should not be the sole person providing counseling. Members of our team, for instance, take time to listen to what our patients have to say and work together with them in finding an effective solution to their physical and mental health problems. We are all counselors in our own little ways! But we know our limitations and acknowledge and appreciate the role of the psychosocial counselor in solving the deeply ingrained emotional problems faced by our patients.

With strong scientific evidence becoming available on the complete regression of coronary blocks with intensive lifestyle modification, there is no reason to ignore or neglect the psychological distress you are going through. It is not something to be ashamed or embarrassed about, we all have feelings and there are experts to help us feel better.

If you or your loved ones are going through a rough patch or if you would like to know how an experienced counselor can help you, please get in touch with us and we will guide you in the right direction.







Exercise and Ageing – Made for each other

In an earlier thread, we have discussed how older adults can maintain good nutrition. In this blog post, we will look at how exercise can enrich the lives of senior citizens. Ageing, as believed by many, should not stop you from doing activities; on the contrary, it should allow you to do all your favourite activities and lead a healthy life. Engaging in regular exercise is the best way to achieve this.

Most people think that walking is the only exercise suitable for elders. While walking is definitely suitable for all ages and health conditions, there are many types of exercises that you can do as you age. Exercise is an important part of everyone’s health and this is very true for elders too. “If you don’t move, you won’t move” is an old saying. That is quite right because as we age our physical and mental abilities change causing both deterioration in coordinated function and an increasing dependence on others. Hence, as a physiotherapist, my advice for all of you out there is: “start to move now and prevent ill health forever”.

You are all aware that high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, heart disease and stroke are common in the elderly. What you might not know is that all of these conditions can be controlled and reversed with exercise. In fact, frequent falls or fear of fall due to impaired balance and coordination is the worst enemy to a happy and enjoyable seniors’ life; even this can be solved by regular exercise. Additionally, muscle strengthening exercises help to improve your level of performance in daily activities. While these are all compelling arguments to start your exercise regimen right away, remember to get proper medical advice prior to starting any new exercise.

There are various types of exercises that you can do to improve muscle strength, balance and coordination

  • Aerobic and flexibility training– 5 days/week
  • Strength training – 2 days/week
  • Balance and coordination training – every day

The benefits of regular exercise are:

  • Improves your strength and helps you stay independent
  • Improves your balance and prevents falls
  • Gives you more energy
  • Prevents and reverses diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and osteoporosis
  • Improves your mood and fights off depression

Stop exercising and contact your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Excessive shortness of breath
  • Light-headedness, dizziness

Exercise tips

  • Always start your exercise session with warm-up and end with cool-down exercises
  • Drink more fluids to stay hydrated
  • Start slowly and set reachable goals
  • Exercise in a small group to stay motivated
  • Listen to your body and respond to its needs
  • Don’t overdo any exercise
  • Avoid doing exercise when you are sick

The definite way to attain all the health benefits of exercise in your old age is to start doing exercise in your younger years. It is never too early to start exercising, and it can never be too late whatever your age! The team at Cardiac Wellness Institute provides various programs to improve the health status of all individuals including senior citizens. If you are interested and eager to know more about the seniors’ program please feel free to contact us, we will help you improve your health and your quality of life in an enjoyable manner.



The sweet danger of sugar

Would you like to understand ‘sugar’ better? While you might know that sugar is really sweet and enhances taste did you know that it can be dangerous too? Let me take you through some basic facts about sugar before seeing the health hazards of this sweet ingredient…

Sugars are broadly grouped into simple and complex sugars, and natural and added sugars.

Simple Sugars

Simple sugars are carbohydrates that are quickly absorbed by the body to produce energy. These sugars are present in both natural and processed foods. Natural foods that contain simple sugars include fruits, vegetables and milk products. Processed foods often have simple or refined sugars added to improve flavour. Examples of refined-sugar foods include candy, cakes, syrups, fruit juices and carbonated beverages.

Complex Sugars

Complex sugars are complex carbohydrates that take a longer time to digest as they are packed with fibre, vitamins and minerals. Examples are cereals, legumes, whole wheat pasta and vegetables.

Natural sugar

Natural sugar is naturally occurring, which makes them healthy. There are two types of natural sugars.

  1. Fructose – it is found in fruits
  2. Lactose – it is found in dairy products. These nutrients help to stabilize your blood sugar levels, which prevents you from feeling hungry soon after eating.

Added sugar

Added sugars are sugar carbohydrates added to foods and beverages during their processing. This does not include naturally occurring sugars such as those in milk and fruits. It provides empty calories that are of no benefit  to your body. Examples are candy, cake, soft drinks, ice cream and other desserts. Consuming too much added sugar is a health hazard!

Sugar, honey and jaggery are the commonly used sweetening agents added to beverages and foods to increase palatability. The crystallised sugar we all keep in our kitchen shelves is made up of glucose and fructose. It’s a source of energy providing 4 kilocalories per gram. Jaggery is made from sugar cane juice after processing it and is a fair source of iron. Honey is the golden coloured syrup made by bees from the nectar of flowers. It also consists of glucose and fructose.

How much sugar can be consumed on a daily basis?

While theoretically, a normal healthy adult can consume 24 grams (or) 6 teaspoons per day, research reveals that minimal or zero added sugar is best for our health. Diabetic patients, however, have a reduced ability to metabolise sugar and should strictly avoid all forms of added sugar.

How many calories does one teaspoon of sugar contain?

Amount         –  1tsp (4.2g)

Calories          – 16 kcals

Carbohydrate  – 4.2 g

Health risks of eating too much sugar

Sugar, an instant source of energy, can lead to multiple health problems if consumed in large quantities: weight gain, fatty liver disease, diabetes, hypertension, heart attack, stroke and kidney failure are some of the common ailments caused by this sweet substance.

Artificial sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners, also referred to as sugar substitutes, are used to replace sugar in foods and beverages. Sucralose, aspartame and saccharin are the mostly purchased artificial sweeteners, especially by diabetic individuals. We will look at these agents in depth in a future blog post, but it is apt to say that their use should be minimised keeping in mind their harmful side effects.

So, here are some tips to cut down on sugar in your daily diet:

  • Instead of adding sugar to cereal or oatmeal, add fresh fruits (try bananas, pomegranate or berries) or dried fruit (raisins, cranberries or apricots).
  • If you consume tea, coffee or milk with added sugar, try alternatives like green tea, black coffee and unsweetened milk.
  • Instead of adding sugar in recipes, use extracts such as almond, vanilla, orange or lemon.
  • Enhance the taste of foods with spices instead of sugar; try ginger, allspice, cinnamon or nutmeg.
  • Compare the sugar content of different foods and choose the lower sugar and calorie option.

“ Eat less SUGAR;

You’re SWEET enough already”