The slow killer called sitting

Studies suggest that even if you exercise for 30 minutes daily, you are prone to heart disease and spinal problems if you spend a large part of your day sitting. By Shweta Taneja

Rakesh Mehta, a 32-year-old business manager with a consultancy, spends most of his workday attending meetings, taking calls and writing instructions through emails, all sitting in his office. Once at home, he watches TV before going to bed. In a day, he spends around 8 hours sleeping, 2 hours standing or walking from one place to another, about half-an-hour exercising and the remaining 13-odd hours sitting.

Don’t be surprised if your own calculations throw up similar results. Like Mehta, most of us belong to a generation of sitters, thanks to technology’s little conveniences. “Most of us spend almost 95% of our waking hours sitting,” says Marc Hamilton, professor at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, US, in an email interview. He labels today’s generation as “active couch potatoes”, and those who manage the required 30 minutes of exercise everyday as “exercising couch potatoes”. His papers, published in journals such as Diabetes (2007) and Current Cardiovascular Risk Reports (2008), show how excessive sitting time is harmful to cardiovascular and metabolic effects. This can lead to lifestyle diseases such as hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart attacks, and some cancers, irrespective of the time you spend exercising.

Hamilton’s research, which is supported by a growing body of research into a concept called inactivity physiology, is trying to establish a link between disease and sedentary behaviour or prolonged sitting. “It’s a new way of thinking about physical inactivity or our sedentary lifestyle,” says Hamilton.

According to a study of 8,800 adults published in January in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, for every 60 minutes you sit watching TV daily, you may increase your risk of early death from cardiovascular disease and cancer. Inactivity just doesn’t suit humans, according to Hamilton. “The enzyme LPL (lipoprotein lipase), which usually acts like a vacuum cleaner and sucks up the bad fat in your blood and converts it into muscle, shuts down when you are sitting or lounging,” he explains. It’s like our body’s good workers go idle when we are sitting, so more fat stays in the blood and starts getting deposited in the belly fat and other organs. “When you are inactive for a prolonged period, your muscles become placid and lose their tautness. You also tend to gain weight, especially in the midriff area,” says Sanjay Mehrotra, senior consultant cardiologist, Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospital, Bangalore. The fat which gets collected in the central part of your body, starts behaving like an endocrine gland, he says. It secretes hormones which lead to an increase in artery-damaging fat in the blood, causing obesity, hypertension and diabetes.

Back problems

Other than the heart, your back, spine, shoulders and hips develop problems due to prolonged sitting. “Your spine is made to stand. When you sit for longer hours, to be in a perfect posture with a straight back, you need very strong back muscles,” says Shiv Kanwat, consultant, physiotherapy, Moolchand Orthopaedics Hospital, New Delhi, who gets many patients who are in their early 20s and mid-30s with neck, lower back or shoulder complaints. And since most people do not have very strong back muscles, they tend to slouch after long hours of sitting, leading to the lower back slouching forward and shoulders drooping. Over time, this leads to pain in the shoulders, neck and lower back.

Computer table too low?

The problem is multiplied because ergonomics is not something most Indian firms include in their priority list. Bhavna Popat, 28, developed lower back pain after just a couple of years of working in a call centre. “The chair at my office was the problem; it was just too straight,” she says. Though her chair was changed later, it was too late to save her back. “The ergonomics in most companies are pathetic,” says Bipin Walia, senior consultant, neurosurgery and head neuro spine surgery, Max Hospital, New Delhi. “If you are sitting at a desk for 8 hours, a bad chair and badly placed computer can do a lot of damage to your spine.” Such repetitive stress injuries (RSI) affect muscles, tendons and nerves of the neck, upper and lower back, chest, shoulders, arms and hands.

Deepak Sharan, medical director, RECOUP Neuromusculoskeletal Rehabilitation Centre, Bangalore, says, “Early symptoms of RSI, which most of us tend to ignore, are discomfort, stiffness, clumsiness, tingling, headaches and a constant need to stretch or massage one’s arms.”

A research study published in October in the International Journal of Innovation, Management and Technology on ergonomics-related health problems in people in Indian IT and IT services companies, found that 42% of the 650respondents felt “pain or aching in wrists, forearms, elbows, neck, or the back followed by discomfort”. Almost 50% of them felt that the reason for this was “sitting in the same posture for continuous long hours”. Not surprisingly, almost 72.5% of the respondents felt that their company had not taken notice of their problems and nothing was being done to improve the ergonomics at work. Bad ergonomic conditions lead not only to health problems but also loss of employee productivity. Dr Sharan, who runs programmes on ergonomics in companies such as Oracle, Hewlett Packard and Wipro, says he has received positive feedback from the employees after the programme. “Rather than investing in expensive gyms, employers should invest in well-designed chairs and workstations to improve productivity,” he says.

Mumbai-based fitness expert Leena Mogre has started a special fitness course aimed at what she calls “professional sitters”, or people who live life at a right angle position. “Your spine is always bending forward, which leads to your core, abs and lower back becoming very weak,” she says. Her exercises help strengthen these areas, she says.

Get up and gossip

The good news is that if you lead even a normally active life, you can undo all these sitting-related injuries. According to a study published in Diabetes Care in 2007 in Australia, constant light-intensity activity is good for your body. So even a little activity such as taking a coffee break (without having coffee) or taking a short walk during lunch break can protect your heart. “The idea is to slow the process down and the way is to remain active physically,” says Dr Mehrotra. “Walking increases your metabolic rate, burns some calories and keeps your heart pumping.”

Taking a break has an additional benefit of giving your back a break, says Dr Kanwat. “Your joints need to constantly move.” Walk for 1-2 minutes every 20 minutes of sitting, catch up on some gossip by the coffee machine and you should be all right.

To read the complete story, click here.

Why non-gamers should rejoice

Get off the couch, jump, shout and wave your hands about. Playing games is fun and easy says Shweta Taneja

Preview | Kinect for XBOX 360

Every time I try to play a video game, I give up in 5 minutes flat. I thought most video games required gruelling Six Sigma skills, a deeper understanding about matters such as which blue button to press from 21 and lightning-fast reflexes. Long story short, I’m not a gamer—but Microsoft’s futuristic new Kinect or the Xbox 360 briefly made me one.

I attended a trial preview of the Kinect, a hands-free technology for Microsoft’s gaming console, the Xbox 360. I was asked to stand before a small, shiny, sleek, black device placed under a 40-inch LCD television. An invisible sensor scanned me and then the Kinect evangelist smiled and asked me to play.

My mind flashed familiar warning signals.

For those who don’t know it yet, Kinect is an exploration of what a hands-free technology can do to gaming. For one, it has no buttons. All it has at the front are three eyes. These are the three cameras: an X-ray sensor which scans you skeletally, an RGB (red, green and blue) camera, and a depth sensor to track your movement. Then there’s a microphone that allows you to control the Xbox 360 with your voice (2001: A Space Odyssey style). Between them, the idea is to make your gaming avatar on the screen copy your body movements exactly on to the game. The cameras also enable easy logging into your account through your face (yes, it recognizes you) or your voice.

The game I played was River Rush, part of a package of games called Kinect Adventures. It’s a simple game requiring jumping over rocks and bushes as you are going downstream on a raft. The great part was that I didn’t need to learn whether the yellow or red button will make me jump. I simply jumped or crouched in unison with the stranger next to me, who like me had been invited to try out the Kinect. For a no-gamer like me, adapting to its motion and tracking was quite easy. In 10 minutes of game play, I had done four things—made friends with a complete stranger, had a blast playing a new game, got myself some cardio, and a cheer from the audience. As a bonus point, I got to see myself in action on the screen as the Kinect had been clicking pictures of me playing, jumping, diving and crouching all the while.

Like Nintendo’s Wii before it, Kinect is aimed at “casual gamers”—people who have sedentary, busy jobs and want to connect with their children or find a fun way to get fit. It’s meant for friends who want to hang out, jump, dance and do it all with a glass of beer in one hand (not to be used while playing) and then post their goofy pictures on their social networks.

This is the reason why most of the games it offers are like going on a joyride or visiting an amusement park. Kinectimals is a cutesy game which lets you choose a pet animal and well, pet it so that it coos to you. Though it’s obviously targeted at kids, its graphics and sounds bring a smile on even the most hardened of cynics (do check out the tiger cub, if you don’t believe me). Dance Central teaches you dance moves of different dancing styles. It’s especially made for people who have three left feet. The Biggest Loser: Ultimate Workout is a fitness game for people who want to exercise using the guidance of a game. Imagine an onscreen tutor who guides and corrects you when you do a wrong yoga pose.

The box is capable of tracking up to six people (height, weight can vary) and be active for two. In fact, when I tried it, it was more fun to play it with someone—even a stranger—and a group to cheer you on.

One of the major drawbacks is the space it needs for you to play—anything between 6-8ft from your device and empty space around it is essential. If you have couches, tables, books or other people in this space, the device tends to become confused. Another issue is a half a second lag in the response of your onscreen avatar. The lag becomes more, the faster you move. The reason is that your movements trigger pre-animated actions for your avatar.

In spite of these teething problems, this controller-free gaming experience makes gaming easy, fun and adaptable.

The product is expected to be in India in December and will be priced approximately at Rs9,990 for the Kinect, and Rs22,990 for a new 4 GB Xbox 360 with Kinect.

Check out the complete story here

Meeting up Wikipedians

A lazy Sunday afternoon, I picked up my backpack and entered the relaxed office of Centre for Internet and Society. The occasion was a Wiki Meetup. My first and as I would learn, first for most of the ten people present there. The meetup officially started with a gang of boys walking in, mostly dressed in black, denims, floaters, and laptop bags. No, none of them were wearing specs (except me). Gautam, the conveyor of the meeting said hello and gave us all the wireless code to internet. Internet unfortunately was down.

No women, except me. All engineers mostly, except a couple of advocates and one motley writer (me).

All sat down, opened their respective laptops and started typing or browsing. Imagine a group of people, all casually sitting on plastic chairs, laptops in their laps, quietly typing away in their keyboards. The silence was a surprise. Always interested in group behavior and body language, I also noticed that most of the techie boys, as I was calling them in my head, had black laptops with colourful stickers on it displaying the brands they were proud to be associated with. Other than your obvious Ubuntu, one saw stickers from conferences like Open Hack, NGOs like Pratham Books and others. Their relationship with their keyboard seemed more interesting than their relationship with the person sitting next to them. A whisper in a sidebencher’s ear went through typing. Talking while you are looking on your laptop screen was not considered social suicide. It was the cool thing to do.

It was deathly quiet. As one of the seasoned Wikipedians (I didn’t introduce myself to him and was daydreaming when he introduced himself to the group) started to give an intro to most of the newbies—engineering college students and a vague writer like me. We got to know how one should contribute to Wiki, the same rules I was taught in my Masters for submission of criticism and assignments—keep a religious track of references, don’t make up things (never followed this one) and don’t believe what is said, believe what is written down somewhere. A good question asked was about oral histories and how does one write about those. Apparently, they have to be written down somewhere before they become worthy of an online entry into Wikipedia as a reference (didn’t know that). Wish this obsession with references gets over, especially when it comes to the varied, colourful, creative means of converting a fact into a story, which Indian oral histories excel it.

But then, most of us today will be uncomfortable with that. And that is an uncomfortable state of being, no? I was reminded of a story on Wikipedia I did for Digital Natives website recently where I was left wondering who the invisible writers / volunteers of articles to Wiki from India are. Now I finally met them. Was feeling good about that. If someone has a doubt that Wikipedia gets self-promoters or people with dubious designs, they should have looked at these faces. Most students, there to learn and do their bit in knowledge sharing.

Oh, well. Maybe some people would consider them clueless to write on Bharatnatyam and still double check. These same people call students the copy-paste generation. Dubious people remain dubious, don’t they?

Why Wikipedia is a threat to authority

The morning edition of Times of India got me started. It had an article on how Justice Katju made history when he made a Wikipedia page on ‘Live-in relationships’ as the basis to formulate a four-point guideline for his judgment on a case. The story goes on to say that the judicial community is shocked “For, Wikipedia, as everyone knows, is an online free-content encyclopedia that anyone — from the wisest to a vandal — can edit and contribute to.” (itals are mine).

The article goes on to quote a part of Wikipedia’s terms of conditions: “Wikipedia itself answers the question ”who is responsible for the articles on Wikipedia” by saying ”You are!”. It clarifies that articles on its web pages could have an authenticity problem. ”Given that anyone can edit any article, it is, of course, possible for biased, out of date, or incorrect information to be posted,” Wikipedia says rather candidly.’

The first phrase that gets my eye here is ‘YOU ARE’. Why is a collective anonymous community, which has no reputation/authority in the traditional media / publishing of books such a big threat to those who are in authority? Are we so cynical that we would assume that people writing/editing these pages would necessarily have an ulterior motive? If yes, then so do people who make printed versions of encyclopedias, specialized books on any topics whatsoever – be it historians, biographers, critics, scientists – everyone writes their own opinions in the story. Dead words printed on dead trees, that too by a single author cannot have more value than a regularly updated, dynamic space of knowledge.


That makes me come to the second thing which makes those in authority especially uncomfortable: The idea of knowledge. Traditionally, India has been a society in which knowledge is a source of power—political, social, religious, cultural. Knowledge about a particular dance form, a ritual, a state dinner, a political rally, a caste, a language, a culture (dead or alive)—all of these are held onto the chest, carefully guarded and religiously maintained. I think I would be right to assume that this is true world-wide as well. But in India it holds special importance because we are always told not to question those with knowledge. It is the reason why teachers are traditionally revered in our books.

Possessing knowledge about something is a source of power. When knowledge becomes collective, that power is lost. What would a teacher teach if the student has already read upon the topic on Wikipedia? How about if religious priests are replaced with a Wikipedia page which tells us stories from mythology? Why do we need that teacher or that priest who cannot add more to what we already know.

In a way, it’s a complete overhaul of our systems of how knowledge is disseminated. Internet has made it possible for knowledge to be everywhere, given by everyone, taken in by anyone. There are no specializations in this space. There are also no authorities who can write something which has to be accepted and parroted everywhere. When anyone can question and anyone can answer, it’s a much more dangerous, varied world than the linear dissemination of knowledge which has traditionally been there.

Hence the panic. There’s no herd and no shepherd anymore.

Hence the derision by the shepherds of the world for an open space like Wikipedia.

I can go on and on about this topic but would like to invite your opinions on this. Here’s a small poll to know what you think about spaces like Wikipedia.

  1. Love it. Would use it to quote in my term paper.
  2. Would read, question and then cross check from some other source.
  3. Suspicious. Who’s writing this stuff anyways?
  4. Should be banned. It’s a place to promote half-truths and biased opinions

Cheers!

Crossposted at the Digital Natives blog here.

Blogging with www.digitalnatives.in!

I came across this interesting ongoing project called ‘Digital Natives with a Cause’ which is a collaboration of youngsters and internet addicts from across the world and how they are using the online space to change their lives and the lives of those around them. Since I am a curious cat, I wanted in. After persuading Nishant and Hasina, I am in and blogging with the website! Check out my latest post on the blog www.digitalnatives.in.

Why I fell in love with this project

Submitted by redpixie on Wed, 10/13/2010 – 08:59

Hi Everyone!

I am a new entrant to this website, so thought will introduce myself and the reason I wanted to be here. So desperately that I bugged poor Hasina, pushing constantly at the closed doors of DN (more about tht later) till I could get an elbow or aleast a toe in.

So my toe’s in and I hope to squeeze in completely slow and steady 🙂

I am a writer and a journalist based in Bangalore, India. I got to know abt DN when I did a story of it for Time Out Bengaluru last year. Spoke to Nishant then and fell in love with the project. It was at the back of my mind till the workshops started to happen. I wanted to get in it with a passion that drives vague people who make up and listen to stories.

I dont know what DN still means. And I dont plan to find out. It’s such an academics term! What I plan to do here is hear, listen, talk, chat and learn. Internet and this kind of a get together is such a dynamic space. As a writer, I want to hear different voices, try out new things, new perspectives, different cultures…different ways people express emotions, connect to internet, the idea of their space…you get the drift.

Most of the times, all I get to hear are voices of elders, respectable adults, authority and people who know what they are saying and what they want us to do. It is in spaces like these where one can hear uncertainly, the feeling of getting lost, of searching or just ambling along sheer darkness, of inguenity, of illogical ideas which work.

To read the complete post, click here.

Bowled over by Bangalore

It was while showing another friend this city that I found out how deep I had fallen for it. I never knew it existed. I should have, but like any other relationship, it’s always the family and closer friends who get to know that you are hooked. You never do.

Self-realisation is like myopia. Closer you are to a feeling, the lesser you see.

Slowly but surely, I have formed a steady relationship with Bangalore. It all started with little references to the weather, the innocent expressions and the drunken walk of people in casual conversations. Then it was little things I would smile about when I was about to sleep.

Thoughts of a perfect day gone by. When I took a walk on Sankey Tank as the sun melted into floating clouds. Animated, passionate conversations with people over a cup of filter coffee and how to brew a perfect cup. The personality of people based on the style in which they had a dosa. How we would laugh while taking a U-turn to go straight on a road. How a lazy conversation with a cop and a shrug accompanied by a smile can get you out of a possible ticket. A small chat corner that manages to make people in a 50m radius salivate. The red flowers which fall as the yellow flowers spread across shady trees on the streets. A hearty conversation with a woman who I just met on the road. Turtles and petals floating lazily in a dirty pond of an ancient temple. The cool feel of stone. The heady smell of agarbati, colourful pooja flowers and yellow lights that physically bind you in a magical spell. A rare bout of writing when my hands would glide madly looking for the right keys to be pressed while I looked out of a balcony.

Maybe it was the people I met. Maybe it was the weather. Maybe it was the work I did when I came here. Does it matter? I fell for this city. Isn’t that what love is? Little by little it gets under your skin, everyday, every moment.

The (Anti) Salt March

Excessive salt intake can cause cardiovascular diseases and is especially harmful for those who have a sedentary lifestyle. It’s time to go easy on that pinch

Shweta Taneja

Kanwal Batra, 50, a Delhi-based businessman, was in a dilemma when his naturopathy doctor told him to avoid salt till the eczema eruptions on his body were controlled. “I didn’t know how to react. Salt is a basic taste, how can one leave it?” was his initial reaction. The first few weeks of a salt-less diet were tough. “I couldn’t swallow the food. It had no taste!”

Later, he was surprised by the taste of vegetables such as gourd and spinach. “All of them had natural levels of salt in them. In palak (spinach), for example, the salt content is high and soon enough it tasted fine when cooked without salt,” he says. In fact, he now feels that adding salt actually kills the intrinsic flavour in vegetables.

One level teaspoon of salt or 5g provides about 2,300mg of sodium. Most Indians consume more than this amount. “Usually Indians have around 8.5g of salt per day, which is much higher than the 5g recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO),” says K. Damayanti, a scientist at the National Institute of Nutrition in Hyderabad. Sodium and chloride, both available in salt, help to keep the level of fluids in the body balanced. Chloride is not too harmful to the body, but an overdose of sodium has been directly linked to an increase in blood pressure (hypertension) and cardiovascular diseases.

According to Dr Damayanti, “sedentary workers”, or people with desk jobs, need no more than 5g of salt per day. “This amount of salt gives 2,000mg of sodium to the body, which is more than enough for healthy Indian adults working in offices,” she says. The number changes, according to her, if you are sweating too much—either due to the environment or physical exercise. “For people working in rural areas in heat conditions or for athletes, 7-8g of salt every day is more than enough.”

According to a study conducted by WHO, higher salt intake (about 7-10g) leads to a 23% higher risk of stroke and 17% higher risk of cardiovascular diseases.

“When we eat more salt than the body needs, it gets accumulated in every cell in our body. This is similar to toxic waste,” explains Ramesh Hotchandani, consultant in nephrology at Moolchand Medcity, New Delhi. “The effect of this on your cells is similar to what happens when salt is sprinkled on to vegetables or fruits. They wilt because the salt draws out their water. The same thing happens inside your body to your organs and cells,” adds Vijaya Venkat, founder and director of the Health Awareness Centre in Mumbai, which has been doing research on nutrition for the last 20 years and helps people adopt healthier lifestyles.

Usually our body is efficient and can get rid of this toxic waste. Drinking a lot of water helps rid the body of excess salt accumulation. “The salts accumulated in the body come out in the form of urine and sweat,” says Dr Hotchandani. In the long term, a habit of excessive salt intake causes blood pressure to rise, leading to hypertension and eventually, to heart-related problems. “Your body retains water within its system to neutralize the salt’s acidic effect,” explains Venkat. “An ounce of salt can hold three quarts of water within the system. This increases the pressure in your arteries, leading to an increase in blood pressure.”

BLOCK HIDDEN SOURCES

Stop excess salt from entering your body on the sly

Kick the salt shaker

Table salt contains the highest levels of sodium. Once it’s off the table, you will resist the tendency to sprinkle salt on cooked food as well as fresh ones such as curd, salads and fruits.

Limit use while cooking

“Don’t use more than 2-3g of salt in your daily cooking,” says Taru Agarwal, researcher, Nutri-Health Systems, in Delhi. “Start by reducing salt in cooking and in recipes to half the amount,” says nutritionist Ishi Khosla, Whole Foods, Delhi. To keep a measure, create a 3g pouch for your daily needs. “Use salt only from this pouch, whether in cooked or uncooked food,” says Ramesh Hotchandani, consultant in nephrology at Moolchand Medcity, New Delhi, who uses this technique to help hypertensive patients limit their intake of salt content. Sprinkle salt on food after it is cooked. You will find you are using less salt if you cook this way.

Avoid processed foods and condiments

Today, almost all processed foods contain salt; the question is how much. “Considering that we consume salt in everything from baby food to invisible additives found in all processed food, our ‘disguised’ consumption of salt is really very high,” says Vijaya Venkat, founder and director of the Health Awareness Centre in Mumbai. Processed foods such as bread, chips, ‘khakra’, ‘papad’, breakfast cereals, salty snacks, ready-to-eat meals, canned soups, biscuits, salted butter, cheese—all have high salt and sodium content. A tablespoon of regular ketchup, for example, has a whopping 160-190mg of sodium.

Avoid processed foods wherever you can and replace them with easy-to-make recipes using raw food materials. Make your own sauces using your favourite salt substitute or herb/spice blend. “Use low salt soy sauce diluted with lemon juice,” suggests Khosla. Balsamic vinegar or olive oil are also good replacements. Anything that has been pickled, packed in brine or canned contains a high amount of sodium. Avoid it.

Use spices instead of salt

Salt is a kind of flavour that our taste buds have got used to. Condition yourself to enjoy other flavours such as spices, lemon, lime, vinegar, or salt-free seasoning blends of herbs such as oregano, basil, dill, rosemary or thyme. Garlic is another strong flavour that can replace the need for salt with practice. Fresh lime, mango, tamarind, ‘kokum’, celery and seaweed can be used as substitute condiments instead of salt, suggests Venkat.

Also see properties of various types of salt, here

Fortify your online avatar

At a time when you’re under constant threat from viruses, malware and phishing, these simple precautions can help you browse the Net securely

Shweta Taneja

On receiving an email about a lucrative moneymaking scheme, Sri Kumara registered as a member for free on the website www.legend-mails.com. The idea was simple—get paid to receive emails. To maximize his profits, within a month he upgraded himself to a diamond membership on the site by paying $269 (Rs. 12,110). After the payment, he got no response to his emails. He also never received any of the money promised by the site.

Stay alert: Use different passwords for various online activities. Raajan/Mint

If you think you will never fall for a cyber trap like Kumara, think again. Seventy-six per cent of digital Indians have experienced some form of cyber crime, according to a Norton Cybercrime Report published last month. The world average is 65%.

Though viruses and malware top the list in online crime, such phishing emails are fast catching up. If you haven’t faced a virus threat, a password attack or a genuine-looking phishing email, count yourself lucky. But there is no harm in being prepared. Here are simple tips to browse securely.

Give out information only on secure sites

Any site which asks for your personal information (login ID, password, bank account details, credit card information), be it bank sites, shopping sites or email accounts, should have secure network indicators. First, check if the site has https written before its address. “Most websites are http only. An https site means it’s secure and encrypted,” says Ankit Fadia, an ethical hacker who works with the Union government on cyber crime, is the host of MTV What the Hack and has written 14 books on computer security.

An alternative symbol for a secure site is a small yellow padlock on the bottom left of your browser. Another one is when your URL bar goes green. “These symbols mean that other people in the same network cannot tie up into your communication or conversation. One of these pointers needs to be there before you enter any personal details online,” says Fadia.

“The most common mistake people make online is yielding to greed,” says G. Sivakumar, professor, department of computer science and engineering, IIT Bombay. “Expecting to win prizes, lotteries or receive handsome amounts of money, many users give away valuable personal information and also infect their computers with malware.” There are no free lunches, he stresses. If an email, especially by a stranger, makes an offer which is too good to be true, one should simply delete it.

Stay vigilant on your browser

Tab napping, a phishing scam, targets users who open lots of tabs on their browser at the same time. It replaces an inactive browser tab with a fake page set up specifically to obtain your personal data, such as a bank site. “You won’t even realize that it’s happening,” says Fadia. So if the bank site is open on a particular tab while you are working on another one, when you return to it, double-check before you enter the data. Malicious code can replace the Web page you opened with a fake version that looks virtually identical to the legitimate one. “Always retype a website address and then add your bank account or password to it,” he adds.

Also, almost all browsers support a private browsing mode. Make use of it. “This prevents storage of cookies and other personal information on the computer and makes it less vulnerable,” says Sivakumar.

Always cross-check bank emails with the bank

Especially if it’s asking for your account information or your I-pin. “A bank will never send out an email to ask for your account information,” says Vakul Sharma, a Supreme Court

advocate who has been dealing with cases of cyber crime. If you have any doubts, call up the bank and countercheck to see if they have sent out any emails. As a rule, be as stringent online as you would be in the real world. Would you provide your ATM pin to a person who comes knocking on your door and claims to be from the bank? Treat emails from the bank the same way. “Never input any sensitive information that might help provide access to your bank accounts, even if the link shows a page which appears legitimate,” warns Sharma.

Be alert when shopping online

Online shopping is one place where having multiple identities is recommended. “Use different IDs/email

addresses and passwords for various online activities,” suggests Sivakumar. Have a credit card meant only for online transactions. It should have a small credit limit so that in case someone else uses it, your losses are not too high.

Stick to a reputed website for shopping and use the virtual keyboard to enter details wherever you have the option. “Criminals use key loggers to record your passwords so a virtual keyboard is another level of protection,” says Fadia.

Opt for a secure password

“The most common reason for identity theft online is an easy-to-crack password,” says Sivakumar. According to him, a good password is a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and one or more symbols such as !, @, # and ,.

Read the complete story here.

Heart of the Matter

Smoking, stress and a sedentary lifestyle have ensured that heart attacks are no longer affecting just the elderly. We tell you why even the smallest signal should ring alarm bells, and what you can do to manage your heart better

Shweta Taneja & Benita Sen

Changing lifestyles, irregular diets and chain-smoking have made heart diseases knock at the doors of our peers, friends, neighbours and sometimes even that young nephew. According to a study published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research (IJMR) this month, cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are projected to be the main cause of disability and mortality by 2020. It is predicted that 2.6 million Indians will die due to coronary heart disease; this would be 54% of all CVD deaths. Coronary heart disease is a condition characterized by the build-up of plaque in the coronary arteries; any disorder related to the heart and blood vessels, including coronary heart disease (heart attacks), is part of CVD.

The study points out that CVD-related deaths occur a decade earlier among Indians than among their counterparts in developed countries—in their most productive years, rather than post retirement. Keshava R., interventional cardiologist, Fortis Hospital Bangalore, says: “Ten years ago, we were getting about one person in their 20s for heart attacks. Today, that number in our hospital has become 1-2 every month.”

The reason for the high rate of CVDs in our urban population is not related only to genetics, though Asians are predisposed to weaker hearts than their European counterparts. The culprit is changed lifestyles and the fact that Indians don’t get regular check- ups. In fact, on World Heart Day (Sunday) Max Healthcare released a survey encompassing inputs from 1,000 employees from organizations such as GE India, JK Tyres, L&T, Eveready, Wipro and Hughes Systique, indicating that 76% of the employees of these companies have never had a cardiac check-up and 38% were simply not aware how a healthier lifestyle would affect their heart.

In the following case studies, we talk to three men in their 20s-40s who had to unexpectedly deal with heart-related illnesses. They are now back to their normal lives, wiser, healthier, fitter and more attuned to their hearts, but these stories tell you why even the smallest signal should ring alarm bells and how you can manage your heart better.

BV Preran, Bangalore

First heart attack at 27

Past life: It was mostly peer pressure that prompted B.V. Preran, 27, a businessman in Doballapur, a small town near Bangalore, to experiment with drugs, cigarettes and alcohol since his school days. He joined his father’s business in 2001, and to beat work stress, he started smoking and drinking excessively. “I was smoking 10-15 cigarettes a day, mostly spiked with ganja (marijuana).”

On 10 July, he was out partying with friends when Preran felt shooting pain in his chest, neck and left forearm. His friends rushed him to a general physician, who assumed that since Preran was only 27 his problem was gastritis-related; he gave him medication for that. When the pain didn’t subside, Preran’s mother took him to Fortis Hospital in Bangalore and the doctor on duty, on a hunch, sent him for an ECG. The result showed that his left ventricle was blocked and he was having a heart attack. He had an angioplasty that morning.

Turnaround mantra: Just under three months later, Preran is a changed man. He has given up smoking and drugs completely. He walks an hour daily. Apart from regular check-ups, he has adopted a diet plan that includes more vegetables, pulses and white meat. He has stopped eating out and sticks to home-cooked food, cooked in very little oil. He has also become an evangelist for “No Smoking”.

Doctor’s verdict: “When a patient as young as Preran complains of a burning sensation around the chest area, doctors tend to diagnose it as acidity. Thankfully for him, the doctor on duty suggested an ECG because he realized that Preran was a chain smoker,” says Dr Keshava R., who did the angioplasty. According to Dr Keshava, common reasons for a heart attack in the early 20s are excessive smoking or genetic predisposition. “In your early 20s, the body is too young to suffer because of a cholesterol build-up. Smoking, however, is damaging, whether it is one cigarette or 15,” he says. He stresses that all patients should quit smoking 100%. “If a heart attack doesn’t induce them to quit smoking in the first two weeks after an operation, nothing will.” Stick to a vegetarian diet, avoid all red meats and exercise for at least 150 minutes per week. “Brisk walk is the cheapest and the best,” he adds.

Read the complete story here.

A special thank you to Preran for being frank in the story!

Keeping it short and sweet

A friend tweeted about her company’s requirement of mobile content creators. Now the term is understandable if rather pretentious (like using sales executive rather than the obvious salesman). But what I want to talk about here is what these content creators are actually doing and getting paid oodles of money for. What does a person who writes for mobile phones actually write? So I search and found it out: The mobile content creators write SMSes, one-liners for blogs or websites. Basically single liners which intrigue the reader, catch her attention and make her click and read. It means someone who can provide catchy one-liners which fit into the browser space of a small mobile screen and incite the user to click on it. For most of us, with our Tweet-long attention span, we give only a nano second to an SMS or tweet. In than time, we want someone to goad us with interesting headlines or single line sum ups of stories.

With more people getting hooked to this mobiles for content, I think this is here to stay. Easy money you think? Try writing one SMS with a 140 character limit and you will know. It does takes sheer creativity and ingenious to write that one liner; to sum up a whole story in a single line. It’s the same as writing a novel, which btw I think is fast becoming a dinosaur. I hear less and less people talking about reading novels. Especially the younger ‘uns.

Wonder if I should try my hand at a tweet-novel. Bet someone out there is doing it. Lemme find out.