The good news and the bad news — which do you want first?
A study once showed that when given the choice, folks prefer to hear bad news first, good news after. But news givers are inclined to deliver good news first. When it comes to long COVID-19 and breakthrough infections among people who are vaccinated, you win — here’s the bad news first.
According to a study published in Nature Medicine, about a third of folks who have been fully vaccinated (but not boosted) and then experience a BTI, develop long COVID-19. That means that they are more likely to contend with cardiovascular, coagulation and hematologic, gastrointestinal, kidney, mental health, metabolic, musculoskeletal and/or neurologic disorders — and death — 30 or more days post-infection than folks who have never had COVID-19.
The good news? The study shows that being vaccinated leads to a 15 percent reduction in long COVID-19 symptoms related to lung and blood clot disorders for up to six months after a breakthrough infection. (More bad news: the vaccination seems to do little to protect from other symptoms.)
The study that generated these findings looked at almost 40,000 people in the Veterans Affairs database and found that around 10.65 of every 1,000 people who were fully vaccinated developed a BTI. Their conclusion: While vaccination offers some protection, it is still important to protect yourself from possible infection.
I suggest that handwashing and mask-wearing don’t take much effort, but the protection they offer may be life-changing, even if you’re vaccinated.
And P.S., get twice boosted if you qualify. Most probably, it gives you a lot more protection from BTIs.
Good news on dodging dementia, even with a genetic risk
The idea of the positive power of the number seven is found around the world: There are seven heavens in Islam and Judaism. In Confucianism, seven expresses the harmonious relationship between yin, yang and the five elements. In Hinduism, there are seven higher worlds. The newborn Buddha takes seven steps. Now, you can add Life’s Simple 7 to that list. It’s also a path to enlightenment, since it protects your brain from dementia.
A study in JAMA Neurology found that following the American Heart Association’s “Life’s Simple 7” guidelines dramatically reduces the chance of developing cognition problems, even for folks with a high genetic risk for dementia. High risk comes when you have one or more copies of a gene called APOE4, a variant of apolipoprotein, which encodes proteins carrying cholesterol around the brain and interferes with waste removal from the brain.
The Simple 7? Manage blood pressure; control cholesterol; reduce blood sugar; get active; eat better; lose weight; stop smoking.
The study tracked 11,561 folks, mean age 54, for 30 years and found that adopting those behaviors in midlife offers the best protection. It’s not as hard as it might sound: If you eat better, get active and lose weight, chances are you’ll also control cholesterol and blood pressure and reduce blood sugar levels.
For tips on how to do that, check out my books, “This is YOUR Do-Over,” “What to Eat When” and “The What to Eat When Cookbook.” These have info on nutrition, building an exercise program and quitting smoking.
Tiny bits of air pollution increase the risk of stroke-related death
Evel Knievel once said, “I love the feeling of the fresh air on my face and the wind blowing through my hair.” It’s hard to disagree on the virtue of fresh air.
This just in from a new study in Neurology: Particulate matter pollution, especially containing ultra-small micron-sized bits, is a risk factor for stroke-related death in people hospitalized for stroke.
That study looked at the dangers associated with exposure to the smallest particulate pollutants. They come from on — and off-road vehicle exhausts, burning wood, heating oil or coal and forest and grass fires. Indoor sources include tobacco smoke from cigarettes and particulate matter from vaping and water pipes, cooking, burning candles or oil lamps, and fireplaces. The researchers found that the smallest particulate matter invades the deepest parts of your lungs and gets into your bloodstream, where it creates inflammation and damages your cardiorespiratory system, upping your risk of dying from stroke.
How can you dodge the risks of fine particulate matter pollution?
■ Check AirNow.gov for your area’s air-quality reading.
■ When there are alerts, avoid strenuous outdoor exercise. Stay clear of busy roads where particulate matter is usually worse.
■ Install whole house HEPA filters on your heating/cooling system or use room HEPA air filters.
■ Wear an N95/KN95 face mask when outside on highly polluted days, especially if you have asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
■ Tell your representatives in Congress that we could prevent 53,000 premature deaths and provide more than $608 billion in benefits annually from avoided illness and death if fine particulate matter pollution was removed.
One more benefit of a plant-based diet: easy breathing
Young adults, ages 18 to 30, are notorious for their casual attitude about nutrition — around 60 percent only get one to two servings daily of fruits and vegetables. In contrast, the average American eats about 83 pounds of beef a year, the equivalent of 333 quarter-pounders! That’s enough to take your breath away — literally.
A study presented at the American Thoracic Society 2022 Conference reveals that, especially for smokers and ever-smokers, folks whose diet as a young adult, ages 18 to 30, was woefully short on fresh produce and long on beef and unhealthy fats are 60 percent more likely to develop emphysema than people who ate a plant-based diet as young adults.
Tracking the participants in the CARDIA study for 30 years, the researchers discovered that while smoking is a huge factor in respiratory problems, it is not the only one. When combined with poor nutrition in younger years, it delivers a superdestructive blow to your lungs. Add that to the news that in 2017, more than 1 million teens, ages 14 to 17, became new daily tobacco users (75 percent through vaping) and we have a nation of future emphysema sufferers — unless we act now.
Parents, help your kids, teens and young adults appreciate the joys of loving food that loves you back! Kids, dig into plant-based food options, on the run and cooked at home. Mom and Dad, don’t assume your teen doesn’t vape. Show them the facts at CDC.gov — search for “Quick Facts on the Risks of E-cigarettes for Kids, Teens and Young Adults.” Help them enjoy an active life for years to come.
Weight loss dramatically increases sperm count in obese men
Since 1980, the fertility rate for men younger than age 30 has decreased by 15 percent. At the same time, according to a 2020 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, the rate of obesity increased to 40.3 percent among men age 20-39, 46.45 percent in men 40-59, and 42.25 percent in those age 60 and over. How are these stats related? A Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health study found that obese men were 42 percent more likely to have a low sperm count than their normal-weight peers and 81 percent more likely to produce no sperm.
Obese fathers-to-be looking for solutions to fertility woes can take heart from a study in Human Reproduction. Researchers looked at 56 obese men, ages 18-65, with a BMI between 32 and 43. The men lost on average 36.4 pounds, and eight weeks after the weight loss, their sperm concentration had increased by 50 percent. Plus, if the men maintained the weight loss for 52 weeks, their sperm count went up 200 percent! (Other benefits? You’ll gain a healthier heart and better erections long-term.)
The formula that gave sperm the big boost: A combination of an 800-calorie-a-day diet for eight weeks followed by a year-long regimen of medication (a Glucagon Like Peptide 1 [GLP-1] analogue liraglutide) and exercise. The workout: 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise or a combination of both — at 80 percent of max heartrate. So if you’re struggling with fertility issues, talk to your doctor about adopting this weight loss-physical activity plan.
Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic.