When it comes to COVID-19, make sure your kids get vaccinated
Michael Jordan admits he’s missed more than 9,000 shots in his career. Golfer Nancy Lopez knows every shot is a challenge; she says “Do your best one shot at a time and then move on.”
Those two thoughts are kind of like the COVID-19 vaccination rate in the U.S. Around 100 million Americans have missed getting both COVID-19 shots. But about 67 percent (222,455,652 people) have completed the two-shot vaccination regimen.
Recently children six-months to five-years old were OK’d for the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines (with a reduced dose). But out of the 60 million kids in the U.S., only about 300,000 — or 2 percent — have received at least one shot since it was recommended in June. The American Medical Association wants you to know that “children can become severely ill from COVID-19, be hospitalized and even die.”
In fact, COVID-19 was one of the leading causes of death in kids over the past two years and even children with no underlying medical conditions can have short- and long-term mental and physical complications from the virus.
The smart move: Talk to your pediatrician about getting your infant or young children vaccinated. Yes, there are risks to any vaccine, but the benefit-to-risk ratio for this one is well over 100 to 1 for those under five years old. That’s not as great as the 50,000 to one benefit to adults over 70, but still a substantial benefit over risk. Visit these AMA-recommended websites for more info on the vaccine: getvaccineanswers.org, familydoctor.org/vaccines and HealthyChildren.org.
33 ways you can prevent dementia
Twelve-step programs help people overcome self-destructive behaviors such as alcohol or drug abuse. Millions of people attend such groups every year. Well, I’d like to suggest a new 33-step group to stop brain abuse — and prevent dementia.
In 2017, the Lancet Commission identified nine modifiable dementia risk factors: high blood pressure, lower education levels, impaired hearing, smoking, obesity, depression, physical inactivity, diabetes and low levels of social contact. In 2020, they added three more: excessive alcohol consumption, traumatic brain injuries and air pollution. They declared that 40 percent of dementia cases worldwide might be able to be prevented or delayed if those 12 risk factors were eliminated.
Now a study in JAMA Neurology has uncovered one more dementia risk: vision problems. And the researchers have determined that while more than 62 percent of dementia cases are associated with the 12 risk factors (the greatest risk is high blood pressure), more than 100,000 current dementia cases in the U.S. might have been prevented through healthy vision.
I would like to add another 20 positive steps you can take that help protect you from dementia: They include everything from speed of processing games to taking DHA and enjoying a 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and four cups of black coffee every day. Soon you’ll be able to read about them all at GreatAgeReboot.com and in my upcoming book, “The Great Age Reboot.” For now, get started with the 13 steps to a healthier brain and discover what you can change in your life that will offer you a younger, brain-healthier future.
How to ease chronic pain with your mind
Introduced to the U.S. by Jon Kabat-Zinn in the 1970s as a way to help patients who were not responding to medical treatment, mindful meditation is acknowledged to help people deal with difficult emotional and physical symptoms. “Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, nonjudgmentally,” says Kabat-Zinn.
Now, researchers have looked at how that technique helps people reduce chronic pain. For their study, published in the journal Pain, they first did brain scans of participants to see how they reacted neurologically to painful heat on the skin and then did scans to see how they reacted when they did mindful meditation when painful heat was applied.
The researchers say mindfulness meditation altered communication between the parts of the brain involved in pain sensations and areas that give a person a sense of self. The hypothesis is that pain sensations still travel from the site of the pain to the brain but once there the participants didn’t feel particularly attached to the pain sensations, so they felt them less. Whatever the cause, participants reported a 32 percent and 33 percent reduction in pain intensity and pain unpleasantness respectively.
If you’re interested in reducing chronic pain, check out meditation instructions at mindful.org and health.clevelandclinic.org. Also, many health care systems, like the Cleveland Clinic, have chronic pain centers that can instruct you in meditation, as well as provide an anti-inflammatory diet and encourage beneficial physical activity. The Clinic’s program has been shown to reduce participants’ chronic pain by over 60 percent.
Adverse drug reactions are an increasing risk for many
A rising tide may float all boats — at least according to an old adage that suggests a good economy lifts everyone up. But these days, the rising tide of adverse drug interactions and reactions could leave you up the creek without a paddle.
The Food and Drug Administration said that in 2018, some studies estimated 6.7 percent of hospitalized patients had a serious adverse drug reaction. And, they said, if that were correct then there were more than 2.2 million serious ADRs in hospitalized patients, causing more than 106,000 deaths annually.
Now a new study in BMJ Open shows that 16.5 percent of hospital admissions in the U.K. are caused by, or complicated by, an adverse reaction to a medicine. The medications most often involved in ADRs were diuretics, steroid inhalers, anticoagulants and antiplatelet, proton pump inhibitors, chemotherapeutic agents and high blood pressure meds.
As evermore people take multiple medications for multiple chronic conditions, there is good reason to think that kind of increase in ADRs is happening here, too. More than half of U.S. adults age 65 and older report taking four or more prescription drugs, and, overall, 23.5 percent of women and 21.1 percent of men use five or more prescription drugs regularly.
To protect yourself:
■ Make sure all your doctors know about all the meds you’re taking.
■ Insist they examine potential interactions between them.
■ Ask if you still need to be taking each of the medications.
■ Alert each doctor if you are having symptoms that seem odd or not related to a specific infection or condition.
The increased risks of smoking with prediabetes or diabetes
When it comes to smoking, there’s some good news: In the U.S., smoking has declined from 20.9 percent of adults in 2005 to 12.5 percent in 2020. However, that means that around 30.8 million adults currently smoke cigarettes. And a lot of those folks have prediabetes or diabetes.
We know that because studies show that people who smoke cigarettes are 30 percent to 40 percent more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than people who don’t smoke. And once they get diabetes, they’re more likely than those who don’t smoke to have trouble managing their condition.
Well, here’s another major risk to smokers with prediabetes and diabetes — elevated blood levels of a protein called albumin, a sign of cardiovascular and kidney problems.
A study in eClinicalMedicine looked at around 170,000 participants in the U.K. Biobank and found that smokers with prediabetes or diabetes were around 21 percent to 26 percent more likely to develop albuminuria as nonsmokers with those conditions.
A healthy kidney prevents albumin from passing from the blood into urine, but when there is damage to small blood vessels in the kidney, albumin can be detected in the urine. Ultimately, albuminuria is associated with stroke and cardiovascular diseases as well as kidney disease.
Stopping smoking is always smart, but to keep albumin out of your urine, you also need to avoid weight gain around the waistline once you quit smoking. Other helpful techniques to reduce or prevent albumin in your blood include taking anti-hypertensives called ACE inhibitors, losing weight, reducing sodium intake and eating smaller potions of lean or plant-based proteins.
Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic.