Sharecare Top 5: 6 Surprising Migraine Triggers, Good News for Your Heart and Tips for Healthier Joints This Winter

woman-with-headache

On Sharecare we’re serving up tips in honor of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, help for stiff joints in cold weather, and a quick way to lower your risk of heart disease.

1. Don’t wait until New Year’s to pledge a healthier lifestyle–start now. Watch this video to see how health trackers, apps and wearables can give your body and mind a boost.

2. The end of the year means fireside conversations, hot cocoa and holiday cheer. Unfortunately for many, it also means joint soreness brought on by colder temperatures. You can’t change the weather, but eliminating these seven foods from your diet may improve how your joints feel.

3. Even if you steer clear of all common migraine triggers, there’s still a chance you’ll get a mind-splitting headache. Find out some surprising things that may set off the throbbing and how you can get a handle on migraine pain.

4. Whether you or a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease, living with the dreaded condition can be exhausting. Check out these five important lessons from our experts on how to make caring for those with Alzheimer’s just a little bit easier.

5. Eating fruits isn’t just great for your waistline; your heart also reaps major benefits. Pump up your heart health with these simple tips–including how to get more fruit in your diet–from Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Mike Roizen.

Today’s Headlines: Flu Shot, Vitamin Supplements and Cervical Cancer

The flu shot protects seniors during flu season. While it might seem obvious to say that the flu vaccine protects against the flu, the strain each year is slightly different and the effectiveness can vary as a result. A team reviewed studies published in the past about effectiveness in older adults and looked to see how well it worked. “During regional or widespread seasonal flu outbreaks, elderly people who had received the flu vaccine were 28 percent to 58 percent less likely than others to test positive for a flu infection. The protective effect was strongest when the vaccine matched the circulating strain of the virus that year, but was somewhat effective even when mismatched. ” This information is important because the elderly are often hardest hit by the flu and make up 90% of those who die from the virus every year. “In the U.S., seniors get the vaccine more than any other age group. But about 30 percent still do not get the shot, likely due to poor health or an inability to get to a clinic for a shot.” (Fox)

B12 and folate supplements may not stop dementia. There are many purported benefits of vitamin supplements and past research had indicated that B12 and folate supplements might help stave off Alzheimer’s disease. This is because without these vitamins, a chemical called homocysteine that’s been linked to stroke and dementia can be high in the blood. “But in one of the largest studies to date, there was no difference in memory test scores between those who had taken the supplements for two years and those who were given a placebo. All those taking part in the trial had high blood levels of homocysteine, which did drop more in those taking the supplements. But on four different tests of memory and thinking skills taken at the start and end of the study, there was no beneficial effect of the supplements on performance. The researchers did note that the supplements might slightly slow the rate of decline but concluded the small difference they detected could just have been down to chance.” The researchers point out that a healthy and balanced diet should provide plenty of B12 and folate without supplementation. (BBC)

Low HPV vaccination rates predict high cervical cancer rates. The HPV vaccine has been shown to reliably prevent infection with the HPV virus. That infection in the cervix of women can lead to cervical cancer, a devastating and deadly disease that kills about 4000 women every year. Countries like Australia that have started comprehensive vaccination programs among children have already seen dramatic drops in precancerous lesions found in women. Now the U.S. has data of its own. “States that have the lowest vaccination rates for human papillomavirus (HPV) also have the highest rates of cervical cancer and deaths from the disease. In states like Florida, Mississippi, and Arkansas, the opposite was true. In Arkansas, the cervical cancer rate is 10 per 100,000 women and vaccination rate is 41%.” The opposite was also true. “Northeastern states including Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont had high vaccination rates and some of the lowest rates of cervical cancer. About 6 per 100,000 women develop cervical cancer each year in Massachusetts, and 69% of teen girls have been vaccinated for HPV.” (TIME)

Blocked Brain Protein Linked to Depression in Mice, Humans

Portrait of a sad womanDepression is a global problem. The latest numbers from the WHO rank it first amongst disabling diseases worldwide over other contenders like heart disease, stroke and cancer. That’s because many who live with depression struggle with it for the entirety of their lives. A recent survey done in U.S. workers found that nearly a quarter suffered from depression at some point, and 40% of them take an average of 10 days off work per year because of it. Read more  »

Learning to Swallow Even the Most Troublesome Pills

Woman taking pills

I remember when my kids were getting older and my wife and I started to switch them from tasty syrups to tasteless pills. While swallowing pills is a skill many of us take for granted, a large cold and flu capsule can remind us just how hard and unpleasant it can be to get medications down. As a doctor, most of the medications I prescribe come in pill form and I often forget that many adults struggle with swallowing their meds. Read more  »

The Seeds to Eat for Longevity

Hemp Seeds

If you are a health nut, then you may want to consider stocking up on seeds this fall! Despite their tiny size, seeds are saturated with heart-healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and protein. Read on to discover which seeds are sprouting with loads of nutrients and flavor so you can munch your way to longevity!

A daily handful of seeds can help improve your muscle tone and circulation. They are abundant in the amino acid arginine, which helps fight heart disease, infertility, high blood pressure and impotence. Recognized for its anti-aging properties, arginine stimulates the pituitary gland at the base of the brain to release growth hormone. As we age, this growth hormone diminishes and can lead to cognitive decline, decreased muscle mass and sexual dysfunction. Here are three wonderful seeds to include in your longevity plan: Read more  »

Today’s Headlines: Eating Ice, Marijuana and Feeling Young

Chewing on ice boosts focus in those who are anemic. Women often become anemic, and doctors have known for some time that this iron deficiency can lead to a strange desire to eat ice. While the phenomenon, called pica, is well known, the reason for the desire is not. “A new study proposes that, like a strong cup of coffee, ice may give those with insufficient iron a much-needed mental boost. Fatigue is the most common symptom of iron-deficiency anemia, which occurs when the body can’t produce enough oxygen-carrying hemoglobin because of low iron.” The study subjected healthy and anemic participants to an attention test and looked to see how drinking water or eating ice might change performance. “Iron-deficient subjects who had sipped on water performed far more sluggishly on the test than controls, as expected. But those who ate ice beforehand did just as well as their healthy counterparts. For healthy subjects, having a cup of ice instead of water appeared to make no difference in test performance.” As per one of the researchers, “It’s not like craving a dessert. It’s more like needing a cup of coffee or that cigarette.” (Washington Post)

Marijuana found to decrease brain tissue, lower IQ. With marijuana legalization sweeping across the nation, many users are lauding the increased ease with which they’ll be able to get their high. But it seems like the drug is not without its dangers according to a new study out this week. “The study found that the average marijuana user’s IQ was about five points lower than that of a nonuser. The earlier the study participants began consuming the drug, the worse the condition of the brain. The study, which compared almost 50 marijuana users to a control group, suggests that at first brains affected by marijuana compensate for the deficit in decision-making brain volume by increasing connectivity, a key brain function. But marijuana-affected brains can’t keep up in the long term.”  While the study  shows only a correlation, meaning there could be other potential causes for the changes, the findings are consistent with the damage seen in animals exposed for long periods of time. “The study joins a growing body of evidence that marijuana harms the brains of young people.” (TIME)

Feeling younger helps boost brain youth. There are some people who seem years younger than they really are. According to new research, it may have a lot to do with attitude. “The study looked at men and women 50 to 75 years old and found that 89% felt younger and 11% felt older than their actual age. Those who felt older than their age scored 25% lower on memory and cognitive tests than those who felt younger.” The reason for the effect may be complex and have to do both with how a person is thinking and the healthy behaviors they engage in as a result of feeling younger. “The study comes as recent research suggests aging is both a subjective and biological experience. A younger self-image was more common in physically active people with a lower body-mass index, the latest study found.” The researchers say the finding might help doctors identify individuals who may need to be monitored more closely for cognitive decline. Feeling older than your actual age may indicate a risk for dementia sooner than those who feel younger. (WSJ)