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)

Alcohol May Not Prevent Heart Disease in All

women drinking at bar together

There’s been a lot of press over the last several years about how alcohol might affect our health for the better. Several studies that have looked at large groups of people and found that a moderate amount of alcohol consumption (one drink for women, two for men) every day decreases the risk for coronary artery disease when compared to those who don’t drink anything at all or those who drink too much. But a new study out this week indicates there may be some nuance to that claim. Read more  »

Sharecare Top 5: 10 Secrets to a Happy Relationship, Diabetes-Friendly Foods and Dental Care Do’s and Don’ts

healthy teeth

On Sharecare we’re dishing out the secrets to a long-lasting relationship, sharing delicious recipes from the American Diabetes Association and giving you easy tips to take care of those pearly whites.

1. A diet for diabetes doesn’t have to be bland. In honor of American Diabetes Month, try these comfort food recipes that will satisfy your taste buds and your diabetic meal plan.

2. Sizzling sex is great, but that’s not what creates strong relationships. Discover 10 simple things real-life couples do to keep love alive.

3. Despite countless products that polish, cleanse and protect teeth, most people don’t have terrific oral-care routines. Dr. Mehmet Oz and Mike Roizen give you five ways to improve your daily dental care.

4. Ebola’s still a hot topic, but there’s no need to panic or worry. Get the facts–and a healthy perspective–about your risk of getting the deadly virus.

5. Stressed? Grab a friend and share a secret. Find out how this surprising tip can help relieve stress, lower blood pressure and boost immunity.