tea good health

Tea Leads to Good Overall Health

To our concierge family practice doctors in Jupiter, Florida, tea is the second-best beverage you can drink for good health. It comes as a close second, of course, to drinking water.

The practice of brewing leaves appears to go back at least 5,000 years, but its actual origins are hazy. The most persistent legend concerns a Chinese emperor who drank a bowl of hot water that was boiled for sanitary purposes. He was in his garden when a few leaves fell into his bowl, surprising him with the resulting pleasant flavor.

But a great deal of recent research has found there’s far more to be found in a cup of tea than a soothing drink.

Read more
Heartburn at Home

Heartburn: How to Handle the Heat

Whoever dubbed the searing pain of acid indigestion “heartburn” got it right. The (usually) benign phenomenon can come on suddenly and have you wishing for an internal fire extinguisher to make it stop. Fast.

An estimated 60 million Americans experience heartburn at least once a month. Because it’s so common, our concierge doctors in Jupiter, Florida, want to explore the causes of heartburn, ways to prevent and treat it, and when you should be concerned about it.

Read more
best face mask

Which Type of Face Mask Is Best?

We’ve been living with the coronavirus pandemic for a year now. Our concierge doctors are seeing more and more claims regarding special types of face masks that will supposedly offer more protection from the virus.

We’re also getting more questions from our patients on this subject. Especially now that at least three variants (mutations) of the coronavirus have been identified as circulating in this country.

So we thought we’d tell you what we know to date on how to find the best face mask.

Anti-microbial masks

Manufacturers have been producing so-called “anti-microbial” facemasks for months now. They claim to offer greater protection against the coronavirus. In Europe, brands such as Under Armour, Burberry, and Diesel have been marketing masks said to reduce viral activity that comes in contact with their masks.

Experts are dubious about these assertions. In the U.S., firms are prohibited from making claims like this without providing evidence. Neither the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) nor the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has so-far approved anti-microbial masks to prevent the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Amy Price, a senior research scientists at Stanford Anesthesia Infomatics and Media (AIM) lab, advised the World Health Organization (WHO) on its face mask guidelines.

“The challenge is that sometimes claims are made, but they aren’t tested on the actual masks with the actual virus,” she told CNN on a video conference call. “So they’re like gimmicks.”

Dr. Charlaynn Harris, Ph.D., MPH, senior epidemiologist at Unity Band, makers of a wearable COVID-19 tracker, told POPSUGAR she wouldn’t recommend any mask not fully vetted by the FDA.

“I do feel as though these products could lead to false security for the wearer,” she added. “Claims of being antimicrobial lead the wearer to believe they have an added barrier against this highly infectious pathogen.”

Copper-infused masks

What about copper-infused masks, which are also selling briskly?

It turns out that it is true that copper kills viruses and other pathogens. When both bacteria and viruses come into contact with copper, they are killed “very quickly and without mercy,” Dr. Michael Schmidt told The Washington Post recently. Schmidt, professor of microbiology and immunology at the Medical University of South Carolina, studies the use of copper in health-care settings.

Comparing the reaction to “an exploding grenade,” he said viruses are no match for copper.

“The oxygen shrapnel first destroys the envelope,” of the viruses, he told The Post. “Then, additional oxygen radicals come in to destroy the viral RNA, and if the instruction set is not intact, you have no virus.”

There is a catch with copper-infused masks, however. The particles of the virus must actually come in contact with the copper strands within the mask. If it doesn’t touch the copper, it remains intact, and active. So copper-infused masks are still no guarantee of safety.

One side note on copper supplements, which are also being touted to protect from the coronavirus: Don’t take them. According to the Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), ingesting high amounts of copper can lead to liver damage. And such unfortunate gastrointestinal side effects as abdominal pain, cramps, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting.

Double-masking?

Remember that the coronavirus is transmitted primarily through the air, by both infected droplets and aerosols. This is why it so easily and stealthily passes from person to person.

And we now have three confirmed variant strains of SARS-CoV-2 in the U.S. All of which are far more transmissible than the strain we’ve been fighting for the last year.

Therefore, some experts have begun recommending that everyone wear not just one but two masks.

“The reason for that is you do wind up getting more filtration of viral particles,” Dr. Dave Hnida told CBS Denver. “It becomes more of an obstacle course for the viral particle to make its way from the air into your nose and throat and then into your lungs.”

We still have a shortage of medical-grade N95 masks, which filter out 95 percent of pathogens. So wearing two masks at the same time can offer better protection. In fact, wearing two can offer nearly the same protection as the vaccines, according to Joseph Allen, an associate professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of public Heath.

“A surgical mask with a cloth mask on top of it can get you over 91 percent removal efficiency for particles,” he told CNN.

Fit is key

Whichever type of mask you choose, if it doesn’t fit properly, it won’t work to protect you or others.

The CDC offers the following guidelines to find the best face mask for you:

  • Choose masks that have two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric.
  • Make sure the mask fits snugly against the sides of your face and doesn’t have gaps.
  • Do not choose masks that have exhalation valves or vents. These allow virus particles to escape.
  • Completely cover your nose and mouth. Note: If you have a beard, the mask cannot completely cover your nose and mouth. You might want to consider shaving it off until masks are no longer necessary.
  • If you wear a gaiter, use one with two layers, or fold it to make two layers.
  • If you wear glasses, find a mask that fits closely over your nose. Or find one with a nose wire to limit fogging.
  • Face shields are not recommended.
  • Scarves, ski masks, and balaclavas are not substitutes for masks. Wear a mask under each of these items.

Remember, the only mask that works—not only to protect yourself but also to help stop the spread of the virus—is the one that is worn consistently.

mental health pandemic

Mental Health Still a Pandemic Challenge

It’s no surprise that mental health issues have soared due to pandemic stress in recent months. Between the loneliness resulting from the pandemic isolation to worrying about us or our loved ones contracting COVID-19 to financial concerns, people are suffering.

One survey by the CDC found 40 percent of respondents were experiencing mental health issues. These mental health issues reportedly arose from the pandemic, anxiety about the coronavirus itself and the containment measures related to it.

Our concierge doctors have seen this first hand from our patients, as well. In fact, it would be surprising if everyone wasn’t feeling stress to some degree. Especially if you consider all the stressors our nation has experienced over the last few months.

You’re not alone

The CDC survey, along with others, shows that mental health concerns are widespread.

The survey found that of those who responded to the online survey:

  • 31 percent said they’d experienced symptoms of anxiety or depression
  • 26 percent said they’d experienced trauma or stressor-related disorder symptoms
  • 13 percent said they’d started or increased substance use
  • 11 percent said they’d seriously considered suicide in the last 30 days

A new study in the journal The Lancet found the quarantines are linked with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, confusion, and anger. And some research is suggesting that these symptoms may be long lasting.

The Culprit: The Pandemic

One article published last fall in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) cautioned that a wave of lingering substance abuse and mental health disorders could be building as a result of the pandemic.

“This magnitude of death over a short period of time is an international tragedy on a historic scale,” the authors wrote. “This interpersonal loss is compounded by societal disruption.”

They particularly warned of “the transformation of normal grief and distress into prolonged grief and major depressive disorder and symptoms of post-traumatic health disorder.”

Lisa Carlson, the immediate past president of the American Public Health Association, told CNN last month, “The physical aspects of the pandemic are really visible. We have supply shortages and economic stress, fear of illness, all of our disrupted routines, [and] there’s a real grief in all of that.”

Carlson, who is also an executive administrator at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, added, “We don’t have a vaccine for our mental health like we do for our physical health. So it will take longer to come out of those challenges.”

How to cope

The CDC reminds Americans that, although “public health actions such as social distancing can make people feel isolated and lonely and can increase stress and anxiety, such actions are necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19.”

And remember, the vaccines are on the way!

Meanwhile, here are some coping strategies, and places to turn to for help.

Knowledge can help alleviate stress. So know what to do if you become sick, and call us if you think you’ve contracted the virus. And learn the facts about COVID-19 from reputable organizations, not from social media or questionable sources.

Know where and how to get treatment and other support services and resources. This includes counseling and therapy, either in person or through telehealth services.

Take care of your emotional health. Caring for your emotional health will help you think clearly and better equip you to care for yourself and your family.

Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.

Take care of your body:

  • Take deep breaths, stretch, or mediate.
  • Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Get outdoors as often as possible.
  • Avoid excessive alcohol and drug use.

Make time to unwind. Try to do some activities you enjoy.

Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.

Connect with your community- or faith-based organizations online, through social media, by phone or by mail.

Get immediate help in a crisis:

  • Call 911.
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for English, 1-888-628-9454 for Spanish, or Lifeline Crisis Chat
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233, or text LOVEIS to 22522
  • Disaster Distress Helpline: Call or text 1-800-985-5990 (press 2 for Spanish)
  • National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4AChild (1-800-422-4453) or text 1-800-422-4453
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or online chat
  • The Eldercare Locator: 1-800-677-1116
  • Veteran’s Crisis Line: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text: 8388255 or Crisis Chat

To find a health care provider or treatment for substance use disorder and mental health:

  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): 1-800-HELP (4357)

Be sure to call us if stress gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row. We can help.

best diet

The Best Diet for You

The start of a new year is traditionally the time to turn the page on the bad habits and disappointments of the previous year.

Usually near the top of the list of New Year’s resolutions that people make is the decision to lose weight. And from a health perspective, our concierge doctors certainly applaud that one.

Overweight or obesity is responsible for a host of chronic diseases, from type 2 diabetes to backaches to joint pain. So you want to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, right? But which diet is best?

The problem with keto

What about the popular keto diet? Studies show that 80 percent of those who try it struggle to stick with it. Why, when it often results in huge and rapid amounts of weight loss?

First, it can it cause numerous side effects—body aches, headaches, light-headedness, nausea, fatigue and lethargy, constipation, and brain fog. Plus, all their friends are eating garlic bread and mashed potatoes (not cauliflower) with gravy and pasta. Or because they lost their job and need a regular intake of brownies to help them feel better. Or because they’re stressed about the pandemic—possible job loss, not being able to see friends and family, worried about catching the coronavirus. And that chocolate cream pie dulls the loneliness and anxiety, at least for a little while.

Because, in short, the keto diet restrictive. It has a long list of quite tasty foods that either aren’t allowed, or allowed only in small portions after a certain time.

“When you are on the keto diet, you drastically cut your carbs to only 20 per day. That’s less than one apple!” nutritionist Lisa Drayer, a CNN contributor, told the network.

The common problem

And this is the problem with all diets. Nearly all of them work as promised, but are difficult to adhere to over time. So you “cheat.” Then you cheat some more. Then you figure, why bother? You then start eating normally again and regain all the weight you lost. And you likely gain back even more.

But here’s the thing: It’s not you, it’s them. In other words, it’s the whole concept of dieting to begin with. Someone once pointed out that diet begins with the word “die,” so even if only subconsciously, the concept has a negative connotation.

In addition, our bodies were built to store calories. That’s because our ancient ancestors never knew when they’d be facing lean times, or even starvation if the mastodons they hunted migrated elsewhere. Even in more recent times, before there was such a thing as a food industry, mankind learned to store food over the winter. But it still wasn’t as abundant as during the summer months.

So we’re biologically built to store up calories to last through the lean times.

And speaking of the food industry, their entire reason for being is to get us to buy more of their product. Stores are laid out with enticing displays of sugary, fat-laden foods. Advertising constantly tempts us with photos and videos of delicious, fattening foods.

We succumb, we gain weight, and then it’s up to us to find a way to lose it. And we try a long list of diets, only to be disappointed with the results. So which one do we recommend?

The only real solution

The best diet is one that works for you, that helps you gradually lose weight, but doesn’t leave you feeling deprived or hungry all the time.

“For any given person, it’s really a matter of what they can stick with,” Michael Jensen of the Mayo Clinic told Psychology Today.

Keto might be the right choice for some people. For others, the Paleo diet, moderation, veganism, intermittent fasting, or simply cutting back on sugar and flour.

Above all, research shows the most successful diet is the one that you yourself designed. This gives you a sense of control, rather than being at the mercy of a set of restrictive rules.

“You have to have joy and pleasure in food,” Stanford University professor of medicine Christopher Gardner told The Washington Post. He has conducted numerous randomized trials to test the success rate of various diets, and found they are essentially the same.

“They agree more than they disagree,” he said. Instead, he counsels, “Limit added sugars and refined grains, and eat more non-starchy vegetables. [I]f you do those two things, you get 90 percent of the benefits.” 

If you enjoy what you eat, you’ll have a much better chance of sticking with it for the rest of your life, he added.

“[The most successful way of dieting] will be different from one person to the next, and there will never be a randomized trial of it.”

We would add that for the most wholesome way to eat, consider the Mediterranean diet. It rates number one in surveys of diets, not only for long-term weight loss, but also for ease of adherence and the healthiest outcomes.

If you have any questions about weight loss, please talk with us. We can suggest the best approach specifically for you.

effects of sitting

Sitting Is the New Smoking

If you’ve been one of those fortunate enough to be able to work at home during the pandemic, you’ve probably been glued to your chair for eight or more hours a day. At least at the office you might have been able to walk around from desk to desk, or take the stairs, or take a walk at lunch.

Whereas at home, our concierge doctors are guessing that you get very little chance to move at all. And that could be detrimental to your health.

Scientists have been researching the effects of sitting…

Researchers have known for several years that sitting for long periods is hazardous to your health. But newer studies have revealed that lack of frequent movement is even more dangerous than previously known.

Some of the results that attributed to prolonged periods of sitting include:

  • organ damage, including heart disease
  • an over-productive pancreas
  • a greater risk for colon, breast, and endometrial cancers
  • muscle degeneration
  • leg disorders, including osteoporosis
  • slower brain function

One 2011 study examined more than 800,000 people’s sitting habits. Those who sat the most during the day found they had:

  • a 112 percent increased risk of diabetes
  • a 147 percent increased risk of heart attacks and strokes
  • a 90 percent increased risk of death from CVD
  • a 49 percent risk of death from any cause

… And they continue to see similar results

Newer studies have confirmed those who spend more time sitting than moving have higher rates of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and certain cancers than people who don’t sit as long. They are also more likely to die early than their less sedentary counterparts.

One study, for example, found that adults who sat for 11 hours or more a day had a 40 percent higher risk of dying in the next three years than those who sat for less than four hours daily.

Another study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, tracked the daily movements of 7,985 adults. Participants used hip-mounted accelerometers to actually record their activity, rather than rely on self-reported data. As the total time spent sitting increased, so did the risk of death from any cause, regardless of age, sex, race, body-mass index (BMI), or exercise habits.

Those who sat for less than 30 minutes at a time had a 55 percent lower risk of death compared with those who sat longer than that.

So, yes, sitting really is as bad for your health as smoking.

Some good news

But it is possible to counteract the effects of sitting just by getting out of your chair from time to time.

The World Health Organization (WHO) released new guidelines last month to help counteract the effects of prolonged sitting, based on a new study published in a special issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM).

The WHO now says that all physical activity counts toward better long-term health. This could include anything from climbing stairs instead of taking the elevator, gardening or doing housework, taking a walk around the block, participating in a team sport, going for a run or a bike ride, or participating in a high-intensity interval training workout.

The BJSM researchers followed more than 44,000 people from four countries. They fitted each participant with activity trackers. They found that moderate to vigorous physical activity for 30-40 minutes daily brought the risk from prolonged periods of sitting down to levels associated with very low amounts of sedentary time.

What to do for your health

So, while the higher intensity workouts were better, it appears that any movement is better than nothing.

“These guidelines are very timely, given that we are in the middle of a global pandemic, which has confined people indoors for long periods and encouraged an increase in sedentary behavior,” Emmanuel Stamatakis, BJSM co-editor and professor at the University of Sydney, wrote in the journal.

“But people can still protect their health and offset the harmful effects of physical inactivity,” he said. “As these guidelines emphasize, all physical activity counts and any amount of it is better than none. There are plenty of indoor options that don’t need a lot of space or equipment, such as climbing the stairs, active play with children or pets, dancing, or online yoga or Pilates classes.”

There’s one more benefit from any type of exercise that we’d like to point out: stress relief. The pandemic has put us all on edge, and a brisk walk outdoors or a brief period of play with the kids or the dog can go a long way to helping alleviate tension.

So, for better health all around, set a kitchen timer, your watch, or your phone to remind you to get up and move every few minutes throughout the day.

wearing a mask

CDC: Masks Protect Wearer, Too

As Florida closes in on the unenviable milestone of nearly a million confirmed cases of COVID-19, our concierge doctors wanted to share a bit of good news. We’ve mentioned before how critical it is to wear face masks in public to help keep others from becoming infected. People can be contagious for up to two weeks before they begin to show symptoms, which accounts for the rapid spread of the disease.

Now a new scientific briefing from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirms what researchers had long suspected: Masks protect the wearer as much as those around them. The revised guidance, released late last month, cites several studies. These show masks reduce the risk of contracting the virus by up to 79 percent.

In one case, for example, a study examined 124 households in Beijing with a single case each of COVID-19. It found mask wearing by the infected individual as well as others in the household reduced secondary transmission by 79 percent. Another case followed two hair stylists who were infected and showing symptoms. They wore masks while interacting with 139 clients over eight days. The clients also wore masks. Subsequent testing showed that not a single client contracted the disease as a result.

An added bonus

In addition to protecting both the wearer and the public, universal mask-wearing can also help the economy, the CDC notes.

“Adopting universal masking policies can help avert future lockdowns, especially if combined with other non-pharmaceutical interventions such as social distancing, hand hygiene, and adequate ventilation,” the CDC said.

Besides pandemic fatigue, another reason people have begun to rebel against stay-at-home guidance is because of the dire effect the early lockdowns had on the economy. Most people need to work, and economic stress is as unhealthy as any other kind of stress.

But the agency cites one recent economic analysis from Goldman Sachs. It found a 15 percent increase in universal masking could prevent losses of up to $1 trillion. This equals about five percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

So it turns out that wearing a mask is a win-win-win proposition.

But which mask is best?

The type of mask worn by health-care workers is the N95 respirator. This is the best at filtering out infected particles, which is precisely why you shouldn’t wear them.

“The CDC does not recommend that the general public wear N95 respirators to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including coronavirus (COVID-19),” according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). “Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for health care workers and other medical first responders.”

There is a still a severe shortage of such masks, even after all this time. The CDC recommends the public wear others types of face coverings, many of which have been shown to be quite effective.

“Multiple layers of cloth with higher thread counts have demonstrated superior performance compared to single layers of cloth with lower thread counts, in some cases filtering [out] nearly 50 percent of fine particles,” the CDC said.

“Try to get at least a two-ply cloth mask and make sure it’s tightly woven,” Dr. John O’Horo, an infectious disease specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, told NBC News.

One test of effectiveness is to hold the mask up to the light. If you can see the outline of individual fibers in the cloth, it’s too thin to offer enough protection.

Dr. Scott Segal, chair of anesthesiology at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, recently partnered with the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine to test a variety of cloth materials. They looked not only for breathability and comfort, but also for the ability to filter small particles. They concluded the best masks were constructed of two layers of heavyweight “quilter’s cotton,” with a thread count of at least 180.

What doesn’t work

Now we consider what doesn’t work.

The most ineffective mask is one that doesn’t cover the nose. In fact, there’s little point in wearing one at all if the nose isn’t covered. The resulting nasal exhalations will spread the virus, and also allow the wearer to inhale infected particles. So will face masks with valves. They make for easier breathing, but they also allow the breath to leave the mask without any filtering.

Plastic face shields fall into this category as well. One recent study confirmed that plastic face visors allow nearly 100 percent of tiny airborne droplets such as those emitted by talking or breathing to escape into the surrounding air. Yes, doctors wear them . . . along with N95 masks.

Remember, it’s safest to always assume that everyone you meet outside your immediate household is infected. We now have the promise of two new effective vaccines on the horizon. But until they can be widely distributed, we’ll need to hang on just a little longer. And wearing a mask can help us control the spread of the virus sooner.

benefits of supplements

Supplement Benefits: All In the Mind?

It sounds so easy: Pop a pill (or pills) every day and enjoy radiant health. Unfortunately, our concierge doctors have to caution you that it may not be not that simple. And, according to a new study, the claimed benefits of taking supplements might not even be true.

The study, published this month in the journal BMJ, suggests that the perceived benefits of over-the-counter (OTC) vitamin and mineral supplements may largely be due to the power of the mind.

“The effect of positive expectations in those who take multivitamin or mineral supplements is made even stronger when one considers that the majority of them are sold to the so-called worried well,” lead study author Dr. Manish Paranjpe said in a statement. “The multibillion-dollar nature of the nutritional supplement industry means that understanding the determinants of widespread multivitamin or mineral use has significant medical and financial consequences,” he added.

The financial aspect is obvious. Dietary supplements are a $40-billion-a-year business in this country. And if the products don’t work as expected, that’s a huge waste of money.

The medical impact is less well known. Between 2007 and 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) received reports of more than 6,300 reports of serious adverse events linked to dietary supplements. These included 115 deaths and more than 2,100 hospitalizations.

What’s the harm in taking supplements?

This may surprise people who think that because these substances are sold over the counter they can’t do you harm. Others believe that the government wouldn’t allow their sale unless they were safe and effective. However, a 1994 law, the Dietary Health and Education Supplement Act, actually prevents the FDA from regulating dietary supplements or removing them from sale unless it can prove a supplement is unsafe.

But indiscriminate use of supplements can produce serious side effects. For example, Vitamin E and beta-carotene supplements can actually increase the chances of developing lung cancer in smokers.

St. John’s Wort is sold over the counter for mild depression. Some of its potential side effects include dizziness, sun sensitivity, insomnia, anxiety and headaches. It can also reduce the effectiveness of birth control pills and some heart medications.

Fish oil can cause nausea and diarrhea and increase the levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol. It can also increase the risk of bleeding. Some people have suffered such severe liver damage with green tea extract that they required a liver transplant.

Niacin, another popular supplement, has been shown to slightly increase the risk of death from any cause. So have calcium supplements, which one study suggested increased the risk of death from cancer when taken in amounts greater than 1,000 milligrams per day.

Little evidence for real benefits

Then there’s the question of whether these products are effective for the reasons we take them. Various studies have been performed on the efficacy of supplements in the prevention of many diseases. All have shown little-to-no benefits of dietary supplements and vitamins.

Those marketed for the prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD) have, for example, been studied extensively. In 1996, the Physicians Health Study assigned 22,071 men to take either beta-carotene or a placebo for 12 years. They assessed the effect of the vitamin on the prevention or progression of the disease. The results showed no difference in either CVD occurrence or overall mortality.

A Women’s Health Study found a similar result when it looked at the effect of beta-carotene on 40,000 women. It found no differences in the incidence of heart disease between those taking the vitamin and those receiving the placebo.

Another study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology that examined multivitamins, calcium supplements, and vitamins C and D, found no measurable advantage in terms of preventing CVD, heart attack, stroke, or early death. A similar study found no CVD-associated benefits for vitamin D.

Yet the belief persists

Despite these findings, many people still swear they notice a difference in their health after taking supplements. The study this month attributes this to the power of belief. Consumers also point to studies that support their faith in these substances.

An article in Harvard Women’s Health Watch, however, explained that the benefits of supplements that often appear in some studies are based on observational research vs. clinical trials. That is, researchers ask study participants to self-report on their daily habits, vs. performing randomized controlled trials. Because observational studies don’t control for diet, exercise, and other variables, they can only suggest an association with better health benefits from particular supplements.

“People who take supplements tend to be more health conscious, exercise more, eat healthier diets, and have a whole host of lifestyle factors that can be difficult to control for fully in the statistical models,” Dr. JoAnn Manson, chief of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, told the journal.

So whether you’re trying to improve your health or ward off illness, your best bet is to follow the time-honored advice: Consume a balanced diet, including fruits and vegetables, get plenty of exercise, don’t smoke, use alcohol in moderation, and avoid recreational drugs. It really is that simple.

flu shot twindemic

Flu Shots Can Help Avert a ‘Twindemic’

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends all adults and children older than six months receive a flu shot by the end of this month. The CDC says it takes at least two weeks for the vaccine to become effective. Then it won’t reach its peak effectiveness until another week after that. And children who are being vaccinated for the first time need two vaccines spaced a month apart to become fully protected.

Therefore, our concierge doctors suggest you get your flu shot for the 2020-21 influenza season as soon as possible. While there have been scattered reports of shortages around the country, The Washington Post recently reported a record number of flu vaccine doses—between 194 million and 198 million—have been ordered. Because the vaccine is shipped in stages, more is on the way.

“This year I think everyone is wanting to get their vaccine and maybe wanting it earlier than usual. If you’re not able to get your vaccination now, don’t get frustrated. Just keep trying.”

The CDC’s Dr. Daniel Jernigan, to the Associated Press (AP).

COVID-19 and flu overlap: a ‘twindemic’

We were fortunate the 2019-20 flu season was winding down this spring as the coronavirus crisis began to hit the country. This year, however, we’ll be looking at the possibility of a “twindemic”—both waves hitting at once.

So it’s especially important that as many people as possible get vaccinated for the flu this year. The flu shot won’t prevent COVID-19, but it can help reduce the strain on our already overburdened health care system.

“Since hospitals and doctors’ offices are going to be very busy caring for COVID-19 patients, a flu vaccine can help decrease burdens on the health care system and make sure that those who need medical care are able to get it.”

Dr. Susan Bailey, president of the American Medical Association (AMA) and an immunologist in Fort Worth, Texas, told CNN.

Last year, the CDC estimated that the flu killed 22,000 Americans, and resulted in hospitalization of an additional 400,000. By contrast, at least 215,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 since March.

Hopeful signs

Health experts are hopeful the precautions we’ve been taking to avert COVID-19—hand washing, social distancing, and wearing masks—will mean this season’s flu won’t take as severe a toll as in previous years. But they all insist that widespread vaccinations are necessary.

Even if the flu vaccine isn’t 100 percent effective in preventing influenza, it has been shown to reduce the length and severity of the illness in those who contract it. In addition, if you’re unlucky enough to contract COVID-19, you won’t want your body’s defenses to be weakened by a prior bout with the flu.

This is already present in the Southern Hemisphere, where each season’s flu strikes over the summer. From South Africa to Australia, public health experts reported remarkably low levels of influenza among their populations. They attributed this partly to coronavirus lockdowns and to extremely high participation in influenza vaccinations.

One pharmacy in Cape Town, South Africa, for example, reported that the demand for flu shots was four times higher than in previous years. People were trying to avoid the co-morbidity (simultaneous presence of two or more diseases) of contracting the flu in addition to COVID-19.

“People were lined up outside the pharmacy down to the corner of the street waiting to get their injections. We had to prevent people from coming into the store.”

Ellis Henen, owner of Sunset Pharmacy, told The Post.

Additional benefits of the flu shot

We hope Americans will have the same attitude to this year’s flu shot.

Some people think they’re still protected from the one they received last year. But having received a flu shot last year won’t protect you from this season’s strains of the virus. This is because your immunity from a year ago has deteriorated by now. In addition, manufacturers create a new vaccine each year based on which strains the World Health Organization (WHO) expects to be predominate. This is based on which strains were seen over the summer in the Southern Hemisphere. So this year’s shot will include strains different from those in last year’s inoculation.

It’s important to remember, even if you contract influenza after receiving the shot, it’s likely to be less serious than if you’d skipped being inoculated. And the flu vaccine offers additional benefits, especially among the elderly. For older people and those with chronic health conditions, recent studies show the extra benefits of a flu shot. It’s as effective in preventing a heart attack as quitting smoking, using cholesterol-lowering drugs, or taking blood pressure medications.

So be sure to let us know if you’re interested in getting a flu shot. If you encounter a shortage, we may be able to help you locate a supply nearby.

1 2 3 11