COVID-19 insights for patients of color and folks getting boosted
According to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, as of the Memorial Day weekend, the seven-day average for COVID-19 cases in the U.S. was 119,725.
A year ago, the seven-day average was just 17,887 cases! So here are some tips to protect your health against the ongoing COVID-19 virus.
1. A study in JAMA Internal Medicine found pulse oximetry (that little plastic meter they put on your finger to gauge your blood oxygen level) overestimates arterial oxygen saturation in Asian, Black and Hispanic patients, and is associated with a systemic failure that delays or prevents access to treatment that could save their life. If you think you need COVID-19 treatment and the pulse-ox says differently, ask — no, insist — that a blood sample be taken from an artery inside your wrist for a blood gas analysis.
2. Boosters for kids 5 to 11 have been OK’d for those who got their last dose at least five months ago. That’s dose No. 3 for most kids in the age group and No. 4 for immunocompromised children. It’s a smart idea.
3. A study in the BMJ found getting an mRNA booster that’s the same as the two-shot regimen you initially got (Pfizer or Moderna) is the No. 1 way to prevent non-severe COVID-19, even against different variants. And adding a third mRNA shot to other primary vaccines, like the J&J, does almost as well for you. Even a case of mild COVID-19 can lead to long COVID and brain dysfunction, so do everything (boosters, masks, hand-washing) that can help you dodge infection!
Using fruit to fight inflammation
An astounding 897,000 results come up on Google when you search for “fruit flambé” (fresh fruit ignited with alcohol). That’s kind of ironic, because the truth is that uncharred fresh fruit tamps down fires related to inflammation in your body. Inflammation can be a good response if short-lived; it helps your immune system to heal a wound or fight an infection. When it becomes chronic because of the presence of visceral belly fat and obesity or chronic sedentary behavior, it increases your risk for cardiovascular disease, cancer, arthritis, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and autoimmune and neurodegenerative disorders. Those conditions then fuel inflammation more.
The fruits you eat can go a long way toward preventing chronic inflammation.
1. Berries are loaded with bioactive compounds that help block inflammation. According to Harvard University, it’s the chemicals that make them so colorful — anthocyanins and ellagic acid — and give them the power to lower the risk of Alzheimer’s, heart disease and diabetes. Their experts say to eat one and a half to two cups of various berries daily to fight chronic inflammation.
2. Apples and pears can take a bite out of inflammation, too. According to a meta-review of studies published in Current Developments in Nutrition: In observational studies, apple or pear intake significantly decreased risk of cerebrovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and all-cause mortality.
3. Stone fruits, such as cherries, peaches, apricots and plums, are also loaded with colorful phytochemicals and anthocyanins that tamp down inflammation. Enjoy!
Surprise! Turn-offs can be good for your heart
When something is a real turn-off, you might declare, “That’s disgusting.” But sometimes turn-offs can actually be a good thing.
Take the benefits of turning off the TV. A study out of the UK and Hong Kong published in BMC Medicine found that reducing your TV viewing time by even an hour a day can boost heart health.
In fact, the researchers say 11 percent of all cases of coronary heart disease (CHD) could be prevented if everyone simply adopted that one small act of screen freedom.
Looking at data on 500,000 adults who were followed for about 12 years, they found that people who watched more than four hours of TV a day were at greatest risk of heart disease, while those who watched less than an hour of TV had a relative 16 percent lower rate of CHD.
Sedentary behavior coupled with excess snacking of heart-harming foods is the double whammy that’s at work here.
How to cut your TV time? For that hour, you can take an after-dinner walk, practice yoga or do tai chi — the choices are endless.
And if you can’t turn off the tube, break up your sit-down time. Go up and down your stairs in the house or apartment building for 10 minutes every hour. Walk the dog between shows. Do household chores.
People tend to super-veg in front of the TV, so let every ad break tell you it’s time to move.
Here’s another clever solution: Put an exercise bike in the TV room and pedal (consistently and intently) while you watch.
Diabetes and your brain
Type 2 diabetes denial is a common response to an initial diagnosis. Tom Hanks had elevated blood sugar numbers when he was 36 but ignored the warning signs and went on to develop full-blown Type 2 diabetes in 2013 at age 56.
“I was a total idiot,” he said. Well, let’s hope his mental incapacity was reversed once he took control of his condition. For many folks with Type 2 diabetes, premature cognition problems are a real threat.
A study published in eLife used MRI scans of around 20,000 folks 50 and up to compare the brains of those with Type 2 diabetes to those without it. Those with Type 2 diabetes showed a 26 percent increase in the speed of brain aging — it was shrinking prematurely! The results also suggest that by the time Type 2 diabetes is diagnosed, there may already be structural brain damage and changes in the brain’s regulation of glucose by insulin.
So, what does this mean for the 96 million Americans with prediabetes and the 35 million with Type 2 diabetes? It means that you should protect your brain pronto.
Step 1: Adopt a plant-based diet; ditch highly processed foods, red and processed meats, and added sugars and syrups.
Step 2: Get at least 10,000 steps or step-equivalents daily. Add speed to your walks if your doc says it’s OK.
Step 3: Play dementia-decreasing, speed-of-processing games like Double Decision or Freeze Frame.
Step 4: Monitor your glucose levels frequently and work to keep your A1C at 5.7 percent or lower.
ED meds and vision problems: Be aware
Recent data from the Cleveland Clinic found that men and women who take Viagra have more than a 40 percent decreased risk of Alzheimer’s. (Women use it for pulmonary high blood pressure.) That may lead an increasing number of folks to ask their doc about getting a prescription for erectile dysfunction (ED) meds — and that makes it more important than ever to be aware of potential side effects. Recent research into ED medications called phosphodiesterase type-5 inhibitors (PDE5Is), including sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil, vardenafil and avanafil, found that they’re associated with an increased risk for serious retinal detachment, retinal vascular occlusion and ischemic optic neuropathy.
Researchers looked at data on over 210,000 men, average age 65, who had at least one PDE5I prescription every three months in the past year. Their study, in JAMA Ophthalmology, revealed that the risk for one or more of those vision-damaging conditions was up to 185 percent greater in men taking the meds than in those who weren’t. Guys taking ED meds who had high blood pressure, diabetes, coronary artery disease or sleep apnea had an increased risk.
Since having ED may be related to atherosclerosis and heart disease, a smart way to improve ED is to prevent or reverse elevated LDL cholesterol, obesity and high blood pressure. How? Move it, lose it, and eat a plant-based diet. And if you’re taking an ED med, tune into eye problems like multiple floaters, flashes of light in one or both eyes, blurred vision or loss of vision, pain in your temples or when chewing. Report the symptoms to your doctor pronto.
Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic.