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The Latest on COVID-19

I am following the latest Bivalent Booster Protects Against the Most Recent COVID-19 Viruses: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the bivalent COVID-19 vaccine that is available today helps protect against infection by the omicron variant XBB and its subvariant XBB.1.5 that dominate infections today. The present bivalent booster was made specifically against both the initial SARS-CoV-2 virus and the BA.4/BA.5 variants. However, BA.5 and its subvariants account for just about two percent of cases now, and BA.4 and the original virus are essentially gone.developments on COVID-19.

Intense Exercisers Have More Plaques but Fewer Heart Attacks

The MARC-2 study followed 291 older men for 6.3 years with a test called Coronary Artery Calcification (CAC), and found that the amount of calcium in the arteries leading to the heart increased most in men who exercised at the highest intensity, even more than those who exercised the most. The authors said this showed that intense exercise increases the amount of plaques in arteries, which may be true. However, they would then have to explain why intense exercisers are far less likely to suffer heart attacks than non-exercisers

Loss of Hearing is a Major Risk Factor for Dementia

The National Health and Aging Trends Study from Johns Hopkins followed 2,413 community-dwelling participants aged 65 and older, and found that 10.3 percent suffered from dementia. Of those with dementia, 36.7 percent suffered mild hearing loss and and 29.8 percent had moderate to severe hearing loss. The people with moderate to severe hearing loss were 61 percent more likely to suffer from dementia than those with normal hearing, and every 10-decibel loss of hearing was associated with a 16 percent increase in dementia risk.

Anti-Inflammatory Lifestyle to Help Prevent Dementia as You Age

About 22 percent of North Americans ages 85-89 and 33 percent of those over 90 suffer some degree of dementia. A study from the Chicago Health and Aging Project, which followed 2449 men and women over age 65, suggests that there is a lot that you can do to help protect yourself from dementia. The healthful lifestyle factors tracked in this study included diet, physical activity, cognitive activity, not smoking, and avoiding or limiting alcohol

Why I Still Recommend COVID-19 Vaccines and Boosters

Every week I receive emails asking why I recommend vaccinations against COVID-19 when they can have serious side effects that can result in hospitalizations and deaths. I have been following the data and research since the beginning of the pandemic, and they clearly show that: • Vaccination helps to prevent hospitalization or death from COVID-19 by a very wide margin • The rates of heart damage or death from vaccination are vastly lower than from the disease itself

Mammal Meat is Associated with Increased Risk for Diabetes

A study from Australia found that middle-aged women who ate meat daily were significantly more likely to be diabetic and have uncontrolled high levels of blood sugar than those who ate a plant-based diet with little or no red meat. The authors conclude that plant-based diets reduce diabetes risk by increasing the body’s response to insulin and reducing body fat.

Most Type II Diabetics Should Lose Weight, Even If They Are Not Overweight

Most type II diabetics are overweight, but about 15 percent are not overweight. A study presented on September 23, 2022 at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes meeting in Stockholm found that 70 percent of normal-weight type II diabetics went into remission when they lost 10 percent of their body weight.

Alcohol Increases Risk for Heart Attacks and Cancers

Researchers analyzed data from 3865 adults and found that more than 50 percent said that they did not know that alcohol increases cancer risk. The people who incorrectly thought that alcohol doesn’t cause cancer were the ones most likely also to think incorrectly that alcohol can help to prevent heart attacks.

Get Your Flu Shot Now

This winter is expected to be a severe flu season. Flu virus is headed here from the southern hemisphere, and Australia already has a very severe flu season. Only 49 percent of North Americans plan to get a flu shot during the 2022-2023 flu season, according to a survey by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID).

Simple Test to Predict Risk of Diabetes and Heart Attacks

Two blood tests that are done during routine physical exams can be used to predict whether you are at increased risk for diabetes and heart attacks. It’s called the triglyceride/HDL ratio, calculated by dividing your triglycerides number by your HDL number.

Blood Pressure is Often Higher in Wintertime

If you have high blood pressure in the winter, you are at increased risk for a heart attack, even if your blood pressure is normal in the summertime. Blood pressure is often higher in winter and lower in summer, and heart attacks are significantly more common in the winter than in the summer.

Intense Exercise May Reduce Cancer Spread

A study from Israel found that intense exercise may help to prevent cancer from spreading, in humans and in mice, by using up body sugars so that less energy is available for the tumor cells to grow and spread. Compared to non-exercisers, those who exercised regularly before they developed cancers had a slightly reduced incidence of cancer, while those who exercised at high intensity after developing cancer had a 72 percent lower incidence of metastatic cancer than those who did not exercise after developing cancer.

Sleep Problems Can Be Harmful

It is common and normal for people to occasionally have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep at night, but if this occurs on a regular basis and interferes with functioning during the daylight hours, you need a medical evaluation to find the cause. Getting fewer than seven hours of sleep each night is associated with increased risk for heart attacks, depression, weight gain and diabetes. More than 30 percent of North Americans do not meet their needs for sleep.

Supplements Don’t Lower Cholesterol

A study of supplements that claim to lower cholesterol followed 199 patients at the Cleveland Clinic for 28 days. Participants were given either a supplement (fish oil pills, red yeast rice, cinnamon, garlic, turmeric or plant sterols), a statin drug (rosuvastatin, brand name Crestor, 5 mg/day) or a placebo.

Best Times to Brush Your Teeth

Dentists do not agree on whether it is better to brush before or after breakfast. I think you should brush after breakfast, but you should try to wait and brush at least 30 minutes after eating. If that doesn't fit into your schedule, do whatever works best for you. Any brushing is better than no brushing.

Early Warning Signs of Dementia

University of Cambridge researchers analyzed genetic, lifestyle and health data on more than 500,000 adults, 40-69 years old, and found that those people who were later diagnosed with dementia had tested poorly up to nine years before on measures of problem solving, memorizing, reaction times and grip strength. The study authors believe that this information could lead to earlier diagnosis to start preventive treatments that target known risk factors for dementia.

Predicting Longevity

To find out if they could predict how long an older person will continue to live, Duke University researchers used 1507 blood samples and lifestyle data from participants in the D-EPESE study that was conducted in New Haven, CT, in 1992. Participants were at least 71 years old when the study started, and the Duke researchers counted their years to death over the following 27 years

Over-The-Counter Hearing Aids

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that by mid-October 2022, adults with mild to moderate hearing impairment will be able to buy hearing aids directly from stores, pharmacies and other retailers without a prescription or health care appointment. That's good news for the 30 million U.S. adults who could benefit from hearing aids but think they are too expensive or too much trouble.

Combination Pill to Prevent Heart Attacks?

A respected group of researchers found that after a patient had a heart attack, taking one pill containing three heart drugs was more effective than taking similar prescribed drugs in separate pills during three years of follow-up (New Engl J of Med, August 26, 2022). The combined pill was more effective in preventing death from heart disease, another heart attack, strokes, or urgent surgery to replace heart blood vessels.

New COVID-19 Vaccine Appears to Be More Protective

More than 450 people are still dying every day from COVID-19. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Communicable Disease Center (CDC) have authorized the new bivalent COVID-19 vaccines as a single booster dose at least two months after primary or booster vaccination, for anyone over 12 years of age).

Healthful Lifestyle Linked to Lower Death Rate in Parkinson’s Disease

In the largest prospective study yet on the subject, researchers followed 1251 participants in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study and the Nurses' Health Study who developed Parkinson's Disease. (JAMA Netw Open, Aug 19, 2022;5(8):e2227738). The average age at diagnosis was 73.4 years. During the 32-34 years of follow up, 942 patients died. They found that compared with those who had the worst before-and-after lifestyles, those with the healthiest eating and exercise regimens prior to diagnosis reduced their all-cause death rates by 49 percent.

Suspected Carcinogens in Some Sunscreens

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) released its 2022 annual Guide to Sunscreens, which found that 75 percent of more than 1,850 sunscreen products evaluated either offered poor skin protection from the sun, or contain ingredients that may harm your health or increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun’s harmful rays, Only 25 percent of the products met EWG's standards for adequate protection and did not contain harmful ingredients such as oxybenzone that is an endocrine disrupter.

Monkeypox Declared a Public Health Emergency

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has declared monkeypox to be a public health emergency, and the U.S. has recorded more than 7000 infections, more than any other country in the world. The only two states that have not yet reported monkeypox infections are Montana and Wyoming.

Gut Bacteria Associated with Colon Cancer

A study from Harvard Medical School found that a typical Western diet increases growth of specific bacteria in the gut called “polyketide synthase (pks+) E. Coli” that produce a chemical called colibactin, which causes DNA mutations that can turn normal colon cells into cancer cells.

Long COVID Syndrome

The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 13.3 percent of patients who develop COVID-19 will suffer from Long COVID syndrome, which can last for two months or more and cannot be explained by a different diagnosis. More than 30 percent of hospitalized patients still have symptoms at six months.

The Latest on Monkeypox

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that monkypox is spreading faster than early reports stated. The increased spread is due to the virus's 50 DNA mutations from 2018 to 2022, or up to 12 times the expected number of mutations. This could lead to 100,000 cases worldwide by August, 2022 and 500,000 to one million cases by the end of September.

Colorectal Cancer Remission with Immune Checkpoint Inhibitor Drugs

Fourteen patients with “mismatched-repair” colorectal cancers were given a drug called dostarlimab every three weeks for six months, and follow-up after two years found that none of the patients had any remaining evidence of cancer. This is an incredible result because all patients had complete remission and none suffered serious reactions to the drug.

Lifestyle Changes to Lower Blood Pressure

A study of 14,392 individuals with high blood pressure, followed for 5-10 years, found that those who adopted a healthful lifestyle along with taking medication had a much lower risk for suffering heart attacks and lived significantly longer than those who treated their high blood pressure just with drugs.

What Caused Beethoven’s Deafness?

Ludwig van Beethoven was a composer and concert pianist whose symphonies and other compositions are still among our most-beloved and often-performed classical music. Beethoven started to lose his hearing at age 31 and spent his last years feeling very sick, but he continued to compose incredible music until his horrible death at age 56 of liver failure, kidney failure and pneumonia.

Healthful Habits Reduce Risk for Dementia

The American Heart Association promotes a list called "Simple 7" as a reminder of the lifestyle habits that can help to prevent dementia and heart attacks. This "Simple 7" list has been used in a 30-year study of 11,561 people (average age 54), with 2234 who developed dementia during the study period.