To my Patients and Friends,
The holidays have passed, and I’m back on track. So here are the latest health news highlights… enjoy!
Flu season has arrived, and it’s not too late to get the shot. And it’s not just about preventing the unpleasant symptoms caused by the influenza viruses… the vaccine can be a life-saver. A recent study of heart failure patients in Denmark found that having received a flu vaccine cut their risk of premature death by 18% compared with having not received the vaccine. The study also found that annual flu shots reduced patients’ risk of dying from any cause or from cardiovascular disease by a whopping 19%. My heartfelt plea: get your flu shots!
Red meat and heart risk
It’s common knowledge that red meat intake is linked with increased heart disease risk. But it’s not just about the high cholesterol and fat content in these foods. Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic have demonstrated that meat consumption tracks closely with blood levels of something called trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), a byproduct of red meat digestion linked to increased heart disease risk, according to a trial recently published in European Heart Journal. TMAO is a disease-promoting metabolite converted from carnitine and choline—compounds abundant in meats like beef and pork—by the bacteria that naturally live in our intestinal tracts. We certainly can’t get rid of the bacteria that live within us—in fact, we shouldn’t even think along those lines, as they are essential to our health. But we certainly can cut back on our meat intake.
You’ve heard it before, and I’ll say it again…a diet abundant in whole, unprocessed plant-based foods goes a long way to keeping us healthy.
Low Vitamin D and Schizophrenia
This is interesting: Infants born with low vitamin D levels (because of seasonal variations in maternal levels of vitamin D) are at increased risk of developing schizophrenia later in life, Danish researchers have reported in a study recently published in the journal Nature. As you may know, vitamin D is not commonly found in many foods but rather is produced in our skin in response to sunlight exposure. So that moms-to-be whose pregnancies happen to span through the not-so-sunny months may want to discuss the potential benefits of vitamin D supplementation with your physicians—particularly if there is a family history of schizophrenia.
Sleep and school performance
I’ve written in the past on the importance of adequate sleep for everyone, but particularly for our teens. In this age group, poor sleep can lead to mood disorders such as anxiety and depression, high-risk behaviors, daytime somnolence and motor vehicle accidents, and health problems such as weight gain. Now, a recent study has demonstrated that school performance measurably improves when adolescents sleep longer.
Most authorities believe the teens should be getting 8-10 hours of sleep per night. As we all know, this rarely happens, in large part because of the early school start times. More municipalities are recognizing the importance of this problem and are exploring later start times in order to enable teens to get adequate sleep. Significant logistical challenges notwithstanding, I believe that, for the sake of our children, administrators in every school system should at least be having the conversation.
More drug recalls
You may have read about more blood pressure medications that are being recalled because of possible contaminants. Generally speaking, pharmacies are very good about keeping track of these lot numbers so as to avoid distributing them to consumers. However, please use this link to the FDA’s database…this will enable you to confirm that your medication’s lot number is not affected.
That’s all for this edition…Happy New Year to everyone!
Larry Leibowitz, MD