COVID-19 insights for patients of color and people who are empowered
The seven-day average for COVID-19 cases in the United States over Memorial Day weekend was 119,725, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
A year ago, the seven-day average was just 17,887 cases! Here are some tips to protect your health from the ongoing COVID-19 virus.
1. A study in JAMA Internal Medicine found that pulse oximetry (the little plastic meter they put on your finger to measure your blood oxygen levels) overestimates arterial oxygen saturation in Asian, Black, and Hispanic patients and is associated with systemic failure, that delays or prevents access to treatments that could save their lives. If you think you need COVID-19 treatment and the Pulse Ox says otherwise, ask – no, insist – that a blood sample be taken from an artery in your wrist for a blood gas analysis.
2. Booster vaccinations for children aged 5 to 11 years have been approved for those who received their last dose at least five months ago. That’s dose #3 for most children in the age group and #4 for immunocompromised children. It’s a smart idea.
3. A study by the BMJ found that taking an mRNA booster identical to the two-shot regimen you were originally given (Pfizer or Moderna) is the #1 way to avoid severe COVID -19 to prevent, even against different variants. And adding a third mRNA shot to other primary vaccines, like the J&J, is almost as good for you. Even a mild case of COVID-19 can lead to long-term COVID and brain dysfunction, so do whatever (boosters, masks, washing your hands) can help you avoid infection!
With fruit against inflammation
A staggering 897,000 results come up on Google when you search for “Frucht flambé” (fresh fruit lit with alcohol). That’s kind of ironic, because the truth is that uncharred fresh fruit suppresses fire related to inflammation in your body. Inflammation can be a good response if it is short-lived; it helps your immune system heal a wound or fight an infection. When it becomes chronic due to abdominal visceral fat and obesity or chronic sedentary lifestyle, it increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, arthritis, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and autoimmune and neurodegenerative diseases. These conditions then encourage more inflammation.
The fruits you eat can go a long way in 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 you should eat 1.5 to 2 cups of different berries daily to help fight chronic inflammation.
2. Apples and pears can also bite when there is inflammation. According to a meta-review of studies published in Current Developments in Nutrition: In observational studies, eating apples or pears significantly reduced the risk of cerebrovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and all-cause mortality.
3. Stone fruits, like cherries, peaches, apricots, and plums, are also loaded with colorful phytochemicals and anthocyanins, which suppress inflammation. Enjoy!
Surprise! Turn-offs can be good for your heart
If something really turns you off, you might say, “That’s gross.” But sometimes turn-offs can actually be a good thing.
Take advantage of turning off the TV. A UK and Hong Kong study published in BMC Medicine found that reducing TV time by as much as an hour a day can improve heart health.
In fact, researchers say that 11 percent of all coronary artery disease (CAD) cases could be prevented if everyone would just take this one small act of screen freedom.
They looked at data from 500,000 adults followed for about 12 years and found that people who watched TV for more than four hours a day had the greatest risk of heart disease, while those who watched TV for less than an hour had a relative risk Risk of 16 percent had lower CHD rate.
Sedentary behavior coupled with excessive snacking on heart-damaging foods is the double whammy at work here.
How can you reduce your TV time? During this hour, you can go for an after-dinner stroll, practice yoga, or do tai chi—the choices are endless.
And if you can’t turn off the tube, interrupt your seat time. Walk up and down the stairs in your house or apartment building for 10 minutes every hour. Walk the dog between shows. do housework.
People tend to veg in front of the TV, so let every commercial break tell you it’s time to move.
Here’s another clever solution: put an exercise bike in the TV room and pedal (steadily and with concentration) 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 at the age of 36 but ignored the warning signs and developed full-blown type 2 diabetes in 2013 at the age of 56.
“I was a total idiot,” he said. Well, let’s hope his mental incapacity was reversed once he gained control of his condition. For many people with type 2 diabetes, premature cognitive problems are a real threat.
A study published in eLife used MRI scans of around 20,000 people aged 50 and older to compare the brains of people with type 2 diabetes to those without type 2 diabetes. Those with type 2 diabetes showed a 26 percent faster brain aging — it shrank prematurely! The results also suggest that by the time type 2 diabetes is diagnosed, structural brain damage and changes in how insulin regulates glucose in the brain may already be present.
So what does this mean for the 96 million Americans with prediabetes and the 35 million with type 2 diabetes? It means you should protect your brain immediately.
Step 1: Adopt a plant-based diet; Avoid highly processed foods, red and processed meats, and added sugar and syrups.
Step 2: Get at least 10,000 steps or step equivalent daily. Accelerate your walks if your doctor says it’s okay.
Step 3: Play dementia-reducing, processing-fast games like Double Decision or Freeze Frame.
Step 4: Monitor your glucose levels regularly and work to keep your A1C at 5.7 percent or below.
ED Medications and Vision Problems: Be Aware
Recent data from the Cleveland Clinic found that men and women who take Viagra have a more than 40 percent reduced risk of Alzheimer’s. (Women use it for pulmonary hypertension.) That can mean more people are asking their doctor about getting a prescription for erectile dysfunction (ED) drugs — making it more important than ever to be aware of possible side effects . Recent research on ED drugs called phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors (PDE5Is), including sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil, vardenafil, and avanafil, has found that they are associated with an increased risk of severe retinal detachment, retinal vessel occlusion, and ischemic optic neuropathy.
Researchers looked at data from over 210,000 men, with an average age of 65, who had at least one PDE5I prescription every three months for the past year. Their study in JAMA Ophthalmology found that men who took the medication were up to 185 percent more likely to have one or more of these vision problems than men who didn’t. Men who took ED medications and had high blood pressure, diabetes, coronary artery disease, or sleep apnea were at increased risk.
Because ED can be linked to atherosclerosis and heart disease, a smart way to improve ED is to prevent or reverse elevated LDL cholesterol, obesity, and high blood pressure. As? Move it, lose it, and eat a plant-based diet. And if you’re taking an ED medication, watch out for 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 immediately.
Mike Roizen, MD is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic.