071013 Healthy ideas that may be worth considering for a healthier life – part six – Following the Mediterranean style diet may be better for your overall health and quality of life.

Healthy ideas that may be worth considering for a healthier life – part six – Following the Mediterranean style diet may be better for your overall health and quality of life.

Scientific research never ceases and constant investigations into what makes us healthy are no exception. Some of the recent research and subsequent reports result from observational studies. These observational studies were not designed to prove a cause and effect. Nonetheless, they still may point the way towards improving your health by decreasing your disease risk.

Some of these findings may already be common knowledge to you, whereas others may be a surprise. In any case, all of them may be worthwhile paying attention to in the future.

In the majority of the world’s advanced nations, many avoidable diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity could be prevented or at least decreased in number if their citizens would simply follow a healthier lifestyle. Getting 30 minutes of exercise per day and eating nutritious foods would go a long way towards easing the healthcare costs and improving the lives of uncounted millions of people.

Following the Mediterranean style diet may be better for your overall health and quality of life.

As a refresher, the Mediterranean diet consists of eating fish, fruits and nuts, olive oil, vegetables and whole grains. It has been linked to lowering the risks of numerous chronic, potentially preventable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and the metabolic syndrome. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the metabolic syndrome here is a brief explanation from the National Heart Lung And Blood Institute.

Metabolic (met-ah-BOL-ik) syndrome is the name for a group of risk factors that raises your risk for heart disease and other health problems, such as diabetes and stroke.

The term “metabolic” refers to the biochemical processes involved in the body’s normal functioning. Risk factors are traits, conditions, or habits that increase your chance of developing a disease.

In this explanation, “heart disease” refers to coronary heart disease (CHD). CHD is a condition in which a waxy substance called plaque (plak) builds up inside the coronary (heart) arteries.

Plaque hardens and narrows the arteries, reducing blood flow to your heart muscle. This can lead to chest pain, a heart attack, heart damage, or even death.

Metabolic Risk Factors

The five conditions described below are metabolic risk factors. You can have any one of these risk factors by itself, but they tend to occur together. You must have at least three metabolic risk factors to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome.

• A large waistline. This also is called abdominal obesity or “having an apple shape.” Excess fat in the stomach area is a greater risk factor for heart disease than excess fat in other parts of the body, such as on the hips.
• A high triglyceride level (or you’re on medicine to treat high triglycerides). Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood.
• A low HDL cholesterol level (or you’re on medicine to treat low HDL cholesterol). HDL sometimes is called “good” cholesterol. This is because it helps remove cholesterol from your arteries. A low HDL cholesterol level raises your risk for heart disease.
• •High blood pressure (or you’re on medicine to treat high blood pressure). Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps blood. If this pressure rises and stays high over time, it can damage your heart and lead to plaque buildup. High fasting blood sugar (or you’re on medicine to treat high blood sugar). Mildly high blood sugar may be an early sign of diabetes.

After reviewing the syndrome and the problems associated with the conditions listed perhaps, the Mediterranean style diet is more appealing. A study, recently published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, followed 11,015 students attending an unnamed University for four years. At the conclusion each one was asked to rate their mental and physical health. The researchers found that those who closely adhered to the Mediterranean over the four years scored higher on the quality of life issues in the questionnaire. In their report, the scientists stated, “adherence to the Mediterranean diet seems to be a factor importantly associated with a better health-related quality of life.”

Potential changes in behavior considerations

By knowing the damage the diseases of the metabolic syndrome cause and then reviewing the Mediterranean diet and the potential health benefits of following such a plan, perhaps now is the time to seriously consider changing our dietary eating habits.

041013 Taking control of your sleep

Taking control of your sleep

The experts at Tuffs University make the following recommendations for getting a better night’s sleep.

Arrange your bedroom so it is sleep friendly, one that is dark, cool and quiet. Use a mattress and pillow that are not too hard or too soft for your body.

Make your bedroom one that is used specifically for sleeping or sex. Keep your home office separate from your sleeping quarters.

Leave the television in the living room and the computer to the office. Each one excites your mind and will keep you stimulated and awake.

Getting a good night’s sleep will help keep you mentally and physically sharp plus help protect you from illness.

021013 Taking control of your sleep

Taking control of your sleep

The experts at Tuffs University make the following recommendations for getting a better night’s sleep.

  • Avoid caffeine in all of its various carriers such as pop, coffee, tea, chocolate and the energy drinks. This should be self-evident to anyone with half a brain but some people still have a caffeine loaded drink or food and can’t understand why they are unable to sleep afterwards.
  • Get a clue people; caffeine is a stimulant.
  • Stimulants keep you up.
  • Keep to a regular sleep and wake up schedule, even on the weekends.
  • There is some dispute as to the validity of avoiding stimulating activities such as exercise a few hours before going to bed. Some are able to exercise and then hit the sack. Others however, find that doing so keeps them awake. Let your experience be your guide in this case.

011013 The New Four-Strain Flu Vaccine: Is It Right for You?

The flu season is upon us and now is the time to get vaccinated against it, but do you need it? Yes. Which one is the best to get? Take a look at the following and make an informed decision.

The New Four-Strain Flu Vaccine: Is It Right for You?

Daily Health News Editor: Tamara Eberlein


Have you heard? There’s a new type of flu vaccine that guards against four strains of flu rather than just the usual three strains.

We have some questions about this newquadrivalent flu vaccine, of course. For instance: Is it safe? How well does it work? (A fair question, considering that last year’s vaccine was only 56% effective.) How can you tell whether it’s right for you? And will you be able to find it if you want it? (Another fair question, given last year’s shortages.)

We’ve got these answers and more…


There are two main types of influenza viruses, influenza A and influenza B. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), influenza A viruses are divided into two subtypes based on their surface proteins, and each subtype is further broken down into various different strains. Influenza B viruses are not divided into subtypes but are broken down into two main strains. More than one strain of influenza virus may be circulating at any given time…and different strains may appear at different times throughout a particular flu season.

When vaccines are being developed for an upcoming flu season—which occurs about six to nine months in advance—researchers do their best to predict which of the various possible strains will be circulating. Making this job even tougher is the fact that flu viruses continually change over time, producing new strains that the body’s immune system doesn’t recognize. The type-B virus changes gradually, a process called antigenic drift. With type A, the changes can be gradual…or they can be abrupt and major, a process called antigenic shift.

The traditional flu vaccine offers protection against two influenza A strains (one from each subtype) and one influenza B strain. But influenza strains are different enough from one another that immunization against one strain offers only very limited protection against other strains. As improved viral diagnostics have shown the importance of protecting against the second B strain, researchers have been working to develop a quadrivalentvaccine that provides protection against both of the two main influenza B strains. Finally this four-strain flu vaccine has gained FDA approval and, this year, it is available for the first time.

Problem: Until vaccine manufacturers get fully up to speed with the new quadrivalent manufacturing process, most vaccines out in the market will be the traditional trivalent(three-strain) variety. According to the CDC, of the estimated 135 million doses of flu vaccine that manufacturers will produce for use in the US this flu season, about 30 million to 32 million will be quadrivalent—the rest will be trivalent. It will take about three years before all flu vaccines offer four-way protection.

In addition to concerns about availability, the new four-strain vaccine also raises questions—about its effectiveness, risks, cost, etc. For answers, Daily Health News turned to William Schaffner, MD, professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and past president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. Here’s what Dr. Schaffner had to say about vaccine options for the coming flu season.

How much more protective is the quadrivalent vaccine compared with the traditional trivalent vaccine?

From a public health perspective, the impact of adding the fourth “arm” to the flu vaccine may prove to be modest or quite significant. It will depend on the available supply of the quadrivalent vaccine (which may be limited)…the number of people who opt for it…and whether that fourth strain ends up being a dominant force in the upcoming season’s circulating “flu virus stew.” For your personal health, though, that fourth arm of protection can make a huge difference if the main circulating strain ends up being the one that’s not included in the trivalent vaccine. We won’t know whether that’s the case until flu season is underway.

Is the quadrivalent vaccine any riskier than the trivalent vaccine?

No. Side effects are comparable for both the trivalent and quadrivalent vaccine. Possible side effects include redness at the injection site…nasal congestion from the nasal spray version of the vaccine…or, very rarely, a low-grade fever.

Who should get the quadrivalent vaccine?

In an ideal world, everyone who wanted it would get the quadrivalent vaccine this year—but that’s not possible because manufacturers can’t yet produce enough to meet the full demand. Your best bet: Contact several local vaccine providers—your doctor, pharmacy, community or worksite flu shot clinic—and ask whether they have the quadrivalent vaccine. When you find it, get it without delay before they run out.

But what if no one in your area has the quadrivalent vaccine now or expects to get it within a few weeks? Then go wherever you usually go for your flu vaccination and get whatever type they do have. Don’t keep holding out for months for the four-strain vaccine—because you very well might wind up catching the flu before you have a chance to get vaccinated.

What is the difference this year between the flu shot and the nasal spray vaccine?

The nasal spray, called FluMist, contains a live attenuated (weakened) form of the virus. It is recommended only for healthy people ages two through 49. This year, the nasal spray vaccine is exclusively available as a quadrivalent vaccine. Babies, people age 50 and up, pregnant women, people with asthma or other respiratory problems, and caregivers of severely ill patients who require a protective environment should instead get the vaccine that contains the inactivated virus, which comes in the form of the injected vaccine. Most flu shots this year have the trivalent vaccine, but some quadrivalent shots will be available.

Why do some people get sick after being immunized?

Let’s put a myth to rest. You cannot get the flu from the vaccine because the virus has been killed or attenuated. It takes about two weeks to build up immunity after getting the vaccine—so if you happen to develop the flu shortly after being vaccinated, it’s not from the vaccine—it’s because you were exposed to the disease before your immune system had a chance to get fully armed.

There is also a high-dose flu vaccine this year. How well does it work?

The high-dose flu shot is a trivalent vaccine licensed for use in adults ages 65 and older—the population most at risk of dying from influenza. It has been available for two years, but researchers didn’t know whether it actually offered improved protection. Now we do know. In a study of 30,000 people age 65 and up who were randomly assigned to either the regular-dose trivalent vaccine or the high-dose trivalent vaccine, the high-dose vaccine was 24% more effective in preventing flu. There should be plenty of high-dose vaccine available this year.

For someone 65 or older, what’s the better choice—the high-dose trivalent vaccine or the regular-dose quadrivalent vaccine?

There’s no clear answer to that question because we don’t yet have the data for a head-to-head comparison. Both are good options—so take whichever one is available when you go to get your vaccination.

How do the various vaccine options compare in terms of cost?

The quadrivalent vaccine and the high-dose vaccine cost a little more, but they are covered by insurance just as the traditional trivalent vaccine is. If you don’t have insurance, your cost will vary depending on where you get vaccinated and the specific type of vaccine, but you can expect to pay between $30 and $85—real bargains compared with the potential costs of your care and lost productivity (not to mention your misery) if you actually get the flu.

Helpful: For locations near you where flu vaccines are administered, visithttp://flushot.healthmap.org.

Source: William Schaffner MD, professor of preventive medicine, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville. Dr. Schaffner also is an associate editor of Journal of Infectious Diseases, past president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and winner of numerous research awards.

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Daily Health News
Original publication date:
October 1, 2013