5 Benefits of Getting the Flu Vaccine

5 Benefits of Getting the Flu Vaccine

The CDC recommends everyone over the age of six months receives a flu vaccination, with the exception of people who are allergic to the vaccine or its ingredients. For individuals who are at a high risk for flu-related complications, including pregnant women, seniors, and children under the age of five, it’s especially important to be vaccinated. Aside from simply complying with general health recommendations, however, there many benefits to receiving the flu vaccine. Flu season spans the fall, winter, and spring with activity peaking from December through February, so here’s why you should get vaccinated if you haven’t already done so. Here are 5 Benefits of Getting the Flu Vaccine.

Avoid the Flu Entirely

The effectiveness of the flu vaccine can vary from person to person based on factors like age and current health. Yet, in many cases, it can prevent the flu altogether. For instance, during the 2016-2017 season, it’s estimated that the vaccination prevented more than 5 million cases of the flu.

Experience Fewer or Reduced Symptoms

If you do contract the flu despite receiving the vaccine, it’s possible that your symptoms will be less severe than those of a person who wasn’t vaccinated. Typically, symptoms include fever and chills, muscle or body aches, fatigue, headaches, cough, sore throat, and runny nose. Yet, in at-risk populations as well as people with chronic conditions such as asthma, COPD, and diabetes among others, flu-like complications can become deadly. The vaccine can minimize symptom severity and therefore decreases the risk of death in populations like young children and people 65 and older.

Prevent Flu-Related Hospitalization

Because the vaccine can reduce the risk of the flu and its complications, it can also help you stay out of the hospital. Within recent years, immunizations have helped reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalization by 40%. Of those who do require hospitalization, vaccinated parties may be 82% less likely to be admitted to ICU.

Save Your PTO

While it may not be a health-related reason, saving your paid time off (PTO) is still a compelling incentive for getting vaccinated. Since many employees receive just 10 to 15 days of PTO each year, it’s important to use them wisely. Staying at home with the flu is certainly not anyone’s idea of a fun day off.

Reduce Risk of Cardiovascular Events

Recently, researchers discovered individuals with high blood pressure who receive the flu shot are 16% less likely to experience a deadly cardiovascular event, and 18% less likely to die from any cause. Medical experts have long suspected that the flu puts stress on the body, which could trigger stroke or heart attack. Because patients with high blood pressure are already at an elevated risk for these conditions, it’s critically important for them to be vaccinated.

In addition to these benefits, there’s even more good news to consider. Most local pharmacies now offer convenient flu shot services right at their locations, so you don’t even have to schedule an appointment. And, chances are your insurance will cover the cost of the shot, too. You can always discuss your candidacy for the vaccination with your physician, but unless you have a known allergy to the shot or its ingredients, they’re likely to give you their approval.

High-Intensity Step Training Can Help Stroke Survivors

High-Intensity Step Training Can Help Stroke Survivors

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain becomes blocked. When the brain cells cannot get sufficient oxygen, they may die off, resulting in lasting symptoms such as difficulty walking and speaking. Although some challenges may be permanent, there are a number of rehabilitative therapies that can help stroke survivors recover as much function as possible. This will shed light on how High-Intensity step training can help stroke survivors.

One form of rehabilitation which has recently emerged as an effective therapy for boosting walking skills is high-step training. While rehabilitative measures typically focus on low-intensity walking to help stroke survivors restore balance and walking skills, experts believed this approach isn’t challenging enough to help patients navigate real-world scenarios. To test their theory, a research team at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis compared the patient outcomes in low-impact training programs against those from a higher-intensity stepping program.

Participants were involved in one of three programs: high-intensity steps with variable tasks, such as steps on uneven surfaces, inclines, or over obstacles while moving forward; high-intensity steps only moving forward; or low-intensity steps with variable tasks. Stroke survivors in both high-intensity groups were able to walk faster and farther than those in the low-intensity group.

In the high-intensity groups, the majority of participants (57% to 80%) made noteworthy clinical gains, but less than a third of participants made the same improvements in the low-intensity group. Participants in the high-intensity group also reported improved balance and confidence.

Although rehabilitative walking programs have historically taken a more gradual approach, these findings suggest that pushing patients to walk further, faster, and across a variety of conditions could challenge the nervous system more effectively. In doing so, stroke survivors may improve mobility and witness noticeable improvements in a shorter amount of time. All in all High-intensity step training can help stroke survivors.

Reducing the Risk of MS: Could Red Meat Help

Reducing the Risk of MS: Could Red Meat Help

While researchers have been puzzled over the precise contributing factors behind Multiple Sclerosis (MS) for many years, it is widely believed that risk factors are both genetic and environmental. Recently, more evidence has been uncovered which points to the role of environmental factors, and specifically, diet, in a person’s likelihood of developing the condition. A new study on the influence of diet has been published in The Journal of Nutrition and indicates a link between red meat consumption and a reduced risk of first clinical diagnosis of central nervous system demyelination (FCD), a precursor to MS.

MS Risk & Red Meat Consumption: A Noteworthy Association

Researchers used data from more than 280 individuals who had experienced FCD, and more than 550 control participants who hadn’t. The participants were ranked according to a points-based diet score which measured how many servings of red meat they consumed as part of a Mediterranean diet. The scores of the people who consumed three or more servings of unprocessed red meat were found to have a reduced risk of FCD, compared to those who consumed two or fewer.

Why Could Red Meat Help?

According to one of the lead study researchers, the nutrients found in red meat, including omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, protein, potassium, vitamin D, and selenium, are all known to contribute to brain functioning. One critical component to the potential benefits is choosing high-quality meats, however. The research shows sources such as grass-fed beef are linked to the reduced risk, and the study participants largely maintained good eating patterns, as they followed a Mediterranean diet. This approach to eating is known to boost cardiovascular health and prioritizes the intake of healthy fats, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, among other key components.

Who Do These Findings Affect?

The study findings show that for individuals who had a first-degree relative with MS, the risk would drop from 2 to 4% down to 1 to 2.5%. The greatest benefit is seen among individuals who have an identical twin with MS: for this population, the risk drops from 30 to 50% down to 14 to 32%. The findings also suggest that the more unprocessed red meat the individual consumes, the greater the reduction of risk may be.

Ultimately, the benefits of eating red meat appear to be greatest for the populations with a close relative with MS. It’s worth noting, however, that authorities such as the World Health Organization have issued warnings against red meat, and suggest that it could be carcinogenic to humans. Dietary modifications such as these should, therefore, be discussed with a doctor before being introduced into an individual’s daily routine.

Could Sunshine Help Prevent Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

Could Sunshine Help Prevent Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

In recent decades, our awareness of the potential damage UV rays can do has increased tremendously. The UV radiation is a known carcinogen, as the link between long-term sun exposure and increased skin cancer risk is irrefutable. Yet, the link isn’t as straightforward as we may think, as age and genetic factors are also suspected to play a role in skin cancer risks, in addition to sun exposure.

And, it turns that moderate sun exposure may even have some health benefits. For instance, it helps trigger the production of important hormones, may help reduce the risk of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and helps the body create vitamin D. Recent research has even shown that it could decrease the risk of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

The Sunshine & IBD Link

In a study conducted by The Australian National University, children who spent half an hour outside each day appeared to have a lower risk of IBD. More than 800,000 people have chronic disorders encompassed by IBD, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. The risk in children who were exposed to sunlight was almost 20% lower than in their peers.

While the half-hour window seems to hold the most promising results, even short periods of sun exposure were linked with a reduced risk of IBD. In fact, the study’s lead professor notes that every 10 minutes of sun exposure resulted in a 6% drop in the child’s risk for developing the condition. This has led the researchers to the conclusion that there is an association between lack of sun exposure and increased IBD risk.

Although experts have already determined that sunlight does play a role in immune system functionality in ways that could lower one’s risk for IBD, the precise mechanisms still have yet to be determined. IBD is becoming more common in children, so this eye-opening discovery could be a worthwhile preventive tactic to explore.

Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean children should forego sunscreen entirely, especially since there’s evidence to suggest that sun exposure during youth could contribute most to skin cancer. Thus, it’s still a good idea for people of all ages to stay protected with an SPF of 15 or higher when spending extended periods of time outdoors.

 

7 Myths & Truths About Drinking Water

7 Myths & Truths About Drinking Water

Of all the pieces of wellness advice we hear regularly, the importance of drinking enough water seems to be the most ubiquitous. Indeed, no matter your dietary preferences, workout schedule, or any other unique lifestyle factors, experts always tend to agree that staying hydrated is the one essential practice that can work in everyone’s favor. But just how likely are we to become dehydrated?

Water is the most important substance for survival.

Truth: The prevalence of the “drink more water” mantra holds up. Our cells require H2O to function, and the body uses complex mechanisms to ensure it has enough water to work well. Roughly 75% of a baby’s weight is made up of water, while it makes up 55% of an adult’s weight.

Dark urine always indicates dehydration.

Myth: Urine usually ranges from pale yellow to deep amber. Its yellowish tint is a result of a pigment called urochrome. Typically, well-hydrated individuals will have urine on the paler side. Yet, dark urine doesn’t automatically indicate a need for more water. Beets, berries, asparagus, and certain medications can alter the hue of urine.

Dehydration is common.

Myth: While we know staying hydrated is important, we typically only see severe hydration in performance athletes, the elderly, and individuals with severe illness. The thirst mechanism becomes less effective as we grow older, which is why older adults are more likely to become dehydrated.

There are no formal guidelines on water intake.

Truth: US Dietary Recommendations for water are based on median water intakes. Currently, there is no adequate measurement of the hydration status of the population. For most people, the sensation of thirst is a good indicator of when and how much water to drink. Yet, factors like age, humidity, heat, and physical exertion can impact the need for hydration.

Inadequate hydration poses serious health risks.

True: As mentioned above, water helps the body function on a cellular level. Staying hydrated protects against kidney stones, regulates gastrointestinal function, and may prevent vascular diseases, including stroke. Ample hydration is especially important for people with diabetes. With that being said, further research is needed to determine how hydration affects long-term health and the potential role it plays in chronic disease.

Staying hydrated will leave you with glowing skin.

Myth: While severe dehydration may leave skin cracked and dry, drinking extra water won’t boost skin elasticity in people who already get sufficient hydration. Emollient moisturizers are better suited for combatting skin dryness.

You need to drink 8 glasses of water per day to stay healthy.

The verdict is still out on this one. Again, while there is no exact requirement for water, the National Academy of Sciences has issued general recommendations for women at 91 ounces of total water per day and 125 ounces for men. Keep in mind that this also includes water from all beverages and foods, including fruit and non-water drinks. With that said, the Institute of Medicine confirms that individuals can be adequately hydrated below or above the recommended intake levels.

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