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Get Your Flu Shot… Not the Flu

Dr. Mary T. Bassett, Health CommissionerBy NYC Health Commissioner, Dr. Mary T. Bassett - A few days ago, I overheard a woman in Brooklyn saying proudly that she and her two children have never gotten the flu shot, and have never gotten sick. Her statement – the equivalent of saying that you will never use a seat belt, because you have never gotten into a car accident – concerned me. Unfortunately, despite tremendous efforts and progress by health care providers and public health authorities in making the flu vaccine available and accessible, her posture is not a rarity.

The City's Health Department data show that only 44 percent of New Yorkers 18 and older received a flu shot last year, and one-third of the most at-risk New Yorkers – those younger than 5 and older than age 65 – remain unprotected. While influenza (the virus that causes flu) may affect anyone, we know that it is affecting people of color at higher rates. That could be due to the significant disparities in vaccination rates between Black New Yorkers aged 65 and older as compared to Whites and Latinos aged 65 and older.

Not getting vaccinated leaves you at risk for the painful and potentially fatal symptoms of influenza. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on average, there are over 200,000 influenza-related hospitalizations annually in the United States. In a bad flu season, that number could exceed 400,000.

Some cases are fatal. In 2014, 2,220 New Yorkers died from influenza and pneumonia (a potential complication of the flu). About 90% of influenza-related deaths are in people over 65 years of age. While the statistics are alarming, and the data demonstrate the benefits of receiving a flu shot, misperceptions around the vaccine persist and act as barriers to keep people healthy.

Many people still believe, for example, that taking the flu vaccine will make them sick, that it is unsafe to get, or that it doesn't substantially protect against the virus. These are myths. The vaccine does not make you sick, and it is very safe. Generally, there can be some soreness at the injection site, but many don't even experience that. As for protection, the vaccine includes protection from a number of different influenza strains, which will confer protection and reduce the risk of complications even if you contract the virus.

Clearly, we have more work to do to ensure that all New Yorkers know that the flu vaccine is not only the surest way to avoid getting sick, it is also the best way to protect others who are at risk for complications.

Everyone 6 months and older should get the flu vaccine every year. The flu vaccine is especially important for those most likely to get a severe influenza illness, including children younger than age 5 and adults aged 65 years and older, pregnant women, and people with underlying medical conditions, such as lung or heart disease and diabetes.

Finding the flu vaccine has never been easier. First, check with your health care provider. The vaccine is also available for adults at most chain drugstores, like Duane Reade, Rite Aid, and CVS. You can also use the Health Department's flu shot locator to find a place near your home, text the word "flu" to 877877, or call 311. In most cases, the shot is free or at a low cost.

Getting vaccinated is not only a healthy decision, it is a responsible one, too. Join us in the effort to ensure that everyone gets smart about the flu and proudly say #GotMyFluShot!

Bassett is the City's Health Commissioner

Protect your skin from the sun

by Dr. Arusha Campbell-Chambers is a dermatologist and founder of Dermatology Solutions Skin Clinics & Medi-Spas; email: yourhealth@gleanerjm.com.

It's the time of year when we make plans to have lots of fun in the sun. We should, therefore, be aware of the effects of sunlight on our skin and find ways to protect it. The truth is that whether we live in a hot or cold climate and whether we plan to spend all day out in the sun, we are still all exposed to sunlight. Therefore, sun protection is something we should practise daily, from infancy to adulthood, regardless of race.

Sunlight provides visible light, warmth and helps plants grow. It helps our skin make vitamin D and it has also been found to be mood lifting. However, it does contain two harmful types of light rays called ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB). Ultraviolet rays can pass through clouds and can be reflected by sand, water and even snow. UVA rays can pass through glass windows.

Sunlight can cause short-term effects such as sunburn, tanning and can worsen or trigger some skin rashes. It is also the main cause of the long-term effects of premature skin ageing and skin cancer. Individuals with fairer skin types are at greater risk of sun damage. This is so because these individuals have less melanin and also have different types of melanin in their skin. Melanin is the main pigment that gives the skin its colour and helps to protect our skin from UV light. However, everyone is still at risk of sun damage and so everyone should practise sun protection.

Use SPF 30
All persons, regardless of skin type, should use a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of ideally at least 30. The SPF tells us how well the sunscreen protects us from UVB rays. 'Broad-spectrum' indicates protection from UVA rays as well as UVB. Sunscreens should be used daily, 30 minutes before going outdoors. They should be applied generously to all exposed areas and reapplied every few hours and after swimming or excessive sweating. Even 'water-resistant' sunscreens may last only 40 minutes. As of this summer, because of new rules by the US Food and Drug Administration, sunscreen manufacturers will have to ensure that they adequately label sunscreens.

Protective clothing
The American Academy of Dermatology's guidelines on sun protection include wearing protective clothing, such as long-sleeve shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses where possible. Individuals should seek shade when appropriate, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and use extra caution near water, sand and snow. People should not seek the sun for vitamin D but can acquire it safely through a healthy diet that may include vitamin supplements. Tanning beds should be avoided, since they can cause skin cancer and skin ageing. Individuals should check their skin for anything changing, growing or bleeding, and see a dermatologist if necessary, since skin cancer is curable if detected early. It's never too late to practise sun protection as we enjoy our tropical climate. Sunscreen, anyone?

These 4 Things Happen Right Before a Heart Attack

by Newsmax Wires

Despite what you may believe, heart attacks rarely happen "out of the blue."

In fact, your body may be trying to warn you of an impending heart attack for days, weeks, perhaps even a month or two before it occurs. Unfortunately, by the time you actually recognize you're suffering a heart attack, it could be too late to prevent death or debilitating heart damage.

So-called silent heart attacks, with signs and symptoms that are mild or seem unrelated to the heart, have long concerned cardiovascular expert Dr. Chauncey Crandall. So Dr. Crandall recently created a special free video presentation about the four most sinister warning signs to watch for.

Click here to watch video

Rutgers Study: Vitamin E in Diet Protects Against Many Cancers

by Professor Yang, Director of the Center for Cancer Prevention Research at Rutgers Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy

Next time you need to choose between vegetable oil and margarine in that favorite recipe, think about your health and reach for the oil. While the question of whether vitamin E prevents or promotes cancer has been widely debated in scientific journals and in the news media, scientists at the Center for Cancer Prevention Research, at Rutgers Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, and the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, believe that two forms of vitamin E – gamma and delta-tocopherols – found in soybean, canola and corn oils as well as nuts do prevent colon, lung, breast and prostate cancers.

"There are studies suggesting that vitamin E actually increases the risk of cancer and decreases bone density," says Chung S. Yang, director of the center. "Our message is that the vitamin E form of gamma-tocopherols, the most abundant form of vitamin E in the American diet, and delta-tocopherols, also found in vegetable oils, are beneficial in preventing cancers while the form of vitamin E, alpha- tocopherol, the most commonly used in vitamin E supplements, has no such benefit."

Yang and colleagues, Nanjoo Suh and Ah-Ng Tony Kong, summarized their findings recently in Cancer Prevention Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research. In a Commentary, "Does Vitamin E Prevent or Promote Cancer?" the Rutgers scientists discuss animal studies done at Rutgers as well as human epidemiological studies that have examined the connection between vitamin E and cancer. Yang says Rutgers scientists conducting animal studies for colon, lung, breast and prostate cancer found that the forms of vitamin E in vegetable oils, gamma and delta-tocopherols, prevent cancer formation and growth in animal models... read more

A Chinese medicine approach

by Tracey-Ann Brown, Complementary & Oriental Medicine

Oriental medicine (traditional Chinese medicine) is a 3,000-year-old system of medicine, which primarily involves the practice of acupuncture and herbal medicine. In recent years, traditional Chinese medicine has enjoyed increasing popularity in many parts of the world and is practised in numerous integrative medical hospitals and clinical settings as its benefits become more well-known.

How it works
While traditional Chinese medicine, and in particular, acupuncture, is most widely known for its benefits in pain management, persons seek out treatment for issues related to a number of systems of the body as it regulates a variety of functions.
It stimulates the body's self-regulating systems and natural healing abilities to promote physical and emotional well- being. In so doing, it assists the heart's ability to circulate and the liver's ability to store blood, the lung's function of governing respiration, the spleen's and stomach's control over gastrointestinal processes, the kidney's ability to regulate fluids in the body and the intestines role in digestion and excretion.

Other therapies used alongside acupuncture and herbal prescriptions include: cupping, moxibustion and nutritional counselling.

Herbal formulas
Herbal formulas are made up of several herbs, and are selected from a pharmacopeia of several hundred herbs to address a variety of conditions.

Acupuncture works along pathways (meridians) in the body which are associated with, and directly affect, specific organs and systems of the body. Along these meridians are more than 1,000 acupuncture points, each with a specific function and location. By gently inserting very thin needles at these points, acupuncture manipulates the meridians and their corresponding organs and systems. Of these 1,000 acupuncture points, 100 are found on the ear, often used for smoking cessation and weight loss.

Healthy children's options are now appearing on restaurant menus

(ARA) - Today's youth might be the first generation of American children to be less healthy than their parents, with childhood obesity more than tripling in the past 30 years. What's encouraging, however, is that this is a time of increased national focus on healthy eating - and it is going to take all stakeholders to make a true and sustained difference. With physical activity initiatives popping up in communities across the country and recently announced new U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines on school lunches, there are more opportunities for children to thrive.

The restaurant industry is supporting those efforts by doing its part to address the nation's healthy living challenges and to help improve children's nutrition offerings.

Last July, the National Restaurant Association launched Kids LiveWell, a first-of-its-kind voluntary program in which participating restaurants agree to offer and promote a selection of menu items for children that meet established nutritional criteria based on current dietary recommendations, including the 2010 Dietary Guidelines. Well-balanced lifestyle habits established early in childhood, including healthy eating and physical activity, can help to reduce weight gain and the potential risk of disease later in life. The goal is to provide more healthful meal options for children, including a variety of nutrient-rich food groups, when families are dining out. Through Kids LiveWell, parents are provided with the confidence that they can take their families out to eat and enjoy a nutritious and tasty meal.

Across the country, participating restaurants have increased the variety and number of offerings on the children's menu when it comes to fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and low-fat dairy, while limiting unhealthy fats, sugar and sodium. By offering more options and pairing healthful foods together on one plate, restaurants are providing a real-life opportunity for parents to educate children about well-balanced nutrition choices while eating away from home.

Since last year's kick-off, the number of restaurants participating in the Kids LiveWell program has more than tripled and now stands at 68 restaurant brands representing more than 22,000 locations nationwide. The brands range from casual dining such as Outback Steakhouse and Denny's to neighborhood eateries, from quick serve restaurants like Burger King to fine dining establishments, and the variety and volume of brands is slated to grow as the program further evolves. Parents can learn more at HealthyDiningFinder.com, which also has a mobile website for parents on the go. Follow the program on Twitter @KidsLiveWell and Facebook to stay informed of new participating restaurants and other health and wellness news.

Everyone can play an important role in turning the tide and nourishing the health and well-being of children and families. For restaurants, providing and highlighting healthful menu options can help parents and children select menu choices that help young patrons grow and thrive. Make yourself a part of the solution too by supporting the menu items and restaurants participating in the Kids LiveWell program and, if you don't see your family's favorite dining spot on HealthyDiningFinder.com, urge the restaurant to join the cause. By committing to healthful eating and encouraging kids to be more physically active, you are helping to provide healthier futures for children - one meal at a time.

Heart Disease

Heart disease: first signs different, but threat similar for men and women

(ARA) - While heart disease continues to receive a lot of attention, certain myths surrounding the disease persist. 

A couple of the most common myths are that heart disease is more common in men than women, and that the first signs of a heart attack are the same for both men and women, says Dr. Mary Ann McLaughlin, medical director of the cardiac health program at The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. 

Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in men and women in the United States, affecting both sexes relatively equally. "Women are more afraid of dying from cancer," says McLaughlin. "But in fact, they are much more likely to die from heart disease." 

Also, the first signs of a heart attack can manifest themselves in different ways between men and women. While both men and women can experience the more well-known symptoms like chest pain or tightness and a shooting pain in the left arm, here are the most common differences in symptoms by sex, according to McLaughlin. 

The more obvious symptoms are more prevalent in men, which might be why research shows that men go to the emergency room with symptoms much earlier in than women. 

More subtle symptoms are more likely in women. These include shortness of breath, sweating or dizziness, nausea, severe fatigue, sudden sleep disturbances, pain radiating through the jaw, small of the back or between the shoulder blades. 

"Women with diabetes are about twice as susceptible to heart attacks as men with the condition," says McLaughlin. "Increased risk factors for women also include having an autoimmune disorder and a history of gestational diabetes or preeclampsia during pregnancies." 

Knowing the first signs of a heart attack is important, but reducing your risks for heart disease is the best way to avoid experiencing one. McLaughlin offers the following tips for a healthy heart: 

* Reduce salt intake. Limiting your consumption of processed foods can help with this, as they are often high in salt. 

* Choose your fats wisely. Use olive oil instead of butter, snack on nuts instead of other sugary and high-fat snacks, and take supplements like flax seed oil that can boost your levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce artery inflammation. Consuming more omega-3s can also help you reduce your LDL (bad cholesterol) levels. 

* Get regular exercise. A good rule of thumb is when balanced with a proper diet, 30 minutes of exercise a day will help you maintain your current weight, while 60 minutes will help you lose weight. If that seems like a lot, try to work exercises in to your daily tasks by taking the stairs instead of the elevator or walking or biking to work. Maintaining a healthy weight lowers your risk for cardiovascular disease. 

* Ask your doctor whether a daily regimen of low-dose aspirin would be appropriate for you, as it could lower your risk of a heart attack.  

* Maintain a daily intake of 1,000 mg of vitamin D , which can be found in some of the same fatty fish that contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Vitamin D supplements can also help you achieve this, as low levels are associated with heart disease and high blood pressure. Exposure to sunshine also helps your body produce vitamin D, but don't forget your sunscreen. 

* Know your numbers. Your doctor can help you get your readings and give you advice on how to meet the following goals for optimum heart health: 

Total cholesterol: less than 200 
LDL (bad cholesterol): less than 100 
HDL (good cholesterol): greater than or equal to 40 
Total cholesterol to HDL ratio: less or equal to 4.4 for women and less than or equal to 5 for men 
Triglycerides: less than 150 
Blood pressure: less than 120 systolic and less than 80 diastolic 
Non-fasting glucose: less than 120 
Fasting glucose: less than 100 
Hemoglobin A1c: less than 7 

To learn more about heart disease and care, and to hear stories from patients who have experienced heart disease, visit: www.mountsinai.org/heart.