Flu Shots Before Halloween, Florida Says; Test Predicts Teens' Heart Disease Risk; Hospitals' Support of Breastfeeding at all Time High

Your Halloween to-do lists should include an annual flu shot, says Florida State Surgeon General and Secretary of Health John Armstrong, M.D. This week, the Florida Department of Health recommended that residents — age 6 months and older — get a flu vaccine before Halloween in order to lower the risk of illness during the flu season.

“The flu shot is the best way to protect our families and communities against the spread of influenza,”  Dr. Armstrong says. “All residents should take precautions against the flu by getting vaccinated, regularly washing your hands and staying home when you are sick.”

Flu vaccines — by shot or nasal spray — are offered at a variety of locations throughout the state including county health offices, primary care and family medical offices, pharmacies and some workplaces. What’s more, the state says, there are a variety of shots approved for “people of different ages as well as for use in pregnant women and those with health conditions.”

You can reduce your chances of catching the flu, by following these recommendations from Florida Health officials:

• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. If you do not have a tissue, cough and sneeze into your elbow to reduce spreading of germs;
• Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer;
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth;
• Try to avoid close contact with people who are showing symptoms of illness;
• If you are sick with flu–like illness, stay home for at least 24 to 48 hours after your fever is gone, without the use of fever-reducing medicine, except to get medical care or for other necessities; and
• Get revaccinated every year because strains of flu viruses change each year.
–source: the Florida Department of Health

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— Sharon Harvey Rosenberg

Test Predicts Future Risk of Heart Disease in Teens

There’s a new test that can help parents and their family doctor predict a teenagers’ risk for developing heart based on an assessment for metabolic syndrome, according to a new study.

Metabolic syndrome refers to a group of conditions  — increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excessive body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels — that creates an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease. The new test also factors in race and gender, and establishes a score that can be used to predict future disease.

The researchers reviewed data collected from participants in three studies during subsequent time frames that started in the 1970s. One group involved 629 people who took part in the Cincinnati Clinic of the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute Lipids Research Clinic between 1973 and 1976. The second group was from the Princeton Follow-up Study between 1998 and 2003. The third subset was an additional 354 participants in the Princeton Health Update between 2010 and 2014.

“The current study was targeted at using that metabolic syndrome severity score on data from individuals who were children in the ’70s to see if it correlated with their risk on developing CVD and type 2 diabetes later in life, and we found that there was a high correlation between the metabolic severity score for those children and for their later development of cardiovascular disease and diabetes,” said Dr. Mark DeBoer, a researcher in the department of pediatrics at the University of Virginia.

The three individual studies measured BMI (body mass index), systolic blood pressure (the top numbers), fasting triglycerides, HDL cholesterol and fasting glucose at the average ages of 12.9, 38.4, and 49.6.

Researchers found that children at the beginning of the study with high severity of metabolic syndrome were linked to the development of cardiovascular disease and diabetes as adults.

The degree of increase in this severity predicted future disease,” the study said. “These findings provide evidence of potential clinical utility in assessing metabolic syndrome severity to detect risk and follow clinical progress over time.”

Dr. DeBoer said that he hopes the study’s results and new test serves as “a motivator for individuals to try to change their risk so that they may have a healthier diet, engage in more physical activity or get medication to reduce their metabolic syndrome severity and their future risk for disease.”

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— John Fernandez


Hospitals’ Support of Breastfeeding at all Time High


The number of U.S. hospitals that are supporting breastfeeding mothers is at an all time high.

According to a new report released by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, 93 percent of U.S. hospitals offer prenatal breastfeeding education, and 92 percent teach breastfeeding techniques, up from 88 percent of hospitals that did so in 2007.

Support for mothers’ early initiation of breastfeeding has grown substantially, from 43 percent in 2007 to 64 percent of U.S. hospitals in 2013. Studies show that the first few days after birth are crucial to achieving the mother-baby bond as it relates to breastfeeding.

Research over the years has proven the benefits of breastfeeding to both mother and baby. Breastfeeding can lower a woman’s chance of getting breast and ovarian cancers, and it promotes faster weight loss after pregnancy.

Babies who are breastfeed for the first six months of life have fewer childhood illnesses, such as ear infections and gastrointestinal viruses. Breastfeeding also has been linked to lower childhood obesity, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

For information about how Baptist Heath South Florida hospitals support breastfeeding, see these related articles:

— Tanya Racoobian Walton

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