Roundup: Adult Flu Vaccinations Decline; Oral Hygiene & High Blood Pressure; and Organic Foods & Cancer Risk

CDC: Last Season’s Adult Flu Vaccination Rate Was Lowest in Years

Just over 37 percent of U.S. adults got their flu shot during the 2017–18 season — that’s 6.2 percentage points lower than vaccination coverage during the 2016–17 season, according to new data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Flu vaccination coverage estimates for the 2017–18 season, which was one of the deadliest in decades, was the lowest over the past seven flu seasons, the CDC said. For the 2017-18 season, flu vaccination coverage increased with age, from 26.9 percent among adults 18-49 years to 59.6 percent among adults 65 years of age or older.

Last month, the CDC director said that an estimated 80,000 Americans died of flu and its complications last winter — that’s highest death toll tied to the flu in at least four decades. Data released Thursday provided more details. The CDC estimates that 49 million people were sickened by the flu last season. Additionally, 960,000 people were hospitalized.

Flu vaccination is the primary way to prevent sickness and death caused by flu, according to physicians, the CDC and state public officials. The CDC stated Thursday: “As the 2018–19 season is underway, it is important that providers prioritize flu vaccination for their patients.This includes client reminders when flu vaccine supplies become available, assessing the vaccination status at every visit, making an effective recommendation for vaccination, and offering the vaccine.”

The CDC recommends getting vaccinated by the end of October. Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every year before flu activity begins in their community. The vaccine is far from 100 percent effective, but it provides the best protection against serious illness, the CDC said.

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Poor Gum Health Linked to Higher Blood Pressure Levels, Study Says

Adults with healthy gums tend to have lower blood pressure or respond better to blood pressure-lowering medications, compared to those with periodontal disease, according to a new study published in the American Heart Association’s Hypertension Journal.

People with this oral condition were 20 percent less likely to register blood pressure readings in a healthy range, researchers found. Periodontal disease, or gum disease as it is more commonly known, is an inflammatory condition of the gum and bone support (periodontal tissues) surrounding the teeth. The cause is usually poor oral hygiene, but the condition is fairly preventable and fully treatable by periodontists. Red, swollen, tender gums, or gums that bleed with brushing and flossing, are tell-tale signs of inflammation and periodontal disease.

Researchers from the University of L’Aquila in Italy conducted the study to look for a link between gum health and blood pressure levels. They examined the medical and dental exam records of more than 3,600 people with high blood pressure. They specifically assessed those with periodontal disease. They found that people with the oral condition were 20 percent less likely to have blood pressure readings under the recommended 120/80 mmHg level. Readings above that – up to 129 – are considered “elevated.” High blood pressure is considered 130/80 and higher.

“Patients with high blood pressure and the clinicians who care for them should be aware that good oral health may be just as important in controlling the condition as are several lifestyle interventions known to help control blood pressure, such as a low-salt diet, regular exercise and weight control,” said study lead investigator Davide Pietropaoli, D.D.S., Ph.D., of the University of L’Aquila in Italy, in a statement.

Untreated or poorly controlled hypertension, or high blood pressure, can lead to heart attacks, strokes and heart failure, as well as kidney disease.

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Eating Organic Food Associated With Lower Cancer Risk, Research Indicates

New research indicates that eating organic foods regularly could decrease a person’s risk of developing some cancers.

The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, doesn’t necessarily mean that organic food is the primary reason people are less likely to develop cancer. Other factors involved included lifestyle choices, such as exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight, or environmental factors.

“Our results indicate that higher organic food consumption is associated with a reduction in the risk of overall cancer,” researchers concluded.

Nearly 69,000 adult volunteers from France took part in the study. They provided information on how often they ate organic food, drinks and even dietary supplements.

Participants were given a score, based on how often they eat organic food ranging from “most of the time” to “never” or “I don’t know.”

During two follow-up appointments, in 2009 and in 2016, the researchers tracked participants’ cancer diagnoses, with the most prevalent type being breast cancer. Other cancers diagnosed included prostate cancer, skin cancer, colorectal cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphomas and lymphomas. Participants who reported higher organic food scores were less likely to be diagnosed with cancer, compared to the rest of the group. Those who consumed the most organic food were 25 percent less likely to have cancer, researchers said.

The new research, however, contradicts some data reported in a previous study, which linked organic food consumption to a slight increase in the risk of breast cancer.

For many people, the major reason to shop organic is to reduce exposure to pesticide residues. Due to strict farming practices, organic produce contains less pesticide residue. Several studies have also found that the phytochemicals (the good stuff that helps fight diseases) in fruits and vegetables is higher in organic produce versus conventional crops. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has significantly reduced the use of pesticides in all products grown in the U.S.

Look for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Organic Seal to ensure a produce is organic. The Organic Seal on produce indicates that the use of pesticides on plants, soil and in water treatments, and the use of genetically engineered crops or seeds are closely monitored with regular inspection of facilities affiliated with the USDA National Organic Program.

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