Roundup: Time for Flu Shots; U.S. Diets Not Improving Enough; and Gum Disease Link to Hypertension

CDC Issues Updated Flu Shot Recommendations

October is almost here and that means it’s time for getting your flu shot and making sure your kids do the same, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC says everyone six months and older should get a flu shot. About 8 percent of the U.S. population gets vaccinated against the influenza virus each season.

In its updated flu shot recommendations, the CDC says the effectiveness of flu vaccines vary, depending on several factors, such as the age and health of the recipient, the types and subtypes of circulating influenza viruses, and the degree of similarity between circulating viruses and those included in the vaccine. Check with your primary care doctor or pediatrician for the latest flu shot recommendations for adults and children.

“However, vaccination provides important protection from influenza illness and its potential complications,” the CDC says. During the six influenza seasons from 2010–11 through 2015–16, influenza vaccination prevented an estimated 1.6 to 6.7 million illnesses, 790,000 to 3.1 million outpatient medical visits, 39,000 to 87,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 to 10,000 respiratory and circulatory deaths each season in the U.S., the agency states.

During the recent severe 2017-18 influenza season, which lasted an unusually long period with widespread high influenza activity throughout the nation, there were higher rates of outpatient visits and hospitalizations, compared with other recent seasons. Vaccinations during the severe 2017-18 season prevented an estimated 7.1 million illnesses, 3.7 million medical visits, 109,000 hospitalizations, and 8,000 deaths — despite an overall estimated vaccine effectiveness of 38% against three flu strains, the CDC sasid.

Each flu season, the vaccine is modified to protect people against the three or four viruse strains that is projected to be most common duing the new season. This year, the trivalent flu shot, which protects against three strains of the influenza virus, should help people’s immune systems to produce antibodies against these strains. The CDC adds that “travelers who want to reduce the risk for influenza infection should consider influenza vaccination, preferably at least 2 weeks before departure.”

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U.S. Adults Need to Further Reduce ‘Added Sugars,’ Unhealthy Fats, New Study Finds

Americans are still consuming too much sugar, white bread and unhealthy fats, according to a new analysis of U.S. government health surveys from 1999 to 2016 that involved nearly 44,000 adults.

The biggest change was a small decrease in added sugars, from about 16 percent to about 14 percent of daily calories consumed, says the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
That’s still too high because the government recommends that less than 10 percent of daily calories should come from added sugars.

Nonetheless, factors that contributed to the small decline included fewer sweetened sodas. But many consumers don’t realize that added sugars are often contained in foods that don’t normally seem sweet, such as some yogurts, tomato sauce and many processed foods.

The consumption of fruits, nuts, oatmeal and other whole grains — food considered healthy — increased slightly. Still, each of those contributed to less than 5 percent of daily calories in 2016, researchers said.

The study is based on surveys taken in person every two years. Participants were asked to recall what foods they ate during the previous 24 hours. During the 1999-2016 time period of the study, the U.S. diabetes rate almost doubled, to more than 7 percent, and obesity rates increased. About 70 percent of U.S. adults are now overweight or obese.

U.S. dietary guidelines suggest consumption of nutrient-dense foods including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, in addition to varied proteins sources such as seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs nuts and seeds.

“Despite improvements in macro-nutrient composition and diet quality, continued high intake of low-quality carbohydrates and saturated fat remained,” said the study’s authors.

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Gum Disease Linked to a Higher Risk of Hypertension, Study Indicates

People with gum disease, or periodontitis, have a greater likelihood of high blood pressure (hypertension), according to a study published in Cardiovascular Research, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology.

The study is based on data gathered from 81 studies spanning 26 countries.

“We observed a linear association – the more severe periodontitis is, the higher the probability of hypertension,” explains a senior author of the findings, Francesco D’Aiuto, a professor at the University College London. “There seems to be a continuum between oral health and blood pressure which exists in healthy and diseased states.”

Moderate-to-severe periodontitis was linked to a 22 percent increase in the risk for hypertension, while severe periodontitis was associated with a 49 percent higher probability of high blood pressure.

Globally high blood pressure affects up to 45 percent of adults. Nearly half of Americans are considered hypertensive. Two years ago, the American Heart Association (AHA), the American College of Cardiology, and other healthcare professional groups redefined a person with high blood pressure as having a 130/80 reading, down from the previous threshold of 140/90.

The stricter standard, the first major change in blood pressure guidelines in 14 years, means that an estimated 46 percent of U.S. adults, including an increasing number under the age of 45, are now considered hypertensive.

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