In this blog I want to return to how to AgeProof yourself. You can make small choices that make your RealAge much younger.
What stimulated and informs this column are two recent headline grabbing articles: “Having Shingles Increases Heart Attack Rate over 50% and ups strokes 35%” and “HPV infection more than doubles the risk of heart attacks”. These data present no surprise.
You’ve heard about the bad effects of inflammation. Infections cause inflammation: your immune system protects your body from foreign invaders, called antigens. These invaders can take shape as the pollen that triggers your allergies, the food you may be sensitive to that causes hives, but especially viruses that cause Shingles or HPV infections or the flu.
After you get a vaccine, your immune system responds quickly to virus invaders inoculated against, and knocks out the invader. No big deal. A little inflammation that you don’t even notice. And one of your blood markers of inflammation that doc’s commonly measure, highly specific C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) hardly budges upward (it may go from 0.7 to 1.1). (Blood tests look for “inflammatory markers” by measuring acute phase proteins in your blood. For example, C-reactive protein (CRP), and sedimentation rate (ESR) are common tests. These demonstrate the presence of inflammation, but don’t reveal the specific condition or disease. Your doc will hunt hard to find the problem if your, for example, hsCRP is above 3.0 because that increase your risk of heart attacks, stroke, cancer, even brain dysfunction.)
But if you get Shingles, or have an active HPV infection, hsCRP may go from that 0.7 to 50 or 70. That’s obviously a lot higher than the 3 that causes concern. That number reflects inflammation in your arteries that can dislodge plaque that you have, causing it to rupture off your arterial wall, resulting in a heart attack or stroke. That why I wasn’t surprised to learn that a Shingles episode or HPV infection is associated with a major increase in heart attacks or strokes. And with a rip-roaring flu, I’ve seen hs-CRP values over 120.
That is why we think substantial data shows that if you receive the flu vaccine every year for 10 years, you reduce your rate of flu, by more than 70%, make it milder (this is a year-after-year effect—there is some protection in severity from prior years), decrease hospitalization from flu-related pneumonias or lung infections by more than 25%–those are obvious –but also makes it 48% more likely you’ll be living after that 10 years (because the 10 years of flu vaccine substantially decreases heart attacks and strokes). I’m not saying vaccines are risk-free, but the odds for a serious adverse reaction relative to a beneficial effect are about 1 in 40,000. ( Dr Oz and I interviewed over 150 experts on every side of the vaccine issue to get to this conclusion. And yes, vaccines are safer in the last 30 years due to the concerns raised about vaccine safety.)
Vaccines are NOT just for kids.
About 40% of people over age 65 haven’t received a pneumonia vaccine and 85% are missing out on the shingles vaccine, which protects against excruciating nerve pain that can linger for weeks, months, or even years after an outbreak. A whopping 80+% of adults haven’t had their Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) booster (recommended every 10 years). Over 50% of young women and 70% of young men ages 19-26 haven’t gotten the HPV vaccine series, proven to slash risk for cervical infections that cause most cervical cancer, and many throat cancers, as well as heart attacks and strokes.
What can you do:
1. Your next step: Review your own and your child’s (and if a caregiver, your parent’s) vaccination needs. Discuss your concerns with your doc and then schedule needed shots.
2. Then educate others: Here’s the data again: Substantial studies show that if you receive the flu vaccine every year for 10 years, you reduce your rate of flu by more than 70%, make it milder (this is a year-after-year effect—there is some protection in severity from prior years), decrease hospitalization from flu-related pneumonias or lung infections by more than 25%–those are obvious –but also makes it 48% more likely you’ll be living after that 10 years (because the 10 years of flu vaccine substantially decreases heart attacks and strokes). And while vaccines aren’t risk-free, the odds for a serious adverse reaction relative to a beneficial effect are about 1 in 40,000. That is, you (or your child) is more likely to benefit than be harmed by 40,000 to 1. You’d be a billionaire if you parlayed just two kids with those odds on a one dollar bet.
Then why you might ask, if vaccines are so good, and the flu vaccine so useful, why do only 55% of Americans get the flu vaccines every year. It’s simple: we docs have failed to educate well enough.
But you read ThriveGlobal, so you are smart. Get your immunizations up to date. You’ll live longer and have a younger RealAge.
Thanks for reading. Feel free to send questions—to [email protected]
Dr Mike Roizen
PS: please continue to order the new book by Jean Chatzky and myself, AgeProof: Living Longer Without Running Out of Money or Breaking a Hip.
You can follow Dr Roizen (and get updates on the latest and most important medical stories of the week) on twitter @YoungDrMike, or download and rate his podcasts released every Tuesday at 7 am on RadioMD.com (That podcast is also available on iHeartRadio.com and Tunein.com).
Michael F. Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer at the Cleveland Clinic. He is the co-author of 4 #1 NY Times Best Sellers including: RealAge: Are YOU As Young AS You Can Be? and YOU: The Owner’s Manual. An updated paperback version of YOU Staying Young arrived recently.