Medical Assistant

What you should know about the Shingles Vaccine


In 2006, the FDA approved the shingles vaccine for people 60 and over. In 2011, after reviewing new data on the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine in the 50-59 age group, the FDA amended its approval to include people 50 to 59.

The CDC, which establishes official public health guidelines, has concluded that vaccinating after 60 prevents most cases of shingles. CDC concluded that waiting until age 60, would prevent more cases an complications, including a condition called postherpetic neuralgia, which causes chronic and often intense burning pain from nerves damaged by the virus. Medicare and most insurance plans follow the  CDC’s recommendations.

Each year about 1 million Americans get shingles, and most of them are over 50. Most carry the varicella zoster virus, which causes chicken pox and herpes zoster or shingles. Immune systems keep it in check until aging occurs and the immune systems weaken known as immune senescence and the virus can break out causing shingles.

The single best reason to get the shot at 50 is to protect yourself when the risk of shingles and its complications first begins to climb. The vaccine works by stimulating the immune system which increases its strength and offers more protection. Typically when given at the earlier age, the vaccine is more effective. In people who were 60 too 69 other research showed the vaccine was about 51 percent effective. Another issue is researches don’t yet know exactly how long protection from the vaccine lasts. The current suggestion is 8 years. There is currently no evidence that a booster will  work.

Signs of shingles include:

Pain, burning, numbness or tingling, usually in one location on one side of the body.

A red rash that leads to clusters of tiny, fluid-filled blisters typically around one side of the torso, but can also occur around one eye or on one side of thee face and neck.

Less commonly, headache, fever and sensitivity to light.

Novmber 2015

Breath threats


Cigarette smoke exposure isn’t the only threat to lung health. The American Lung Association has updated its list of top public health issues affecting lung health:

Outdoor air pollution and climate change- the effects of the ozone, particle pollution and other outdoor air pollutants pose special risks to the health of vulnerable populations, including children, the elderly and people with certain lung diseases.

Indoor air quality- every home should be tested for radon, the second leading cause of lung cancer.

Obesity epidemic- Obesity is a risk factor for asthma, obstructive sleep apnea and sleep disordered breathing.

Missed opportunities for disease prevention including vaccinations. Despite readily available influenza and pneumonia vaccines, millions of people at increased risk for these deadly yet preventable, respiratory diseases fail to get vaccinated.

CMA Today Sept-Oct 2015

Outta there


Good time to sweep out the sources ripe for unsanitary conditions is autumn. Health magazine offers these tips for tossing:

Mascara and old lip gloss can harbor a lot of bacteria in a mist, room-temperature environment. Keeping these products until drained is cost-effective, but also effectively unhygienic. Toss out mascara two to three months after opening and toss out lip gloss no more than six months after opening.

Dirty contact lens case is a risk factor for eye infections. Replace the case every three months, at least.

The kitchen sponge is often labeled the germiest thing in the house. Use aa washcloth instead and switch it our for a new one every few days. Being thinner than a sponge it dries quicker, significantly lowering bacterial growth.

Plastic cutting boards. Cuts and slashes are the  marks of a well-used cutting board, but provide fertile ground for bacteria to thrive, despite cleaning attempts. Wooden cutting boards are a better bet: wood contains resins that are naturally antimicrobial.

Mean muggin’


A research investigation found that your office coffee mug warrants a mug shot. It may be harboring bacteria! Out of 90% of the office mugs containing harboring bacteria; 20% were of fecal origin. As the mug sits unwashed, germs are reproducing immediately even when it contains nothing but a ring. So take your mug home for daily washing. Also don’t cradle the cup longer than an hour.

CMA Today Sept-Oct 2015

Resist drug-resistant Shigella


Shigellosis is a contagious diarrheal disease that can spread quickly.  Symptoms include diarrhea which may be bloody, fever or abdominal pain. Complications include post-infectious arthritis, blood stream infections, seizures, and HUS.

These infections are becoming increasingly resistant to the antimicrobial agents (ciprofloxacin and azithromycin) commonly used to treat shigella.

Recent outbreaks of multidrug-resistant Shigella sonnei infections have appeared in three forms. The CDC recommends vigorous and meticulous hand washing among other hygiene practices and see a health care provider if symptomatic!

CMA Today Sept-Oct 2015


Mediterranean Made Easy


Fruits and Vegetables: loaded with antioxidants, which fight the inflammatory chemicals that can damage the body’s cells.

Veggies like onions, garlic, an shallots contain allium which may help fend off enzymes that eat away at joint cartilage. The richer the color of fruit, the more antioxidants it has. Good choices with anti-inflammatory properties include berries, purple grapes, tart cherries and dark red apples.

Whole grains: numerous studies confirm that the emphasis of high-fiber, slow-digesting grains help keep blood sugar stable.

Fish: should be consumed at least twice a week. The inflammation fighting effects of eating seafood rich in omega-3 oils can benefit heart and joint health; and may even lower dementia risk. Best sources include fatty fish like salmon and tuna.

Legumes, nuts and seeds: These plant based foods are the diet’s main source of protein. All are packed with nutrients and fiber shown to lower inflammation in the body; especially the omega-3 fats in walnuts and flaxseeds.

Dairy and poultry: Keep meat portions small; sauté leftover chicken or meat with veggies in olive oil and add a tomato-based sauce.

Herbs, spices and olive oil: the diet is low in saturated fat and processed foods, but still packs a flavor punch with heart-smart ingredients like basil, rosemary and the health fats in olive oil.

Sweets are used sparingly. Try to mix the sweet with nuts to reduce the rise in blood sugar that sweets cause.

Help your body bounce back while sleeping


Ease hip and knee pain by sleeping on your side with a pillow tucked between your knees.

Soothe a sore neck by sleeping on your back, with your pillow above the shoulders. Roll up a small hand-towel and place it beneath your neck to keep it in a neutral position.

Baby your back and maintain the natural curve of the spine by sleeping on your stomach with a rolled up towel under your lower back and a pillow beneath your knees.

Sleeping on your side may sidestep sleep apnea by preventing airways form collapsing. To keep from rolling onto your back, try sewing a tennis ball onto the back of our pajamas.

Calm down acid reflux by raising the head of the bed  so your head is higher than your stomach, helping to keep stomach acid from rising into your esophagus.

If you have a gout flare or plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the tissues under the heel, you’ll want to take pressure off the feet. Instead of tucking in sheets, drape them over a footboard or buy a blanket lift to keep the covers off your feet.

Health Monitor

Next-Generation Therapies for Depression

The search for better treatments for depression embraces multiple strategies to fight this common, life-threatening disorder.

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is available now and was dev eloped in the 60′s. Cognitive therapy teaches people how to change their thinking to influence their moods. Therapists now believe that CT combined with  mindfulness- observing one’s thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them can be helpful for those who suffer from depression.

Kappa-opioid receptor (KOR) antagonists- naturally occurring opioids the brain help regulate neurotransmitters, but opioids such as morphine tend to increase pleasure and have the potential for addiction. KORs are in development and there is hope they will offer an antidepressant effect with the pleasure response or risk of dependency.

Ketamine and related drugs are in trials. A powerful anesthetic, ketamine targets a glutamate receptor called NDMS that helps to increase brain-cell function. Studies have shown that a ketamine infusion can reverse suicidal depression within hours though their can be hallucinogenic side effects. Testing is underway on non-hallucinogenic variations and different methods of delivery.

Brain stimulation- directly stimulating the brain to relieve depression has progressed since the early days of ECT. New studies suggest that low-field magnetic stimulation (LFMS), which painlessly sends low-strength, high frequency  magnetic waves to the brain, may offer treatment-resistant patents immediate relief.

Triple uptake inhibitors (TRIs) are being tested on humans. Today’s antidepressants target the brain’s neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine. Now researchers are suggesting that dopamine should not be overlooked and are  investigating drugs that simultaneously target all three key transmitters.

AARP The magazine August/September 2015

Staying Sharp


Minneapolis-based neuropsychologist David Alter is co-author of the new book called Staying Sharp focused on how to approach aging with intent and purpose. These are 5 things to help stay sharp:

1. Cultivate sharp attention and mindfulness- prioritize what matters

2. Stay curious- the brain wakes up when it encounters something unexpected

3. Be open to new adventures- a youthful brain involves flexible responses to problem solving

4. Be an optimist- it gives you the ability to stay the course rather than being consumed by frustration

5. Stay true to who you are, and prioritize quality relationships over quantity- honesty and empathy are keys to meaningful relationships which are what keep us and our brains going

Supplement Sleuth


An article in September 2015 by Stacey Colino discusses finding vitamins that are safe and effective.  Below are a few tips from their guide:

1. Understand the industry: the FDA does not require dietary supplement manufacturers to prove safety, efficacy, purity or potency. The level of testing varies among companies and manufacturers are responsible for regulating themselves.

2. Know that supplements should enhance, not replace healthy eating.

3. Be wary of ‘niche’ options: no over the counter or store bought supplement taken orally decreases stress and most energy boosters are loaded with caffeine.

4. Don’t go overboard: While excessive amounts of some water soluble vitamins will wash out in urine, other nutrients like vitamin A can be toxic to the liver. Look for formulas that provide no more than 100% of the recommended dietary intake. Always read the back of the bottle, paying attention to the numbers on the ingredients list.

5. Tell your provider about all the supplements you’re taking even if you think they are harmless.

Smart Shopping Tips:

Look for the USP symbol on the label because it shows what that the supplement contains what it claims to.

Watch out for problematic products- consult

Consider products that have been tested independently-