Every year just before the weather turns colder, the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention begins an advertising campaign geared toward motivating
the masses to get the flu vaccine. They talk about the number of deaths each
year that are attributable to the flu and the number of missed work days that
cost employers hundreds of thousands of dollars. This year, that campaign will
likely be even more urgent due to outbreaks of the “swine flu” virus, which have
spread from one country to the next in the past six months or so.
Should you get yourself and your children vaccinated against the flu? Just like
all vaccines and medications, there are potential side effects associated with
the flu shot. Minor side effects can include but are not limited to soreness,
redness or swelling at the injection site, low-grade fever and other aches and
pains. More severe, life-threatening complications have proven to be rare, but
the danger still exists that someone can suffer severe effects from this alleged
beneficial vaccine. The most common dangerous side effect is an allergic
reaction. Since the vaccine is grown in eggs, it is more dangerous for those who
have had an allergic reaction to other vaccines in the past. These reactions can
include breathing problems, hoarseness or wheezing, hives, paleness, weakness,
and a fast heartbeat or dizziness.
An even more serious side effect is Guillain-BarrŽ syndrome (GBS). This is a
disease in which the body damages its own nerve cells, resulting in muscle
weakness and sometimes paralysis. While most people eventually recover, some
have permanent nerve damage and 5 percent to 6 percent of those who develop GBS
will die. The CDC would remind you that only six of every 1 million people
injected with the flu shot will develop GBS. That’s small comfort if you’re one
of the six, of course.
After careful consideration of the risks associated with the vaccine, it’s wise
to weigh those risks against those of the flu. The CDC talks about the benefits
of being vaccinated, but are those benefits backed up with the facts? The flu
vaccine is always changing because the flu strains change from one year to the
next. (The swine flu is once such variation.) The manufacturers of the vaccine
take a shot in the dark and hope they’ll hit the right strain each year, but the
fact is the flu shot is only 70 percent to 90 percent effective.
Jeannie Yagi from Positive Coaching Alliance passed on this story written by Karolina Starczak that shows the value of regular physical exercise.
From Sudoku puzzles to adding DHA to yogurt, we have become obsessed with improving memory. If you’re having a hard time keeping everything straight and organized in your overworked noggin, then a study published in the August issue of Neurobiology of Aging may have a solution—physical activity.
The six month study looked at sixty-two healthy elderly participants who were placed in moderate to low physical activity programs. In order to test the different types of exercise, participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: non-exercise control group, walking group, and a gymnastics group. The medium exercise intensity group followed a “Nordic walking” exercise program, which is a form of walking that combines the use of hand poles in order to not only work the legs, but the upper body as well. The low-intensity group followed a gymnastics regimen, where they incorporated upper and lower body toning as well as stretching.
During the six months, participants from both exercise groups had to attend at least three of their 50 minute assigned classes. Once the six month period was over, everyone has to complete a physical activity questionnaire, aerobic fitness test, memory performance assessment, depression evaluation, blood work, and a head MRI. Whew! That’s almost more work than the workouts.
While both groups increased their memory recall, the low-intensity group actually outperformed the medium-intensity group. On the other hand, the walking medium-intensity group showed an increase in gray matter in parts of the brain that are responsible for memory encoding and retrieval, processing cognitive information and emotional content, and problem solving.
To reap the benefits of exercise, try not to overwhelm yourself with the intensity level, but turn your focus to being active on a regular basis. Whether you enjoy yoga or love to go for an afternoon stroll, all forms of exercise are beneficial to improving memory and preventing cognitive decline as we age.