Q: I just read that the flu vaccine doesn’t work as well for folks who use statins. Is this true? I’ve been taking a low-dose statin for years.
Greg C., University Heights, Ohio
A: The results of a couple of recent studies reveal that this might be the case for people over age 65, and it reinforces the need for older folks, especially those who take statins, to make sure they get the high-dose flu vaccine that’s available for seniors, ASAP. First, let’s look at the two studies, and then you’ll see why getting your flu vaccine is so important.
The first study examined the records of 7,000 adults over age 65 in the U.S., Colombia, Panama and the Philippines and looked at the level of influenza antibodies in people who got the vaccine compared with those who didn’t get it. They found that the statin users had fewer influenza antibodies, indicating a lower immune response to the vaccine.
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The second study covered 140,000 Americans over nine flu seasons, and it also concluded that the effectiveness of flu vaccine in older people could be compromised by the use of statins.
Where does this leave you, Greg? Most important, do not stop taking or reduce your statin dose without your doctor’s permission. Statins are proven life-savers, as is the influenza vaccine. So, what’s the right move?
If you’re taking a statin, ask your doc about getting the high-dose trivalent flu vaccine (whether you’re over 65 or not). It’s a powerful protection against three strains of this potentially serious respiratory infection. If you combine taking your statin with a flu vaccine, you’ll be protecting your heart and lungs. Bottom line: Together, statins and the flu vaccines are saving a lot of lives. And maybe next year the high-dose vaccine will have additives called adjuvants, which can further boost your body’s own immune response. They’re currently approved in Europe.
Q: I’m worried that my best friend is hooked on painkillers. Her mood swings can be pretty alarming. I don’t know how to bring up the subject or what to say. Any help you can give me would be appreciated.
Laverne G., Portland, Oregon
A: Wow, do we have some help for you! On Nov. 19, we will be hosting (and hope all of you will too) a National Night of Conversation about addiction. Using the guidelines provided at www.doctoroz.com, you and your friends will have a chance to help one another avoid addiction, acknowledge it where it exists and discover the paths to recovery. So, Laverne ...
Extend the invitation: Let folks (family, friends, co-workers) know that you would be honored if they would join you and a few guests for dinner and to engage in an important conversation to compassionately consider drugs and addiction.
Get the conversation started: The guidelines for the National Night of Conversation at www.doctoroz.com offer your guests reading material, videos and/or audio about the current addiction crisis and the science of addiction. For example: Read Teen Drug-Use Infographics based on a survey of 41,675 students in 8th, 10th and 12th grades. Listen to Amid Rising Concerns About Addiction, Universities Focus on Recovery. Students in recovery from substance abuse are finding more support on a growing number of college campuses.
Ask questions: For your Night of Conversation, check out the tool kit at www.doctoroz.com. You get to indicate your specific interest in this dinner conversation. For example, “I am a parent or guardian and I want to have a conversation about drugs with my kids, ages 13-18.” The site then generates some conversation starters you might ask your kids, such as: How do you know if someone is addicted to drugs and alcohol?
Spread the word: If you’re hosting a dinner, we hope you’ll post a picture of an empty dinner plate on your favorite social media site. Why an empty dinner plate? Because you’re going to fill it up with food for thought about addiction!
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at firstname.lastname@example.org.