Improving life through exercise, nutrition, vaccines

Medical Minutes

Exercise as a Christmas present

Taking up a new exercise program or joining a health club may be one of the best Christmas presents for older adults in 2017. That’s because the United States is now in the midst of an “inactivity epidemic.” This inactivity reportedly is the fourth leading cause of death nationwide and is responsible for 3.2 million deaths each year.

No matter one’s age, when combined with a commitment to healthy eating, regular physical activity can provide a wealth of health benefits. Exercise is an essential tool that contributes to managing weight, building lean muscle, reducing fat, strengthening bones and joints and lowering the risk of obesity.

“By getting at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise at least three days a week, you can make a positive impact on both your physical and emotional health,” said sports/rehabilitation expert Don Tomaszewski, who is with The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, New Jersey.

He said there are emotional benefits from regular exercise that include improved mood, decreased feelings of depression and lower anxiety. The physical benefits include decreased risk for developing type 2 diabetes, a lower risk for heart disease, and a reduction in the incidence of high blood pressure.

Many people may not be aware that regular exercise significantly lowers your risk for stroke, helps improve sleep and may help lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Tomaszewski said a good starting place is getting a workout partner or working with a trained fitness professional who can assist with creating a personalized fitness plan.

New pneumonia vaccine in the works

A new vaccine is now under development that could put an end to pneumonia. The scientists developing the new vaccine report that it provides the most comprehensive coverage to date and alleviates antimicrobial concerns.

Deaths due to pneumonia have steadily declined for the past 15 years because of better access to antibiotics and improved nutrition. However, pneumonia vaccines have also played a large role. Introduced in the early 2000s, these vaccines target up to 23 of the most deadly forms of the bacterium that causes pneumonia (Streptococcus pneumoniae).

Now, a new vaccine under development could deal another blow to the disease, lowering the number of deaths even further by targeting dozens of additional strains of Streptococcus pneumoniae. The development of this vaccine also takes into account expected future versions of the bacteria responsible for pneumococcal disease, which includes sepsis and meningitis.

The vaccine provoked an immune response to 72 forms of Streptococcus pneumoniae in lab tests on animals, according to new research published in the journal Science Advances. “We’ve made tremendous progress fighting the spread of pneumonia, especially among children. But if we’re ever going to rid ourselves of the disease, we need to create smarter and more cost-effective vaccines,” said study co-lead author Blaine Pfeifer, PhD, who is an associate professor of chemical and biological engineering at the University at Buffalo’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Buffalo, New York.

More vegetables may improve fitness

People who have a healthier diet throughout their adult lives are more likely to be stronger and fitter in older age than those who don’t, according to a new study led by the University of Southampton in England. Investigators there looked at the dietary patterns of a group of 969 British men and women whose lifestyles have been monitored since they were born in March 1946.

Using information collected at four points in their adult lives (between

36 and 60 to 64 years), they examined diet at different ages in relation to three standard measures of physical function at age 60 to 64 (chair rise, timed up-and-go speeds, standing balance). The study, published in The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, is one of the first to look at the long-term benefits of healthier diets across adulthood for physical function in older age. It showed that those who ate more fruit, vegetables and whole grain cereals, and fewer highly processed foods, across adulthood performed better in the three tests of physical function in older age.

In addition, the study found evidence of better performance in two of the measures (chair rise speed and standing balance time) among participants whose quality of diet had improved across adulthood.

“Improving the quality of your diet can have a beneficial effect on health whatever your age. However, this study suggests that making good dietary choices throughout adulthood, by cutting down on highly processed foods and incorporating more fruit, vegetables and whole grains into your diet, can have a significant beneficial effect on strength and physical performance later in life, helping to ensure a much healthier old age,” said lead author Sian Robinson, who is a Professor of Nutritional Epidemiology at the University of Southampton.

John Schieszer is an award-winning national journalist and radio and podcast broadcaster of The Medical Minute. He can be reached at

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John Schieszer is an award-winning national journalist and radio and podcast broadcaster of The Medical Minute.

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