Ever wondered why you vaccinated every year against influenza? Well, a short answer is changes in the virus composition that occurs every year. For 2017, the predictions for Influenza are ominous. Trusting reliable news outlet like CNN, early indicators point towards a likely pandemic in Northern Hemisphere for 2017. It may very likely be pandemic and it makes sense to get the vulnerable vaccinated by late September or early October.
Note: The author presumes that you have read the disclaimer at the bottom of this blog if you have read this note and subsequent article.
Ever wondered why you vaccinated every year against influenza? Well, a short answer is changes in the virus composition that occurs every year. A long answer provides the small changes that occur in the Type A & B virus strain (called antigenic shift) or a major change that occurs in Type A or Type B viruses. Multiple flu viruses circulate each year and serial infections with different strains in the same person in a single season are possible.
Why should it matter?
Flu is caused by influenza viruses, and is spread mainly by coughing, sneezing, and close contact. Anyone can get flu. Flu strikes suddenly and can last several days. Especially for those who are vulnerable, it may have prolonged and severe problems. You should consult your doctors for understanding your vulnerability. However, generally Flu is a cause of concern for young children, people 65 years of age and older, pregnant women, and people with preexisting heart of lung conditions or a weakened immune system are at greatest risk.
As noted earlier, all those vulnerable are vaccinated early on in the winter against a combination of Type A and Type B virus. Since those small changes occur every year (antigenic drift) so a new vaccine is made every year. Generally every 3 – 5 years, the virus undergoes major mutations and since the population is not exposed to these new viruses, they are vulnerable (called absence of herd immunity in medical parlance) and results in pandemic.
How do scientists predict the right combination for the upcoming year?
While the Northern hemisphere is going through its summer and hurricane/tornado season, the Southern hemisphere, that includes Australia and New Zealand, are already undergoing winter with epidemic or endemic existence of Influenza. These same virus travel north, along with international travelers, and infect the population Northern hemisphere during their winter.
What is the prediction for 2017?
If you look at the prevalence of Influenza in Australia and New Zealand, the severity as well as the incidence if 2.5 folds more as compared to earlier year. That portends ominous signs for the Northern hemisphere winter.
What do we do?
Well, a simple answer is get vaccinated on time. Ideal time is before the onset of winter. Ideally, for full immunity to take effect, you need to give at least two weeks for the body to respond. So, if we are presuming the virus to start spreading and infecting the population, you should ideally take the vaccine at least by Sept end.
Who should be vaccinated?
According to CDC barring those with reaction to influenza vaccine and children less than 6 months of age, should not be vaccinated. According to CDC (Center for Disease Control) ‘everyone 6 months of age and older are recommended to get the flu vaccine, including even the healthiest adults. Vaccination is especially important for people at high risk of serious influenza complications or people who live with or care for people at higher risk for serious complications’.
This is voluntary awareness service program. You should consult your health care professionals for determining the timing, indications, type and amount of dose. Efforts for this awareness are voluntary and not supported by any commercial or other organizations. Readers are advised and encouraged to discuss any health related issues with their doctors.
Do you know that between the age of 35 – 40, we all start losing 1% of our lung capacity? Do you know that if we are engaged in regular moderate physical exercise, we tend to arrest that decline? Contrary to common believe, statistics have proven that, 45 minutes of exercise on a well-rested day, yields an extra productive effort of 68 minutes.
Exercise, not alone improves your productivity immediately post exercise, but also increases your body’s ability to handle stress in the immediate 2-3 days post exercise. Of course, there are several guidelines and recommendations that offer succinct advantage on each system of our body. Please read the exercises, their customization, ramp up and the different types of exercises to add to get a comprehensive regimen for your body.
Before establishing an overall fitness base and maximizing athletic development, one should go through step by step ramp up program with numerous exercises that safely increase coordination, flexibility, speed, strength, and endurance.
“In endurance runners’ brains have greater functional connectivity than the brains of more sedentary individuals. The runners, overall, showed greater functional connectivity — or connections between distinct brain regions — within several areas of the brain, including the frontal cortex. The frontal cortex is an important region for cognitive functions such as planning, decision-making and the ability to switch attention between tasks.(Running May Enhance Brain Connections)”
Many amongst you may be thinking, what are endorphins? Endorphins are morphine like substances secreted by brain that is bedrock of ‘feel good’ factor, driving optimism and energy as well as several aspects including immunity.
(This is part of another long term initiative I chose to drive understanding the impact and importance of this issue to our community. Initially, I will work with a small group of folks from our community, and understanding the success factor, I will expand to bigger group. You will see me blogging on this as part of this initiative).
As you already know, the pain point with us all is motivation. We all lack the motivation to go to the Gym or simply walk up and down the rails at home or other exercise. We do take an episodic bout of exercise that lasts few days or at best occasional week. Second, the compulsions of real life are really rigorous enough to abandon our episodic enthusiasm. If that’s not the only reason, some amongst us travel and crash back to our bed on our return.
Our Sedentary (Indian) Life Style – What happens & When?
Lungs – Do you know that between the age of 35 – 40, we all start losing 1% of our lung capacity? Do you know that if we are engaged in regular moderate physical exercise, we tend to arrest that decline?
Vegetarian Meals – Do you know our carb rich vegetarian diet tend to get converted to fats in the absence of exercise? We tend to put on fat despite eating fat restricted diet?
No Exercise – Do you know our heart tends to lose its ejection ability (ejection fraction)? Heart too gets deconditioned not doing exercise.
No Exercise – Do you know, our muscles steadily lose its strength and tone and eventually, it becomes small if not atrophied?
Bones – Do you know, our skeletal system is highly dependent on the health of our muscles, that once these muscles get decompensated, they lose the tone and we tend to injure our joints? Some reflections are prolapse disc, radiating pain, increase wear and tear of joints due to imbalance of agonist and antagonist muscles?
Brain – Do you know that our brain (dendrites) loses its networking potential between the neurons and we tend to accumulate the senile plaque and other material at a faster pace due to inactivity? You may want to know what Senile Plaque are – simply speaking, we lose our memory faster with inactivity.
Diabetes – Do you know, in the absence of moderate to vigorous exercises, we increase peripheral resistance to glucose and eventually end up with type 2 diabetes?
Well, none of these happens overnight but the decline has already started and all of these provides a huge background to most future illnesses (of ageing or late adulthood). We all know, lack of exercise takes a daily toll on our health. American Heart Association considers lack of habitual physical activity as the fourth major risk factor for coronary heart disease. Our cardiac, respiratory, metabolic, musculoskeletal, nervous, gastrointestinal and endocrine system all need a vigorous physically active program to keep those healthy.
According to Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Healthy People Guidelines, in adults and older adults, physical activity can lower the risk of:
We think, we are healthy, but –
Our life style, sedentary and food habits strongly predispose us to –
Coronary heart disease
High blood pressure
Type 2 diabetes
Breast and colon cancer
By adding exercise to our routine, we tend not only to slow down the decline but simultaneously build our mental health and be more optimistic and productive? While we do physical workout, we tend to not alone increase our physical health coefficient our mood and perception, as well as our ability to deal with stress and our quantitative efforts at work. This is because brain secrets, ‘feelgood’ chemicals – endorphin, oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine that helps to rejuvenate us.
Folks, there is one simple thing that stops these daily aggregation of risk –
I am working on overcoming our lack of motivation using multiple approaches. One amongst those is getting a trainer for training. If the pilot runs successfully, we will book a space where we can participate in group exercises with trainer hired on an hourly basis. I have not run out of options, if these won’t work, I will be more creative and come up with more options.
However, I am strongly opposed to directly jumping on the exercise bandwagon and break whatever we have. We need to
Customize as per individual body habitus
Develop comprehensive plan (Endurance/Aerobics, Yoga, Resistance, Strength, Flexibility etc. I will cover individual topics eventually, watch this space!)
Ramp up our exercise program.
Very few know that exercise, Yoga, Tai Chi or any other physical activities are not generic and need customization. Everybody is different and every individual is in a different state of health at different points in time. Consequently, a tailored approach is the key to success. Not all exercises from Gym are suitable for all, the same holds true about Yoga or Tai Chi. Unfortunately, our trainers are inadequately educated with medical understanding of our body to provide a customized program. Though doctors are trained, unfortunately, they only know polar ends, normal health and diseases condition. If something is not diseased, it is normal. However, practically, very often we fall in the gray zone. Summarily, we definitely can’t rely on our trainers and our doctors don’t have time to understand the needs of our normal bodies and provide a kinesthetic plan for our wellbeing.
Second, a ramp up is equally important. Presuming we have no underlying health issue, despite we cannot suddenly start with any exercise, be it jogging, running, swimming, or any or the aerobics or resistance training. We need to ramp up gradually and we need to recruit different groups incrementally in a coordinated fashion. Before establishing an overall fitness base and maximizing athletic development, one should go through step by step ramp up program with numerous exercises that safely increase coordination, flexibility, speed, strength, and endurance.
What will motivate us and get us going into regular exercise schedule? I believe, commitment, discipline, motivation and a group fun filled activity will do that. I feel, getting a trainer will help circumvent a lot of these inertia. We still have to work with other factors like choosing right exercises customized to our own body types, gradual ramp up and adding multiple types of exercises, such as Yoga, Cardio, Resistance Training, Strengthening Small Muscle groups etc. Of course, exercise is not panacea but offers a solid beginning and foundation. Getting good sleep and eating health are other things. However, the scope of this article is restricted to exercise and I will continue talking about exercise.
I am undertaking this community initiative for zero-sum gain despite a cost to my time and efforts, simply to get us all embarked on a community exercise plan. I will do a free physical evaluation (based on guidelines from American Academy of Sports and Physical Medicine) and will provide an explanation of the best options for selecting the exercises plus the best plan to ramp up. All I need is your cooperation.
As a proof of concept, I am planning to call a trainer at home whose responsibility will be to get us going at a particular time. He/She will keep us all motivated. Initially, I will have 5-6 folks to start with. We will find a time according to mutual convenience. The venue will be my home and we will start immediately, if possible. What do you say?
PS: Watch this space as I keep updating it with different types of exercises (including videos), guidelines and how best to tailor exercises to our body’s state and needs.