“Your Health Checkup” is our online column by Dr. Douglas Zipes, an internationally acclaimed cardiologist, professor, author, inventor, and authority on pacing and electrophysiology. Dr. Zipes is also a contributor to The Saturday Evening Post print magazine. Subscribe to receive thoughtful articles, new fiction, health and wellness advice, and gems from our archive.
I often receive emails from people challenging the importance of fundamental health recommendations, such as COVID vaccination and diet suggestions. These dissenters often cite statements made by unqualified nonexperts who report misleading or fallacious data and are eager to publish controversial opinions for their “fifteen minutes of fame.”
A major goal of my Post columns is to offer medical insights that have withstood the rigors of scientific scrutiny and, as a scientist and a physician, make suggestions that I think will help improve the lives of Post readers. I have expressed some of these insights in the past, but several are so important, I consider them worth restating.
Vaccination, even when not 100 percent effective, along with the discovery of antibiotics, is one of the major public health success stories in the history of medicine. The concept of vaccination began as early as the 15th century to battle the smallpox epidemic. A variety of techniques were used, such as inhaling powder of dried-out scabs from mildly infected patients and puncturing skin with a sharp iron needle previously dipped into a smallpox pustule. Finally, in 1796, physician Edward Jenner inoculated a boy with pus from cowpox blisters that immunized him against the more deadly smallpox disease.
The use of an mRNA base for the COVID-19 vaccine represents a scientific breakthrough that facilitated creation of a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine.
Although the COVID vaccine was generated in less than a year — an astounding achievement — hundreds of scientists worked on mRNA vaccines for decades before emerging with this achievement.
Opponents claim that the virus interferes with the body’s own RNA and DNA genetic makeup — wrong! That it is too new, rushed — wrong! That it affects fertility — wrong! That it contains a microchip to control behavior — wrong! So many wrong and outrageous statements. People who resist COVID-19 vaccination are putting their lives at risk, along with the rest of the population, because persistent infections permit further virus mutations that can become more deadly, transmissible, and widespread.
A recent publication suggests a small excess risk of myocarditis, especially in young men and adolescent boys, particularly after the second vaccine dose. Guidelines suggest patients refrain from competitive sports for three to six months, afterwards documenting a normal ECG, ambulatory rhythm monitoring, and stress test.
Another topic rife with false and misleading statements is diet. The Mediterranean diet, in contrast to the diet de jure, is one of the only diets that has withstood rigorous scientific scrutiny. A recent study of 642 participants (56 percent women) from Italy reaffirms its importance by finding that greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet, assessed by analyzing biomarkers during a 20-year follow up, was associated with a lower mortality in adults over 65.
A major component of the Mediterranean diet is olive oil, which, in and of itself, is healthy. Higher olive oil intake is associated with lower risk of total and cause-specific mortality. I have literally taken this to heart by replacing margarine, butter, mayonnaise, and salad dressings in my diet with olive oil. Recently, investigators reported on 60,582 women (Nurses’ Health Study, 1990-2018) and 31,801 men (Health Professionals Follow-up Study, 1990-2018) over 28 years of follow up. Higher olive oil intake, greater than half a tablespoon per day, was associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease mortality, cancer mortality, neurodegenerative disease mortality, and respiratory disease mortality. It’s a simple substitution that reduces overall mortality by 13-19 percent overall and can save your life.
Additional components of a healthy include maintaining a healthy body weight; eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grain products, and healthy sources of protein such as plants and seafood; eating minimally processed foods and minimizing the intake of beverages and foods with added sugars or salt. Sadly (for me and many others), alcohol abstinence, especially if a person is at risk for atrial fibrillation, is probably the best move.
Simple things such as being vaccinated and eating healthily can have major health ramifications.
Featured images: Shutterstock
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