Updated COVID-19 vaccines
The latest vaccine is now available to provide increased protection against the currently circulating Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants. If it has been at least two months since you completed your COVID-19 primary series or had your last booster, then you are eligible for an updated vaccine. Experts say it makes no sense to get the initial vaccine and forego boosters as these vaccines still effectively reduce the risk of severe disease. Moreover, because only about a third of the U.S. population has received a COVID booster, it’s easier for the virus to continue to spread and mutate.
If you’re one of the very few people who had a significant reaction to one type of vaccine, ask about getting a different type of vaccine as a booster, advises Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing.
In addition, getting a COVID-19 vaccine after you recover from a COVID infection provides added protection against it. Remember, Medicare continues to cover the COVID-19 vaccines.
An old medicine grows new hair
The New York Times reports that a rising number of hair-loss dermatologists have been giving low-dose minoxidil pills to patients with male and female pattern hair loss. Years ago, when high dose minoxidil pills were prescribed for high blood pressure, patients and physicians discovered the pills prompted hair growth all over their bodies. The manufacturer then developed a topical lotion for the scalp known as Rogaine, which didn’t always work for everyone. An Australian dermatologist discovered that cutting the blood pressure pills into quarters for a female patient with hair loss, who was allergic to the topical version, stimulated hair growth without affecting her blood pressure. Dr. Rodney Sinclair says he has treated hundreds since, according to the article, and more and more dermatologists are sharing their success stories at conferences.
Long-term cannabis use affects cognition
While 37 states have passed medical cannabis laws and 19 states have legalized recreational cannabis, new research published in The American Journal of Psychiatry reports that individuals who used cannabis long-term (for several years or more) and heavily (at least weekly) exhibited impairments across several domains of cognition.
Long-term users’ IQs declined by 5.5 points on average from childhood and there were deficits in learning and processing speed compared to people who did not use cannabis. In addition, users also had smaller hippocampi.
The study also found that people who knew these long-term cannabis users well observed that they had developed memory and attention problems. Many of these symptoms can be reversed by tapering off the potency and frequency although a physician’s help may be needed if other medical or psychiatric factors are at play. It can take up to a month before an individual notices improvements as cannabis can remain in the body for two to four weeks.
Interestingly, individuals who used cannabis less than once a week with no history of developing dependence did not have cannabis-related cognitive deficits.
Parkinson’s Support Group
For those living with Parkinson’s Disease or other movement disorders, there’s a longstanding support group that is once again meeting in person in the rotunda at the First Baptist Church on Pulaski Street in downtown Athens. Often there are guest speakers, videos followed by discussion and general sharing. Whenever possible, the group provides break-out sessions for spouses/caregivers. For more information, contact the Church at 706-548-1350 or Gayle Noblet at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Use medications past due date?
While testing conducted by the military in the early 1990s showed many drugs were still good three years past their expiration date, the latest advice cautions that most of those drugs were the type only the military would be using in foreign locations. For the rest of us, the advice is to keep your medications in a cool, dry place so they will last longer (dresser drawer not bathroom cabinet) and use common sense. It may be fine to take an allergy medication that’s a month past its expiration date but there might be risk in taking a heart rhythm medication, that, if ineffective, could lead to an unstable heart problem. And a medication that’s a month past its expiration date may be potent while one that’s five years past is not.