Health officials report that deaths related to heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure have all increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Experts say a major reason may be that people delayed their regular medical checkups.
They say now is a good time to schedule physical exams and diagnostic tests.
They add that focusing on eating habits and daily exercise routines is also a good idea.
As COVID-19 pandemic restrictions are fading in the United States, people are returning to restaurants, movie theaters, and sporting events.
Experts note there is another place in particular people may not have visited in more than a year where they should return as soon as possible.
The doctor’s office.
A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that in the past year, deaths from both diabetes and heart disease have increased noticeably.
Specifically, heart disease-linked deaths rose by 32,000 over the previous year, a 3-percent jump, and only the second time in 20 years the rate has gone up.
Diabetes-related deaths increased by 13,000, or 14 percent. Deaths related to high blood pressure also ticked up 12 percent.
“I’m not surprised,” said Dr. Salim Virani, FACC, FAHA, FASPC, chair of the writing committee for the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association 2021 Statistical Update and an associate professor in cardiology and cardiovascular research sections at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas.
“Almost 40 percent of U.S. adults deferred care (in that time),” he told Healthline, adding that 12 percent of people who needed emergency care deferred as well.
In other words, Virani said, “Patients who actually need more care were deferring that care.”
Now, experts agree, is a good time to schedule a medical checkup to see where you are after a year of staying at home.
The first step in tackling this issue, according to Dr. Ping H. Wang, a professor and chair of the Department of Diabetes, Endocrinology & Metabolism at City of Hope in California, is realizing this: There actually is no blame.
“I don’t think this is anybody’s fault,” Wang told Healthline. “This is the biggest pandemic in [modern] human history. We all did the best we could.”
That’s why, he said, it’s not fair to blame people who deferred care or blame the medical community for advising people to stay home and be safe.
Even for those with comorbidities that usually require frequent medical visits, the message during lockdown seemed clear: Don’t venture out if you don’t have to.
That, Wang said, could have dissuaded many.
So, too, could the setup in clinics and hospitals at the time. Most people could not bring another person in with them, something that created a challenge for older as well as less independent individuals.
“People just didn’t feel comfortable,” he said.
Virani pointed out that early in the pandemic, emergency room visits dropped by more than 25 percent, something that foreshadowed these numbers.
“It’s not like during a pandemic there is less heart disease,” he said.
Virani also saw other signs.
Fitbit reported that in the first months of lockdown, even usually physically active people saw their activity levels decrease.
At the same time, he said, eating habits took a hit. In his research, Virani found that almost 40 percent of people reported a weight gain during the pandemic.
At the same time, he said, issues relating to mental health — something that can impact both heart health and diabetes — increased dramatically.
There were also issues related to limited access to medical staff and the financial impact of the pandemic.
With COVID-19 restrictions easing in most of the United States, experts say this is a good time to get back on track with your health.
The place to start, Virani said, is seeing your primary care physician.
“They are the person you should have a long-term relationship with,” he said.
Reaching out now to set an appointment — even if you have to wait for it — is the right move, he said.
He added that we have yet to learn just how long-term the elevated death rates from the pandemic will last.
“We have every reason to suspect that, unfortunately, [in] the next few years to come, we will continue to see this,” he said.
Going forward, Virani suggests focusing on a healthy daily diet, a regular exercise routine, and getting vaccinated against COVID-19 as well as other illnesses.
Among other things, he said, there’s some evidence that vaccines can help with inflammation, a component of heart disease and other ailments.
What can we learn from the COVID-19 pandemic should we face something like this again?
Wang said the medical community probably needs to adapt its messaging and availability going forward.
“How can we make resources available and accessible to those who need them (in another lockdown?),” Wang asked. “I don’t have an easy answer here,” he said. “But our community needs to address it.”
Researchers in Canada have shown that the long-lasting immunity that develops following infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is characterized by different T cell responses than those observed for influenza A virus-specific immune memory.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus is the agent responsible for the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic that has caused more than 176 million infections and more than 3.8 million deaths since the outbreak first began in late December 2019.
It is still unclear whether the T cell, B cell, and antibody responses triggered by an infection with SARS-CoV-2 resemble those triggered by a typical respiratory virus.
All successful viruses must suppress the host’s innate immune response to some extent, but how the unique features of the early response to SARS-CoV-2 impact long-term immunity to SARS-CoV-2 compared with other respiratory viruses remains unknown, says the team from Sinai Health System in Toronto and the University of Toronto in Oregon.
Now, Tania Watts and colleagues have shown that among 24 recovered individuals, SARS-CoV-2-specific T cell responses were distinct from those typically observed for influenza A virus (IAV).
The T cell responses to SARS-CoV-2 exhibited a lower CD8+: CD4+ T cell ratio and a higher proportion of interleukin 2- (IL-2) and IL-6-producing cells, as well as an altered cytotoxic profile, compared with IAV-specific memory responses.
These T cell responses and altered phenotype lasted for about nine months following symptom onset.
“These data suggest that the memory T-cell phenotype after a single infection with SARS-CoV-2 persists over time, with an altered cytokine and cytotoxic profile compared to long term memory to IAV within the same subjects,” writes the team.
A pre-print version of the research paper is available on the medRxiv* server, while the article undergoes peer review.
A large proportion of the global population needs to acquire immunity to SARS-CoV-2
The SARS-CoV-2 virus continues to circulate in many regions of the world and controlling the COVID-19 pandemic will require immunity among a large proportion of the global population.
Although vaccine-induced immunity is a key component in acquiring SARS-CoV-2 immunity, a substantial number of people have recovered from COVID-19. It is crucial to understand how these individuals maintain and develop immunity to the virus.
While all successful viruses suppress the host’s innate immune response to some degree, SARS-CoV-2 is particularly adept at evading type I and III interferon (IFN) responses, and people with defects in IFN signaling are overrepresented among severe COVID-19 cases.
“Whether these unique features of the early response to SARS-CoV-2 impact long-term immunity to SARS-CoV-2 compared to other respiratory viruses remains unknown,” writes Watts and colleagues.
What did the study involve?
The researchers assessed the persistence and phenotype of T cell and antibody responses to SARS-CoV-2 among 24 recovered individuals at a median of 45 days and 145 days post-symptom onset. The majority (75%) of participants had recovered from mild disease that did not require hospitalization.
Antibody responses to SARS-CoV-2 were detected in 95% of participants.
A strong correlation was observed between plasma and salivary levels of immunoglobulin G (IgG) directed at the viral spike protein and its receptor-binding domain (RBD). The spike RBD mediates the initial stage of the infection process by binding to the host cell receptor angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2).
A correlation was also observed between circulating T follicular helper cells and the SARS-CoV-2-specific IgG response.
All individuals had CD4+ T cell responses to SARS-CoV-2 that decayed with a half-life of five to six months for spike-specific IL-2-producing cells.
T cell memory phenotype differed between SARS-CoV-2 and IAV
The phenotype of the SARS-CoV-2-specific T cells differed from that of T cell memory responses to IAV within the same individuals.
The response to SARS-CoV-2 was characterized by a lower ratio of CD8+: CD4+ T cell and a lower ratio of IFN-g-: IL-2-producing cells, compared with IAV-specific memory responses.
The analysis also revealed a decreased IFN-g: IL-6 ratio and an altered profile of cytotoxic molecules compared with IAV-specific responses.
These T cell responses and altered phenotype persisted for about nine months following symptom onset.
The responses to IAV were about two to three times more stable than the responses to SARS-CoV-2.
The researchers say that since boosting is known to increase the duration of T cell immunity, this finding likely reflects the IAV-specific memory being boosted over a lifetime of exposure or vaccination.
“The response to SARS-CoV-2 represents a primary infection; whether this will change upon boosting remains to be determined,” they add.
What did the authors conclude?
The researchers say the findings demonstrate that most individuals in a cohort of recovered, mainly mild cases have detectable T and antibody responses to SARS-CoV-2 for around nine months post-infection.
“Although a limitation of our study is that the IAV-specific responses measured here represent a lifetime of exposure to IAV, whereas SARS-CoV-2-specific responses represent the response to a new infection… the data suggest that SARS-CoV-2 specific T cell responses are distinct from the typical response to the respiratory pathogen IAV,” concludes the team.
medRxiv publishes preliminary scientific reports that are not peer-reviewed and, therefore, should not be regarded as conclusive, guide clinical practice/health-related behavior, or treated as established information.
Here in the UK, we are waiting patiently for the government to lift all COVID-19 restrictions on June 21, as it has promised to do. UK businesses are urging the government to stick to its promise.
The thought of ongoing restrictions is difficult for all of us – every doctor knows the harms that lockdowns bring to their patients. People are clearly feeling increasingly angry about the prospect of a lingering lockdown; there have been large protests against lockdowns in many countries, with fringe groups continuing to claim the virus itself does not exist. When healthcare professionals see these protests and false claims, though, it rubs salt into very recent wounds. We have been working tirelessly and risking our own lives caring for our patients with the virus. Each protest feels like a slap in the face for all the work we have done so far.
So, despite the fact that the numbers of hospitalisations from COVID are at a low in the UK and our vaccine programme has been a runaway success, scientists and doctors would prefer that the government wait another month to lift restrictions until more people have received both doses of the vaccine, which has been shown to offer a good level of protection against the delta variant.
The cause for their concern is a rise in the number of new cases of the B1.617.2 – or the variant first identified in India, now being called the “delta variant”, which can increase the risk of hospitalisation by 2.7 times, according to Public Health England. The UK government has already come under fire for not acting quickly enough to restrict flights from India and it is dithering about what to do next.
As a doctor, it is painful to watch. The one thing we should have learned since this pandemic began is that any delay in responding to this virus results in more deaths and longer and harder lockdowns.
Over-reacting, earlier, saves time and lives in the long term; we only need to look at New Zealand for the evidence. Under-reacting, and taking too long to make a decision, risks another serious outbreak of the virus.
Evidence that we are on the verge of a third wave, not just in the UK but globally, is mounting. Since March, large parts of Europe have been racing to vaccinate their populations against rising numbers of infections, mainly thought to be due to the variant first discovered in the UK, B1.117, now known as the “alpha variant”.
Hampered by delays to the delivery of vaccines, Germany and Italy have seen cases surge and lockdown rules extended. These countries are now worried about rising numbers of cases of the delta variant in the UK, with Germany banning all but essential travel to and from the UK as of May 23 as it brands the UK an “area of variant concern”.
This comes after 189 people were quarantined in an apartment block in the German town of Velbert on May 18 after one of its residents tested positive for the delta variant. People were unable to leave the building until all residents had been tested and contact tracing was complete.
Aside from Germany and the UK, the delta strain has been detected in other European nations including Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, France, the Netherlands and Spain – albeit at low levels.
Elsewhere, Nepal continues to struggle against a rising wave of infections, with hospitals finding it difficult to meet the demand from increasing numbers of patients. Nepal’s prime minister, KP Sharma Oli, has made an urgent plea for vaccines to his UK counterpart Boris Johnson. Speaking to the BBC, he said the UK should acknowledge the sacrifices of Nepal’s Gurkha soldiers who served the UK and make Nepal a priority for UK COVID aid.
There have also been reports of a new variant being discovered in Nepal, although the World Health Organisation (WHO) tweeted: “WHO is not aware of any new variant of SARS-CoV-2 being detected in Nepal.” If there is a new variant, it is likely to be a mutated version of the delta variant.
Scientists are still studying this potential variant, but it is thought to harbour the K417N mutation which could make it more evasive to the immune response triggered by the vaccines. If that is the case, it could be potentially problematic as it has been identified in Vietnam, Japan, the UK and Portugal as well as other countries.
South Africa is already taking action to prevent a third wave. President Cyril Ramaphosa has imposed tighter restrictions across four of the country’s nine provinces. With almost 1.65 million cases and 56,363 fatalities, South Africa is officially the worst-affected country on the continent.
It is a worrying time for many people involved in the fight to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in preventing the spread of new variants and racing to get as many people fully vaccinated as possible.
But while countries continue to look inwards and protect only their own populations, this virus is likely to find fertile breeding grounds in countries that are unable to vaccinate their people at the same rates, resulting in further variants arising. We need to break the chain between infections and hospital admissions, and the only way to do this is to vaccinate the world’s population. If people are protected against serious disease by vaccines then we can suppress and then live alongside the virus with regular booster shots for future variants. If countries continue to be nationalistic about vaccines, a third wave is looking more and more likely.
We live in a world where people can move relatively easily from continent to continent, so while vaccinating your own country might buy time, we need to vaccinate globally to solve this pandemic.
Progress report: Did COVID originate in a Wuhan lab?
The Wall Street Journal reported on May 23 that three researchers in China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology became sick enough to warrant hospital treatment in November 2019, before the outbreak in Wuhan officially began. The Wuhan Institute leads studies into coronaviruses as well as other pathogens, and the researchers allegedly showed symptoms that may have been consistent with COVID-19. The question as to whether the symptoms were COVID remains unanswered.
Four days after this report appeared, however, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) in the US released a press statement saying: “The US Intelligence Community does not know exactly where, when, or how the COVID-19 virus was transmitted initially but has coalesced around two likely scenarios: either it emerged naturally from human contact with infected animals or it was a laboratory accident.”
The ONDI said it is divided over which one of these cases is more likely, and it will continue to examine all available evidence. President Joe Biden ordered his intelligence committees to investigate the possibility of a laboratory leak, something China has firmly rejected.
Does it matter where the virus sprang from? Well, yes, it does. It is vital that we understand the origins of this virus so we can prevent similar pandemics from occurring in the future.
An investigation team sent in January this year by the WHO to examine the possible causes of the outbreak of the coronavirus in Wuhan concluded it was “extremely unlikely” the virus had escaped from a nearby laboratory. The US has asked the WHO for more data and transparency as it moves into Phase Two of its COVID origins study.
The widely accepted theory about the origins of the coronavirus is that it was zoonotic, meaning it jumped from animals to humans; the most likely animal coming into contact with a human being either a bat or a pangolin. The theory that it was man-made in a laboratory in China has always been dismissed by many scientists as a conspiracy theory but, since President Biden’s announcement, it has now gathered mainstream interest. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a Canadian press conference on May 27 that he supports Biden’s efforts to investigate the origins of the coronavirus.
In a paper that has not yet been peer-reviewed but is due to be published in the scientific journal, Quarterly Review of Biophysics Discovery, two scientists have concluded that “SARS-Coronavirus-2 has no credible natural ancestor” and that it is “beyond reasonable doubt” that the virus was created through “laboratory manipulation”.
Two of the paper’s authors, British Professor Angus Dalgleish and Norwegian scientist Dr Birger Sørensen, told the Daily Mail in the UK that the virus has “unique fingerprints” that could only have been manipulated in a laboratory and could not have occurred naturally.
They say they believe that, in a bid to study viral effects in humans, Chinese scientists modified naturally occurring coronaviruses and made them more infectious by inserting chains of amino acids into the spike protein of the virus. This process of altering a virus’s makeup so it becomes more transmissible and studying its effects on human cells in a lab is known as Gain of Function – and is banned in many countries.
The two authors also claimed that after the pandemic began, Chinese scientists took samples of the COVID-19 virus and “retro-engineered” it, making it appear as if it had evolved naturally. This may sound fantastical, but it is, in fact, entirely possible to do.
Whatever the origins, it is clear we need further investigation, Chinese cooperation and full transparency so the international scientific community can fully scrutinise the data in an effort to reduce the risk of further pandemics originating in the same way.
In the doctor’s surgery: Patients returning to my clinic
It has been a busy week at the surgery. Patients are facing long delays to routine surgical procedures such as hip or knee replacements, as well as other more minor hospital treatments for their ailments and are returning to their family doctor to help manage symptoms while they wait. During the pandemic, I had many vulnerable groups of patients who were shielding due to underlying health conditions and an increased risk of them becoming seriously ill should they contract COVID-19. This meant they could not visit my surgery and I could not go to them because of the risk of me unwittingly taking the virus into their homes. Most of our consultations were, therefore, conducted remotely over the phone or through video calls.
But these people have now had both doses of their vaccine and no longer have to shield. This week, I saw one such patient at the surgery, an elderly man who I have been looking after for many years.
I hadn’t realised how much I had missed seeing my patients face to face – it was a real pleasure to have him back in my consulting room. As well as talking about his illnesses, we talked about a shared passion of ours; gardening.
He told me his tomatoes were coming along nicely and that his onions were doing well; I told him about the hedgehogs that have been frequenting my garden.
It might sound like an odd conversation for a doctor and patient to have, but these moments are what make the relationship between a family doctor and their patients special. My elderly patient had been alone for the best part of a year and human contact had been sorely missed. And, if I am being honest, I missed this part of my job too. The COVID pandemic has made these little conversations harder to have as we have been so focused on managing acutely unwell patients, but as things open back up, I am looking forward to catching up with my patients on all the small things too!
And now, some good news: Cancer patients respond well to vaccines
A study published this week shows that cancer patients are having a good immune response to the COVID-19 vaccines. People living with cancer have had a tough pandemic. As well as enduring delays to treatments, they have had to isolate or even shield due to being at increased risk of severe illness if they catch the virus. Because these people are on treatments that can dampen their immune systems – putting them at risk of serious illness from even minor infections – having an effective vaccine response may help alleviate their fears about going to hospital and feeling safe.
The Israeli study compared blood tests of patients undergoing cancer treatment for solid tumours with healthy adults 12 days after they had their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. The study showed that 90 percent of the cancer patients had adequate coronavirus antibodies, compared with 100 percent of the control group. This good news was caveated with findings showing the overall concentration of antibodies to coronavirus was lower in those receiving treatment for cancer compared with those without cancer. This is most likely due to the chemotherapy or immunotherapy they were receiving as part of their cancer treatment which can affect their immune response.
The duration for which the antibodies last in people receiving treatment for cancer remains undetermined, but there may be a call in the future for booster vaccines to ensure this vulnerable group remain adequately protected.
Reader’s question: Can sleep boost my immune system?
Since the pandemic began, many people have looked for natural ways to help maintain a healthy immune system. Getting a regular, good night’s sleep is actually beneficial to the immune system. Sleeping for seven to nine hours each night gives the body a chance to rest and recover. When we sleep, our bodies produce more T-cells, which are immune cells that play a critical role in fighting off infections. We also produce proteins called cytokines while we sleep; these target areas of infections and inflammation, aiding the healing process. Combined with a balanced diet rich in fruit and vegetables and regular exercise, getting a good night’s sleep is a natural way to boost your immune system.
Staying home during the COVID-19 pandemic was an invaluable public health measure that helped to greatly reduce transmission of the virus and save many lives (at least more than the incredible amount of people we lost).
But life in lockdown certainly isn’t typical for most of us. It has raised questions about what a year of relative isolation, masking and just general germ-avoidance may have done to our immune systems. Have they been wrecked? Are we basically just babies reborn? Do we need to behave differently now?
Of course, many people have been working and learning in-person for months now, while others are just starting to re-emerge. So here is what we know about what happened to people’s immune systems during the pandemic, as well as what to expect as even more people dive back into their old routines.
Most adults’ immune systems will NOT have been weakened by isolation
Perhaps you’ve heard about the hygiene hypothesis, which is the idea that exposure to certain viruses, bacteria or parasites in childhood helps the immune system develop. Based on that theory, some people are worried that people’s immune systems will be walloped when they go back out into the world, because they haven’t been exposed to many germs over the past year-plus. But experts aren’t concerned.
“There is no cause for concern that social distancing has weakened our immune systems,” Sindhura Bandi, an allergy and immunology specialist and associate professor of medicine and pediatrics with Rush University Medical Center, told HuffPost. “By adulthood, we have come into contact with many types of viruses and bacteria. Our immune system has created memory to these pathogens, so that when we come into contact with them we can make antibodies to fight off the disease.”
In other words, your body has already spent a lifetime developing antibodies to common illnesses through direct exposure or through vaccination, Bandi explained. One year of staying home and masking (which again, helped fight a deadly pandemic) is not going to drastically change that.
That said, you might come down with a cold when you head back into the office ― because you’re going to be around more germs again, and because, yes, your immune system is a bit out of practice.
“Our immune systems have not been exposed to common everyday pathogens,” explained Monaa Zafar, a doctor of internal medicine with Westmed Medical Group. She also noted that people’s immunity may have been hampered by other lifestyle changes over the past year — like the fact that many people have been drinking more, sleeping less, coping with chronic stress and not getting outdoors and getting sufficient vitamin D.
Experts also have questions about what the 2021-2022 flu season could be like after being virtually nonexistent this past year. There’s some speculation it could be particularly bad as experts struggle to predict which strains to target with next year’s vaccine, though no one really knows.
But concerns about a potentially tough flu season don’t have anything to do with people’s immune systems and being sheltered in 2020.
People who had COVID-19 might have long-term immune system changes that we don’t totally understand yet
While most adults’ immune systems haven’t been changed by the pandemic, some people who were infected with COVID-19 and recovered could, indeed, experience some long-term alterations to their immune system function.
“Some patients experienced a significant inflammatory response as the immune system worked to fight the disease,” Bandi said. “Recovery from the illness has led to long-term effects ― commonly referred to as ‘long-haul COVID’ ― which may be tied to the immune system.”
Experts are still unraveling what causes some people to come down with long-haul COVID ― or post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC) as it is now officially known ― as well as what causes it. One working theory is that lingering symptoms may stem from a persistent inflammatory or autoimmune response.
What all of that means in terms of people’s immune system function as they head back out into the world is still a question — and a pressing one. Estimates suggest up to 1 in 4 COVID-19 patients are long-haulers. And of course there have been more than 33 million reported cases of COVID-19 in the United States alone. So understanding the potential broader impact on the immune system in people who’ve had the virus will be important.
Kids might get more colds
There is a chance that young kids who’ve missed out on a year of day care or preschool could be prone to more colds and other infections when they begin spending more time together again.
“There are studies that demonstrate that toddlers who attend congregate child care settings, and presumably are exposed to more germs, are less likely to develop viral illnesses, allergies and autoimmune diseases in grade school,” Bandi said.
But context is really key here. Sure, young kids might have a harder time fighting off some common illnesses when they get back to their old routines, but it was essential to keep them isolated for much of the year because it lowered their risk of getting — and spreading — COVID-19.
Also, they still have ample opportunities to be exposed to germs down the road.
“As the general population becomes vaccinated and we are able to open up again, these young children will have plenty of opportunity for their immune systems to become exposed to and make antibodies to common childhood cold viruses,” Bandi said.
Sleep, socialization and staying home when sick will all be really important
Ultimately, there’s no clear scientific evidence that if you engage in certain habits or behaviors you can really directly “boost” your immune system, but taking care of your overall well-being certainly won’t hamper how it functions. Doing things like getting plenty of sleep and loading up on nutrients are always good ideas.
“Getting six to eight hours of sleep nightly, 150 minutes of exercise weekly, eating whole grains, lean protein, fruit and vegetables in a balanced diet all help strengthen our immune systems,” Zafar said.
“I believe the most powerful immune-booster is regular physical activity,” echoed Tuvana Bain, a doctor of internal medicine with Westmed Medical Group.
There’s been a lot of talk about how important social connection is for our mental health and well-being, but there may be an important immune-system element to reconnecting with friends and loved ones as the world slowly reopens as well.
“As people are able to connect again with family, friends and colleagues, this can have an indirect effect on boosting the immune system,” Bandi said. Indeed, research has linked loneliness to all kinds of poor physical outcomes, from heart disease to decreased levels of certain antiviral compounds in the body.
Lastly, it’s going to be really important over this next stretch to avoid the tendency to go into the office or send your kid off to school when sick. Staying home and resting not only gives your own immune system a chance to fight back, it also helps keep other people safe.
“In the past, we may try to stick it out for the workday or give our child some Tylenol before sending them off to school to suppress the fever,” Bandi said. “We have to remember there are vulnerable people around us.”
The good news is, most of us have become much more attune to how our own behaviors impact the health of others, and we’ve become pretty darn good at basic preventive measures.
“Nothing beats frequent hand-washing as the ultimate protection from infection,” Bain said.
Experts are still learning about COVID-19. The information in this story is what was known or available as of publication, but guidance can change as scientists discover more about the virus. Please check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most updated recommendations.
ANKARA, 6 June (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News – 6th Jun, 2021 ) :- Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet is crucial to boosting the immune system during the coronavirus pandemic, a Turkish dietician told Anadolu Agency.
“Although there is no food that can prevent the spread of the virus on its own, a healthy and balanced diet, together with physical activity and regular sleep, strengthens the immune system,” Busra Sabur said in an interview for World Dietitian Day.
Sabur said she saw increases in body weight during the lockdown, even among her patients who follow a strict healthy diet. She explained that is because the pandemic led to less physical activity, a tendency to consume packaged foods and a feeling of leisureliness.
“The pandemic also causes fears of starting a diet among people and they begin to eat more to strengthen their immune system,” she said. For Sabur, it is the wrong way to proceed. “Unfortunately, it is not the right path. A healthy diet boosts the immune system by meeting all our nutritional needs,” she said.
But if bodyweight increases with the unconscious intake of calories, our immunity suffers from the risk of obesity, she noted.
Children and adolescents have been the most affected group from the pandemic, according to Sabur and she observed an increase in the number of child clients applying to her clinic.
“Unfortunately, children and adolescents have entered a period where physical activity at home is very limited due to the online education and pandemic restrictions. When an unhealthy diet is added to an inactive life, the incidence of obesity in childhood has increased,” she said.
Her advice to parents is to encourage their children to eat healthy and engage in more physical activity.
“Packaged products, acidic beverages and pastries should not be taken at home. If bodyweight gain cannot be prevented, support from nutritionists should be sought,” she said.
We have for you some Ayurvedic tips to improve your immunity and protect yourself from the second wave of COVID-19 by adding these foods to your diet.
COVID-19 has drastically changed the way we look at health. By wreaking havoc and panic of an unprecedented nature, it has knocked the significance of leading a healthy lifestyle deep into our psyche. It is fast dawning upon us that COVID-19, which renders our immune system less effective, can be fought against by strengthening one’s immunity.
Before moving forward let us understand what immunity actually is. Our immune system is the body’s natural defence system against illness and infections. It works non-stop in saving our body from diseases. A healthy immune system helps us go about daily life as we come into contact with germs and bugs from pets, people and the environment. It helps prevent diseases that could otherwise enter the body very easily and could have an adverse effect.
Ayurvedic texts suggest that prevention is an equally important aspect of disease management as a cure and thus, strengthening the immune system is a natural way to help the body fight against the disease-causing pathogens. Therefore, Ayurveda promotes the use of Rasayana (rejuvenating herbs) to enhance ojas and vyadhikshamatva (immunity). Furthermore, in order to combat infections that may enter the body, it is important to follow a good diet, exercise and sleep routine. Doing that not only helps boost immunity but also keeps our mind and body balanced and healthy.
As per Ayurveda, the below-mentioned foods can help strengthen and improve your immune system from within:
Amla (Indian Gooseberry)
It is considered to be a very rich source of vitamin C. In Ayurveda, amla forms an important part of numerous medicinal formulations. This green fruit contains ascorbic acid, as well as calcium, potassium, iron, and vitamin B-complex. Apart from all this, it is also rich in antioxidants, which aid in the battle against free radicals, helps keep hair colour dark, and acts as a bulwark against pathogens.
Khajoor figures high and often in the list of Ayurvedic remedies. Not only does it taste great, but it also has many immunity-enhancing properties. It contains minerals like iron, magnesium, selenium, copper, zinc and vitamins A&B, and is often prescribed to people suffering from anaemia due to its high iron content. Further, it can be easily incorporated into our diet as a snack.
Moong Beans (Moong Dal)
Do you sometimes feel drowsy, sleepy, or have erratic bowel movements, or do you have a thick white film on the surface of your tongue? Moong daal is recommended by Ayurveda for such conditions due to its high fibre content as well as other basic vitamins, proteins, and minerals. A staple in Indian households, moong dal khichdi is the most convenient way of making the most of Moong Dal’s nutritional benefit.
As children, whenever we would fall ill or sustain some injury, our grandparents would tell us to drink turmeric milk, a common time-tested and trusted home remedy. Turmeric is recommended because of its powerful anti-inflammatory property, which helps fasten the healing process. Besides, it also helps prevent heart diseases and increases blood supply in the body.
Ghee is used in Ayurveda for both medicinal and culinary purposes. Ghee nourishes the body internally and rejuvenates the body tissues. Butyric acid found naturally in ghee helps in boosting the immune system.
About the author: Dr Partap Chauhan is the Director of Jiva Ayurveda, is an author, public speaker, TV personality and Ayurvedacharya.
Inoculation with live attenuated vaccines (LAV) such as those used against TB, polio or measles can stimulate the immune system to provide protection against other infectious diseases, including COVID-19, says a new study.
People who have been inoculated with one or more LAVs but have no access to the new, specific vaccines against COVID-19 — typically because they are expensive or in short supply — may have some protection during the current pandemic, according to the study.
LAVs use a weakened (or attenuated) form of the pathogen or germ that causes a disease. These vaccines are similar to the natural infection they help prevent, and create a strong and long-lasting immune response, often over a lifetime, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
According to the authors of the study published in PNAS, older live attenuated vaccines could also afford protection from other emerging viruses. Attenuated viruses or other pathogens will grow in a vaccinated person, and stimulate an immune response, but are too weak to cause disease.
Robert Gallo, an author of the study, says it is important to bring up this topic now to raise awareness of the entire field. “The practicality is to make people think about the potential for these broad vaccines to be able to be used at the start of a pandemic and to fill in the gap before specific vaccines are available — and be considered in those regions of the world where getting the specific vaccines may be too costly or delayed.
“There is no disadvantage to LAVs, or broad vaccines, as they only last a few months. But we think there is a great chance of saving many lives.LAVs are inexpensive, readily available, and not harmful.”
According to Gallo, whose team of scientists helped discover the HIV virus, it has been shown in medical literature as far back as 1972 that LAVs can play a role in limiting an epidemic or pandemic. “For example, during a big Russian study of influenza, researchers observed that people vaccinated with oral polio vaccine had far less influenza.”
Gallo believes that in the future, many people who face a new epidemic or pandemic for which there is no vaccine or therapy, will benefit from the research. This also could be the case if current vaccines are not effective with any new SARS-CoV-2 variants, he says, stressing that LAVs do not interfere with specific vaccines for a disease but are likely to improve response to those vaccines.
Stanley Plotkin, emeritus professor at the University of Pennsylvania, says there should be a push for older vaccines in addition to making certain COVID-19 vaccines available in the developing world.
Plotkin, who developed the rubella vaccine and has worked on vaccines for anthrax, polio, rabies, and rotavirus, says because COVID-19 vaccines will not be widely available for populations in developing countries for many months, “a degree of resistance to the coronavirus could be induced in a significant part of the population by giving vaccines against other diseases like BCG and the vaccine against TB, which will stimulate the immune system and give partial protection.
The non-specific protective effects of certain vaccines have been demonstrated by many studies, and until there is enough vaccine against COVID-19 to immunise everyone in the world, taking advantage of non-specific immunity could save lives.”
Stanley Plotkin, Emeritus Professor, University of Pennsylvania
Gallo says non-specific protection from vaccines is a field that has been underappreciated. “It needs funding and visibility,” he adds. “You should know that this is how bats handle coronaviruses without getting ill — through innate immune mechanisms that are present all the time in contrast to many other mammals.”
Good immunity is our first line of defence to protect ourselves from various diseases including the COVID-19. While it’s no guarantee that a good immunity will save you from catching the virus, it surely helps the fight against it. As the number of coronavirus cases in India witnessed a sharp rise during the second wave of the pandemic, the need to be extra careful about your immunity is more than ever. While getting a good immunity is the larger task you can do it by making a slight change in your diet and intake. Here, we list of the immunity-boosting drink that you can incorporate in your daily intake and increase your immunity level.
Homemade Ayurvedic kadhas suddenly gained popularity and it became an ‘in’ thing for immunity as the pandemic arrived. Preparing an Ayurvedic kadha is very simple and require easily available ingredients like basil, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, carom seeds, turmeric and black pepper. All you need to do is boil these ingredients in water and have it. You may even add honey or jaggery for taste. Giloy is also commonly used in various kadhas as it helps in increasing your immunity.
Ginger and Apple Cider Vinegar soother
Both ginger and Apple Cider Vinegar are good for immunity. While ACV has beneficial bacterias and prebiotics that are beneficial for immunity, ginger contains chemicals called sesquiterpenes that target cold viruses. To prepare this drink you need to boil water before adding ginger and letting it seep with cover for 5 minutes.
Then you need to add ACV, honey and cayenne mix. Ingredients:1 cup water, 1-inch ginger peeled and grated, 1 tsp unpasteurized apple cider vinegar, 1 tsp raw honey, a pinch of cayenne pepper.
Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin which gives the immune system a boost. Preparing turmeric tea is a very easy process and all you need to do is boil 1 or 2 tablespoon of turmeric and 4 cups of water for 15 to 20 months. Serve it hot with lemon and honey added to your taste.
Granola Fruit Smoothie
Want to work on immunity while getting all the good taste? You should try Granola Fruit Smoothie then.
This is a high protein drink that has ingredients like banana, flaxseeds, Greek yoghurt, honey, cinnamon and granola. It is very easy to make, and the combination of cinnamon and honey provides the natural immunity booster effect to it. To start with crush granola coarsely in the blender and then add Greek yoghurt and blend. Finally, add the other ingredients and soya mil and give it a good blend.
Warm water lemon juice
To prepare this juice you will need 1 glass of lukewarm water, lemon juice, salt and money to taste. Take a glass of lukewarm and squeeze 1 or 2 lemons for juice before adding salt and honey to taste. Lemon is very rich in vitamin C and antioxidants and its consumption will give the required push for your immunity.
International Milk Day, which is observed every June 1, here we are with a few dairy products that can help you stay strong amidst COVID-19 pandemic. Read on to know more
Updated: Mon, 31 May 2021 01:29 PM IST
New Delhi | Jagran Lifestyle Desk: As COVID-19’s strain continues to spread its wings, it is very important for one to take care of themselves. As this time the virus is severely affecting people’s lungs and causing breathing problems, infections, stomach issues and more, it is even more necessary to maintain our immunity. Therefore, to minimise the risk of the disease washing hands, having your surrounding sanitized and even social distancing is not enough.
Yes, in the second strain of COVID-19 boosting your immune system should be your top priority and one of the best ways to do that is to keep a track of what are you eating throughout the day. Right from green veggies, legumes to healthy dairy products, one should include everything in their diet. Meanwhile, when it comes to increasing immunity then milk is considered one of the best options for the same. Therefore, on International Milk Day, which is observed every June 1, here we are with a few dairy products that can help you stay strong amidst COVID-19 pandemic.
Milk is considered as a complete diet for age groups right from a child to an older adult. It contains vitamin A, vitamin D, zinc, protein and other nutrients which help in boosting your immunity.
As per experts, a lot of flu-like infections in adults can be controlled once they have probiotic-rich yogurt drinks. Yes, yoghurt is rich in lactobacillus which is a probiotic (also known as a beneficial type of bacteria) that helps in fighting for your body and increasing your immunity.
According to a latest study conducted by experts in the University of Turku in Finland, cheese can be highly good for immune system. Yes, this milk product can carry probiotic bacteria which is considered beneficial to increase immunity in older adults.
Role of nutrients in the immune system
Dairy foods which are mentioned above including milk, cheese and yogurt posses important nutrients such as vitamins A and D, zinc and protein, which a ire considered good immunity boosters. Therefore, take a look at what role do they play in strengthening your body’s defence mechanism.
Vitamin A lends its support to gastrointestinal tract and respiratory systems’ tissues.
Vitamin D helps in keeping your gastrointestinal system intact, also, it protects your body against lung infections.
Zinc helps in maintaining skin integrity while boosting your immunity.
Protein helps in quick healing and gets your body to recover faster.
The COVID-19 vaccine is currently the best form of protection against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and its variants. But a new perspective article published in the journal PNAS suggests it’s not the panacea to stopping SARS-CoV-2. Robert C. Gallo of the University of Maryland School of Medicine and colleagues of the Global Virus Network propose administering vaccines such as tuberculosis, measles, and polio that use already weakened viruses to boost innate immunity.
Ending the pandemic requires global vaccination, but some countries cannot accelerate vaccination campaigns like some Western countries. Some countries will be starting vaccinations in 2022 — leaving them at risk for developing more deadly and potentially immune-evasive variants.
By strengthening the body’s first line of defense, the researchers argue it will be beneficial for stopping new pathogens before it has time to spread. Older vaccines that stimulate innate immunity could stall viral spread and allow scientists more time to develop specific vaccines — potentially preventing another pandemic.
“The broad protection induced by LAVs would not be compromised by potential antigenic drift (immune escape) that can render viruses resistant to specific vaccines. LAVs might offer an essential tool to “bend the pandemic curve,” averting the exhaustion of public health resources and preventing needless deaths and may also have therapeutic benefits if used for postexposure prophylaxis of disease.”
Argument for strengthening innate immunity
Innate immunity is the body’s immediate reaction to an outside pathogen. Unlike adaptive immunity that takes days and hours to develop T cells and antibodies, innate immunity takes a matter of minutes. Previous work shows innate immunity alone was sufficient for overcoming pathogen and infections.
This figure illustrates how a healthy innate immune system protects most people within the population against infections. With an already robust or trained innate immune system, the overwhelming majority of people infected with a new pathogen, such as SARS-CoV-2, are able to eradicate the infection early during the asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic phase of infection. Without prior exposure or vaccination (e.g., with a messenger RNA vaccine), adaptive immunity takes days to weeks to kick in and is often suppressed in severe cases, contributing to a self-perpetuating and injurious hyperinflammatory response. The innate immune system often loses potency with age, certain comorbidities, immunosuppression, and with genetic susceptibility.
Innate immunity lies in its broad, nonspecific activation and the ability to inhibit multiple pathogens. With SARS-CoV-2, innate immunity is triggered by detecting the nucleotide sequence of the virus’s RNA.
The researchers note that vaccine-induced innate immunity from flu and HIV vaccines can last as long as adaptive immunity. Innate immunity also has innate memory to train the immune system to recognize a foreign pathogen sooner.
“In this article, we propose that during a pandemic (or epidemic), medical science could rapidly harness the power of innate immunity to induce partial protection against new (such as SARS-CoV-2) or reemerging pathogen threats and suggest that this might be achieved through the repurposing of some established live attenuated vaccines (LAVs), which are powerful inducers of innate immunity.”
The researchers note that innate immunity can control SARS-CoV-2 based on its success in preventing other coronaviruses such as SARS and MERS and may correlate with better clinical responses.
Coronaviruses derived from bats have also been associated with “an appropriate balancing of innate immune responses between resistance and tolerance.” Bats have high NK cells and IFN expression, suggesting innate immunity is needed to control SARS-CoV-2.
Older vaccines show partial benefit against COVID-19
Hoarding COVID-19 vaccines and mistrust against the rapid vaccine development has been a significant obstacle towards herd immunity. Using older vaccines — that have been trusted for years and widely accessible — could circumvent these issues.
Older live-attenuated vaccines also help because they target the specific virus of interest and provide a broad range of protection against other pathogens. Research from the past decade shows these vaccine’s nonspecific effects increase with booster shots. For instance, some animal studies showed the influenza H3N2 vaccine also protected against the respiratory syncytial viruses by increasing cytokine levels and leukocytes.
The epigenetic mechanism induced by LAVs in innate immune cells and their precursors: methylation and acetylation of histones after vaccination “mark” the gene necessary for host defense, leading to long-term changes in chromatin architecture leading to stronger expression upon subsequent stimuli.
Greater protection against SARS-CoV-2 was observed among healthcare workers who had a history of bacillus Calmette–Guerin vaccination. Separate studies confirmed these findings by observing fewer COVID-19 symptoms or less severe illness in people with the bacillus Calmette–Guerin vaccine.
There is an economic benefit to using older vaccines to stimulate innate immunity. Some of the available COVID-19 vaccines incur high costs for refrigeration and implementation. It would also be more cost-effective and protective to deliver live-attenuated vaccines as a booster for added protection instead of waiting four weeks for the second dose.
“Even a LAV with only 50% efficacy could then prevent several more primary infections per 1,000 vaccinees than would a vaccination schedule offering only a COVID-19 vaccine. With a Reff of 2, the total number of infections prevented could be twice the number of primary infections prevented. And even after 4 to 5 wk, the LAV could plausibly add effectiveness to the COVID-19 vaccine alone.”