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Why the flu shot is so important -- and safe; sudden weight gain

November 19, 2021 at 10:00 p.m.

Q: Everyone is telling me to get a flu shot. I am in pretty good health (I do take blood pressure meds), am 48 years old and have never gotten one before. Why should I? -- Jerry R., Salt Lake City

A: For many folks, the flu is not simply a case of a stuffed-up nose and fever. Flu -- and pneumonia, which it can lead to -- are often in the top 10 causes of death in America. Anyone with an underlying condition, such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, cancer (either active or in remission) or diabetes, is at increased risk from serious complications. That applies to a lot of you!

During the 2018-2019 flu season, 93% of adults hospitalized with influenza had at least one underlying medical condition. And if it was cardiovascular disease, for example, they were six times more likely to experience a heart attack the week after they got the flu than at any point the year before or the year after the infection. But that doesn't seem enough to convince folks of how important it is to get vaccinated: An American Heart Association survey shows that as many as 60% of U.S. adults say they'll delay or skip the flu shot this year.

That's risky business. Especially for those not vaccinated against COVID-19. The potential one-two punch can be life-threatening. But just as you can get the two viruses at the same time, you can get the two vaccines at the same time! And it's never too late to give it a shot.

Hundreds of millions of Americans have safely received flu vaccines over the past 50 years. The risk for serious complications such as Guillain-Barre syndrome is fewer than one to two cases per one million people vaccinated. In fact, GBS is more common following the flu than following flu vaccination.

If you do get the flu -- especially if you have an underlying condition -- you should ask your doctor about getting an antiviral medication. The worst recent flu season was 2017-2018, when 61,000 people died from influenza. Let's make sure this year doesn't rival -- or surpass -- that one!

Q: I've put on about 8 pounds recently, and I can't figure out why. It happened in the past month or so. What could be causing that? -- Rene E., Wilmington, Delaware

A: If you aren't eating a lot more, exercising less, depressed or contending with chronic insomnia, there may be some underlying condition that's causing you to add either fat or water weight. Here a few of the possible triggers -- but whatever the cause, you should go see your doctor pronto for a complete checkup to determine the reason this is happening to you.

• There are medications used to treat seizures, diabetes, high blood pressure, mental health (antidepressives or antipsychotics), asthma and arthritis (corticosteroids) that cause rapid weight gain. If you're taking any of those meds, ask your doctor about finding a substitute or modifying the dosage. But do not stop taking them!

• Heart failure can also cause rapid weight gain because of fluid retention. The American Heart Association says that if you put on more than 2 to 3 pounds in a day or 5 pounds in a week, see your doctor for a complete cardio checkup.

• Kidney problems can often trigger rapid weight gain because of fluid retention, especially in the legs, ankles and feet.

• An underfunctioning thyroid -- hypothyroidism -- slows your metabolism and affects kidney function, both of which can add unwanted pounds rapidly. Other symptoms include fatigue, feeling cold, dry skin and hair, brittle nails, stiff joints and aching muscles and constipation.

Whatever the outcome of your checkup, you want to make sure that you keep being as physically active as possible, stick with a plant-based diet that's free from highly processed foods and get seven to eight hours of restful sleep nightly. Weight management -- and good health -- is founded on those three principles.

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer Emeritus at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at [email protected]

(c)2021 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.

Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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