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Anchor lead: Nighttime use of blood pressure medicines reduces cardiovascular risk, Elizabeth Tracey reports

People with high blood pressure who took their medicines before bed rather than in the morning experienced 40 to 50% fewer strokes and heart attacks than the daytime medicine takers, a study of over 19,000 people showed. Greg Prokopowicz, a blood pressure expert at Johns Hopkins, says the magnitude of the benefit is startling.

Prokopowicz: They were interested in looking at blood pressures at nighttime. So we’ve known for a long time that blood pressures during sleep are extremely strong predictors of cardiovascular health. If your blood pressure doesn’t drop adequately while you’re sleeping your risk of heart attack and stroke is substantially higher. With that background we have this study where they give the medications in the evening. They did see a greater drop in nighttime blood pressure in patients who were taking it in the evening but the drop in blood pressure was not so dramatic that you’d expect it to produce anywhere near the benefits that they saw in this study.  :33

Prokopowicz says more studies are needed to confirm this finding. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.

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Anchor lead: Should you take your blood pressure medicine at night? Elizabeth Tracey reports

What is chronotherapy? That’s the strategy of taking medicines at different points in the day to maximize their benefit, with a recent trial demonstrating the impact of taking blood pressure medicines before bed. Greg Prokopowicz, a blood pressure expert at Johns Hopkins, describes the study.

Prokopowicz:  The Chronotherapy Trial really took a lot of us by surprise because the intervention that they’re describing is a very simple one. It’s simply having the patient take their blood pressure medications at night time instead of during the day and that would be extremely easy to implement and seemingly have little or no risk. What they found was a massive apparent benefit where cardiovascular outcomes like stroke and heart attack dropped by forty to fifty percent which is way more than most of us would have expected from such a simple intervention.  :29

Prokopowicz says several of his patients have already asked about this study and whether they should switch to nighttime dosing, which he says is likely fine as long as you’ve checked with your doctor. He notes that additional studies must really be done to confirm these results. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.

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Anchor lead: Which type of flu vaccine is best for you? Elizabeth Tracey reports

Vaccines for the flu come in several varieties, and you likely need an expert’s opinion to decide which is right for you. That’s according to Clare Rock, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins.

Rock: There are different types of flu vaccines. There is a shot or injection type of vaccine that people can get at their doctor’s office or pharmacy. And there is also a nasal spray flu vaccine that’s available for certain populations this year and so I would encourage people when they’re going for their vaccine to have that discussion at their doctor’s office or at their pharmacy to see which vaccine is best for them.   :27

Rock says the nasal spray may be good for those who don’t like needles, and there’s also a stronger version of the injectable vaccine for those over the age of 65. This vaccine boosts the immune response for better protection in older people since the immune response declines as we age. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey. 

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Anchor lead: Who should get the flu vaccine? Elizabeth Tracey reports

Do you need to get the flu vaccine? According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, yes, you do. Clare Rock, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins, comments.

Rock: Really it’s is there anybody that shouldn’t get the flu vaccine? It’s indicated for everybody that’s six months of age or older. There are certain groups of people that are higher risk are more likely to benefit from the flu vaccine. They are those over the age of six months but under the age of five or six, those that are over 65 years of age, those that are pregnant, and then really anybody with any medical condition.  :27

Rock says anyone with lung or heart disease is at heightened risk not only to get the flu but also to be susceptible to other infections, such as pneumonia, that may follow. She says even those with egg allergies may be able to be vaccinated, so talk with your healthcare provider. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.

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Anchor lead: Is it possible to get the flu from the flu vaccine? Elizabeth Tracey reports

Flu vaccines prevent the flu, and cannot actually give someone the infection. Reports that the flu vaccine causes the flu are the stuff of urban legend, says Clare Rock, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins.

Rock: This is really a myth. We can’t get the flu virus from the vaccine. When people do feel that they’re having some minor aches after the vaccine what that is is your immune system having a huge response to inactive flu viruses. This is much much less symptomatically than it ever would be if one actually had the influenza virus. It’s really the body priming itself so that if you do come in contact with the influenza virus, your body is ready to try and fight it off. :33

Rock says getting the vaccine as soon as possible is smart since it will take a few weeks for you to build up antibodies against the virus. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.

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Anchor lead: Flu viruses can catch up with you almost anywhere, Elizabeth Tracey reports

Now that flu season has arrived, there is a risk you can pick up the infection from almost any surface someone with the flu has sneezed or coughed on. That’s according to Clare Rock, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins.

Rock: The virus can persist on surfaces. If you were to touch those surfaces those viruses can be transferred to your hands, and if you were then to touch your mouth or your nose or even sometimes your eyes, that virus can be transmitted to you and you can catch influenza virus. That really is the importance of making sure that we’re doing frequent hand hygiene, and making sure that if we are sick with influenza that we’re not going to work where we could be transmitting the virus potentially.  :30

Rock emphasizes cough etiquette, using a tissue or your elbow to sneeze or cough into so you don’t spread your viruses around. She says most people produce viruses for 6 or 7 days when they’re infected. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.

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Anchor lead: The flu season has arrived in the northern hemisphere, Elizabeth Tracey reports

Have you gotten your flu shot yet? Clare Rock, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins, says it’s past time to do so.

Rock: Flu season is starting and we’re starting to see our first few cases of flu and likely going to ramp up very quickly over the coming weeks. The most important message is to go get vaccinated.  :10

Rock says while there are a few medicines to treat the flu, it’s still better to get the vaccine, since it protects against the disease until the season is over in late spring.

Rock: We do have some medicines that are antivirus-type medicines that can help fight against the flu. But ideally they need to be taken within the first couple of days of symptoms, so really prevention is always better than cure, so focusing more on getting the flu vaccine now, as opposed to waiting for symptoms to treat is really the best strategy.  :21

At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.