Do You Know What Vaccines You Need?

Chances are that you got a handful of vaccinations as a kid and haven’t thought much about it since then. But there are a few shots that you still need to stay on top of as an adult—like the pertussis vaccine, which protects against whooping cough. Unfortunately, according to a recent report by the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, 61 percent of adults don’t know when they were last vaccinated against pertussis. And only 20 percent of adults said they received the vaccine within the last 10 years, which is the recommended time frame to stay protected.

Here’s why it’s essential to stay up-to-date on this vaccine: Rates of whooping cough cases are at their highest level in 50 years, according to the CDC. And since newborns can’t be vaccinated until they’re at least 2 months old, the best way to prevent infection is by vaccinating all adults, teens, and children who will come into contact with them.

If you got the pertussis vaccine as a child or teen, it’s recommended that you get the booster as an adult, says Matthew M. Davis, MD, director of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health. The simple way to remember: You should be getting a tetanus shot booster (td booster) every 10 years, so the CDC recommends replacing your next td booster with the tdap booster, which is the same shot combined with the pertussis vaccine. This is especially important for women who are pregnant or anyone who plans to be around a newborn or infant, says Carolyn Bridges, MD, associate director for adult immunizations at the CDC.

Not sure when you were last vaccinated? Talk to your doctor to find out if you need the booster or the primary dose. If you’re pregnant or plan to be around a newborn, they might suggest that you get the tdap booster regardless of when your last vaccine may have been, says Davis.

And while you’re at it, use this cheat sheet to stay on top of your shots:

Flu shot:
Put this on your calendar every single year. It’s recommended that all adults get the flu shot annually since the flu can change from year to year, says Davis. This is also recommended for women who are pregnant since studies show that it may reduce the risk of miscarriage and other complications.

HPV vaccine:
This vaccine, which protects against the most common strains of the human papilloma virus (HPV), is recommended for all women and men through age 26—though ideally, you would have gotten it during adolescence, before any sexual contact, says Bridges. The shot includes three doses, and it’s important that you finish the series to reap the full benefits. After you’ve had all three doses, no booster shot is necessary, says Bridges.

Meningococcal vaccines:
If you lived in a college dorm, you’ve probably heard horror stories about meningitis, a serious infection of the brain and spinal cord that can be spread when you’re living in close quarters with others. While most people get this vaccine in their teens before they head off to college, it’s still possible that you might have missed it. In that case, talk to you doctor to find out if you should be vaccinated. If you got the shot in your teens, you only need to be revaccinated if you suffer from certain medical conditions (such as an immune system disorder or a removed or damaged spleen) or if you’ll be traveling to a high-risk area, such as parts of Africa, says Bridges.

MMR vaccine:
It’s recommended that all kids get the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine as children. If you missed it, you should be sure to get it as an adult, says Bridges. Not sure if you had the vaccine? Your doctor can give you a blood test to see if you’re protected. Once you’ve gotten this vaccination, no booster is necessary.

Varicella vaccine:
If you were lucky enough to escape chicken pox as a child, you can now get a vaccine to avoid it altogether. You may have gotten this vaccine as a child or teen, but if not, you can get the two-dose series at any time, says Davis. Not sure if you ever had chickenpox or the shot? Your doctor can do a blood test to determine if you still need to be protected, says Davis.

Hepatitis B vaccine:
Many people received the three-dose hepatitis B vaccine as a child. However, it’s recommended that all unvaccinated adults at risk for hepatitis B receive the shot. According to the CDC, the people who should get the vaccine includes: anyone with multiple sex partners, people with chronic liver or kidney disease, people under 60 with diabetes, healthcare workers, people with HIV, anyone traveling to countries where hepatitis B may be common, and more. If you haven’t been vaccinated, talk to your doctor to assess your risk, says Bridges.

Hepatitis A vaccine:
This is another shot that you probably got as a child, but if not, it’s never too late. According to Bridges, you may need to get vaccinated (if you haven’t already) if you have chronic liver disease, are being treated with clotting factor concentrates, or are planning to travel to a country where hepatitis A may be common. Once you receive both doses, you’re protected for life.


More from Women’s Health:
Should  You Get the HPV Shot? 
The New Flu Shot
HPV Vaccine: Have You Gotten All Three Shots? 

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Get This: Now You’ll Know If Your Meat Ate GMOs

Check out the list of links that should be on your radar today:

The USDA just approved the first label to certify that your meat consumed a GMO-free diet before it ended up in the grocery store. [NYT]

Nationwide, the smoking rate is on the decline. [USA Today]

The average American spent less time working last year… [WSJ]

…But she also spent more time watching TV, according to the American Time Use Survey released by the Labor Department yesterday. [WSJ]

Newly popular office perks like free lunch and snacks are hazardous to your waistline. Help work off those extra calories with these tips[NYT]

In light of James Gandolfini’s death, the American Heart Association says that cardiac arrests like his are scarily common: The organization predicts that 715,000 people will have a heart attack this year. [USA Today]

Rumor has it that baby Kimye has a name—and it’s North West. *Insert eye-roll here.* [Vulture]

More proof that the label gluten-free doesn’t automatically make something healthy: Dunkin’ Donuts just announced that it will introduce a gluten-free cinnamon sugar donut. []

Justin Bieber’s third—we repeat, third—fragrance comes out next month. That means a whole lot of people must have actually bought the first two. [The Cut]

photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

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What You Need to Know About the New DSM

In huge mental health news, the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) was released this week at the American Psychiatric Association’s Annual Meeting. Known as the authoritative guide for clinicians, the DSM-5 is the latest edition that helps to define, diagnose, and treat mental health disorders.

So what does a new edition mean for you? As with previous versions, this newest guide takes into account new research to add to, remove from, and tweak the list of disorders and their criteria. The goal? To make it as useful as possible. “Starting [May 21], one can look at these criteria sets and be able to utilize them for more precise diagnoses than we’ve been able to do in the past,” says David Kupfer, MD, Task Force Chair for the DSM-5.

The hope is that this new edition will be even better at diagnosing and treating patients. “Determining an accurate diagnosis is the first step toward being able to appropriately treat any medical condition, and mental disorders are no exception,” says Kupfer.

Not everyone is so thrilled about this latest edition, though. Critics of the DSM-5 worry that the new criteria for disorders may lead to overdiagnosis since more disorders have been added and the requirements for some have been modified.

Thomas Insel, MD, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, recently announced that the NIMH plans to turn their research away from the DSM. As Insel noted in a recent blog post on the topic, “We need to begin collecting the genetic, imaging, physiologic, and cognitive data to see how all the data—not just the symptoms—cluster and how these clusters relate to treatment response.” Translation: the NIMH would rather diagnose people based on lab tests and science—rather than using a symptom-based approach like the DSM encourages.

It took researchers 19 years to finalize this revision, so it’s understandable if you’re a little confused about it. Here, a few major things you need to know about the DSM-5:

New disorders were added 
A few disorders, like Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD, a severe form of PMS that may be related to low levels of serotonin), Binge Eating Disorder, and Caffeine Withdrawal, have been moved from the appendix to the main text. A disorder is listed in the appendix when it requires a little bit more research and is moved into the main text when the researchers feel that it meets a certain criteria. Because they’re now listed in the main text of the DSM-5, treatment and services related to these illnesses will now be covered by health insurance, says Kupfer. Other additions include the diagnoses for Hoarding Disorder and Excoriation (Skin-Picking) Disorder, neither of which were even mentioned in previous editions.

Not all the rumors are true
There was a ton of speculation about what changes the DSM-5 would include, but not everything was accurate. You may have heard, for example, that the section on personality disorders was getting reorganized and that a few diagnoses would be thrown out. In the end, because of the strong feedback they received, the task force decided to keep the same categories from the DSM-IV, and all 10 personality disorders are intact. They did, however, decide to include the proposed revisions into the back of the book to encourage further research on them and keep them in consideration for a future edition.

Another rumor was that sexual addiction or hypersexuality would be added as a disorder, but Kupfer says that the task force didn’t have sufficient research to put it in the main text or even the appendix.

Your insurance may take a while to catch up
When a disorder is defined in the DSM, it helps insurance companies to know what services should be covered. Unfortunately, these changes won’t happen overnight. While doctors can start using the DSM-5 immediately, insurance companies may take a while to update their claims forms and procedures, says Kupfer. “The American Psychiatric Association (APA) is working with these groups with the expectation that a transition to DSM-5 by the insurance industry can be made by December 31, 2013,” says Kupfer.

It will be online soon
You may have noticed that the DSM-5 uses the Arabic numeral for five instead of roman numerals, which is how it was written in the past (like DSM-IV, DSM-III, etc.). This is because the task force is hoping to update this version more frequently and simply than before. “We see a 5.1 and a 5.2,” says Kupfer. “Since this will be online, we will be able to make changes when it’s appropriate.” They expect it to be on the web in June 2013 and available on a subscription basis, with fees varying depending on your use.

Your doctor might not be totally behind it
While the creators of the DSM-5 hope it will be the new gold standard in diagnosing mental illness, it may not be widely accepted right away. Many clinicians have criticized the new text for either being too broad in scope or trying too hard to fit patients into distinct categories. In a recent blog post for Psychology Today, for example, Allen Frances, MD, (former chair of the DSM-IV Task Force) advises clinicians not to use the new edition and suggests patients become informed consumers when it comes to a diagnosis—just as they would when buying a car.

Kupfer says he thinks the DSM-5 will catch on in the medical community—eventually. “I think there’s going to be a transition,” he says. “I think some people will take a little longer than others.

If you are considering or currently seeking treatment for a disorder, Kupfer suggests having a conversation with your doctor about the new edition and asking about any effect it may have on your diagnosis or treatment.

photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

More from Women’s Health:
Hooked On a Feeling
Are You Addicted?
Feeling Blah? 

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What You Need to Know About Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease is disproportionately affecting ladies—and not just the older female population. WomenAgainstAlzheimers, a new network that’s part of USAgainstAlzheimer’s, is currently holding a summit in Washington, D.C. with activists, researchers, and policymakers to raise awareness and encourage more research. Here’s how the disease affects you—and what you can do about it:

What is Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia; it affects memory function and gradually gets worse over time, eventually impeding day-to-day functioning, says Sarah K. Tighe, MD, a clinical and research fellow in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, who sees patients in the Memory and Alzheimer’s Treatment Center. More than five million Americans have the disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Unfortunately there’s no cure at this time.

What are the symptoms?
“Alzheimer’s affects people in different ways, so not everyone has the same presentation,” says Tighe. One of the earliest symptoms of an Alzheimer’s patient, though, is having trouble remembering new information—forgetting a recent conversation or current events—and having that difficulty get progressively worse.

Other symptoms include trouble remembering a name they should know or a word they want to use—the “tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon,” as Tighe refers to it—and problems with tasks, like following a recipe. People with Alzheimer’s may also not recognize people they should know (such as a grandchild), or be able to navigate areas they should be familiar with.

If you’re seeing these symptoms in, say, a grandparent, how do you know when it’s just forgetfulness versus when it’s a real concern worthy of a doctor’s visit?

“We all have times where we might misplace our keys, we might forget where we parked our car,” says Tighe. “But if it’s happening consistently or to the point where the person cannot problem-solve and deal with that situation, then that would be very concerning to me that there could be something like Alzheimer’s or another dementia occurring.”

What are the risk factors?
Age is the biggest, says Tighe. While you can develop Alzheimer’s earlier, most people with the disease are 65 and older. Genetics can also play a part, and some research says you’re more likely to get Alzheimer’s if it runs on your mom’s side.

Some common chronic medical conditions—uncontrolled diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol—are risk factors, too. And no surprise here: Smoking also makes you more likely to get Alzheimer’s (in addition to a whole host of other well-known health problems, of course).

Is there anything you can do to prevent it?
“Age and genetics are not modifiable: We are our age and we have the genes that we were given,” says Tighe. There are other things that you can change, though. Do your best to keep those medical conditions mentioned above at bay, she says. Staying away from cigarettes goes without saying. You should also eat healthfully and exercise—both your body and your brain. That might mean taking an online course or embracing your puzzle hobby, says Tighe, as well as staying socially engaged (even more reason to hang with the fam and your girlfriends!). Yes, your 60s are a long ways away, but: “We think trying to stay healthy and maintain your health as you approach middle age is important in terms of reducing your risk of developing Alzheimer’s,” says Tighe.

So how does this affect you now?
Get this: Women make up almost two out of three Americans with Alzheimer’s and the majority of unpaid caregivers for Alzheimer’s patients, according to the recently released Alzheimer’s Association 2013 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report.

So as a woman, you have a higher chance of developing the disease later on in life and potentially caring for an Alzheimer’s patient much sooner.

Taking care of someone with Alzheimer’s is a full-time job, says Trish Vradenburg, co-founder of USAgainstAlzheimer’s and co-founder of WomenAgainstAlzheimer’s.  “This is an intergenerational issue,” says co-founder Meryl Comer, who also takes care of a mother and husband with Alzheimer’s. “Young women are now watching their mothers take care of their mothers, seeing it wear them out.”

If someone you love has the disease, or if you want to learn more about it and join the fight against it, check out these resources:

Alzheimer’s Association. If you’re a caregiver, find support groups in your area, call their 24/7 helpline for caregivers at 1.800.272.3900, and/or visit their AlzNavigator, a free online tool to help you plan next steps if someone you love has the disease.

WomenAgainstAlzheimer’s and USAgainstAlzheimer’s (managed by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services)

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America


photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

More from Women’s Health:
The Vitamin That Protects Against Alzheimer’s
Reduce Your Risk: Family History of Disease
The 101 Best Things to Do for Your Body Now!

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