By Drs. Mehmet Oz and Michael Roizen

Latest shingles vaccine is more than 90 percent effective

On their way to winning the World Series, the 2017 Houston Astros hit 238 home runs. They also struck out 1,087 times. Lesson learned: Sometimes you’ll swing and miss, but you don’t win unless you step up to the plate and let it rip.

There’s also a lesson in there for those of you who are not pleased with the effectiveness of the latest flu vaccine. Did you know that for folks with heart conditions, getting the flu vaccine means, in any given year, that they have a 50 percent decrease in risk of death during flu season? That’s a big win for a lot of people. But you don’t get the benefit unless you step up to the plate (or the pharmacist) and get the inoculation.

Speaking of vaccines, do you know which one just hit it out of the park? The herpes zoster subunit vaccine, or shingles vaccine. According to researchers in Australia, the new shingles vaccine, Shingrix, is more than 90 percent effective.

The vaccine is delivered in two doses, two months apart. The investigators said that it offers protection for up to four years, but they believe it could last much longer. They also said that there are no other vaccines that perform nearly so well for people in their 70s and 80s.

This is a grand slam because without the vaccine, 50 percent of you will develop shingles by age 85. Check with your doc, and put it on your vaccination schedule (you do have one, don’t you?).

Anxiety and your waistline

In an episode of “The Mindy Project,” Mindy Kaling has an argument with her boyfriend and starts eating a hunk of cookie dough. “Oh, cookie dough, please solve my problems,” she begs the fast-disappearing sweet. A colleague notices her and asks: “Stress eating again?”

Emotions and eating are joined at the hip (or the waist), according to a new study published in the journal Menopause. It seems researchers found that women who are generally anxious also have larger waistlines.

Scientists enrolled 5,580 middle-aged women and used an accepted anxiety-depression scale to evaluate their level of anxiety and measured their waist-to-height ratios. The researchers then divided the women into three waistline groups (smallest, middle, largest) based on their waist-to-height ratio. Lo and behold, 55 percent of those with the smallest waistline were anxiety-prone; 59.7 percent of those in the middle group had anxiety; and a whopping 68.4 percent of women with the largest waistlines contended with anxiety and physical symptoms.

Which came first, the chicken (waistline) or the egg (anxiety), we don’t know. But we bet excess visceral fat around the waistline stokes up inflammation and possibly neuro-emotional responses such as anxiety. And there’s mounting evidence that excess fat correlates to a disrupted gut biome, where gut feelings, like anxiety, are a real result.

The good news? By eliminating inflammatory, gut-biome-disrupting processed foods, added sugars and red meat, then exercising 150 or more minutes weekly, you can shrink your waistline and inflammation, help rebalance your gut biome and have a calmer outlook on life.

At-home genetic tests should be interpreted only by experts

In 1956, Greyhound bus lines advertisements advised, “Go Greyhound and leave the driving to us!” Well, today, that sentiment applies to direct-to-consumer genetic tests for disease risks: For reliable advice, please leave the interpretation to the experts.

In a recent study published in Nature, researchers reported that up to 40 percent of DTC genetic tests provide incorrect readings in their raw data.

Now, finding that you’re part Latvian can be an interesting tidbit of information garnered from an ancestry website, but if you’re sending out a DNA sample to find out if you have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene — hereditary markers for breast and/or ovarian cancer — you don’t want faulty results. And even though the Food and Drug Administration currently prohibits most DTC companies from offering diagnostic genetic tests, the researchers point out that some give customers their raw genotyping data upon request.

The bottom line: Most DTC genetic tests are not approved by the FDA for diagnosis of disease risk, and shouldn’t be considered diagnostic! As for the companies that are approved to offer DTC diagnostic tests (23andMe), they’re authorized to report on only a limited number of genetic risk factors, two of more than 20 for BRCA variants, for example. Other gene sequences that you have which might influence those risk factors are not part of their equation.

However, diagnostic tests done reliably in specialized labs generally analyze the full-coding sequences of all genes associated with a disease. So when it comes to analyzing your DNA for disease risks, leave the driving to the experts!

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.

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