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Dr. Zorba Paster: Readers ask about everything from shingles to garlic

Dr. Zorba Paster: Readers ask about everything from shingles to garlic


Dear Doc: I have post-herpetic nerve pain from a shingles infection five years ago. Will the new vaccine be beneficial? — M.U., from Buffalo

Dear M.U.: My spin is, yes, the balance of evidence indicates that anyone who’s had shingles should get the vaccine. Shingles happens when your immunity to the chicken pox virus flags, and that shingles shot will boost it up.

As for cost, it’s not cheap, at $280 for both required doses. Research and development is expensive. The profit potential motivated the research that produced it — it wasn’t funded by any government money.

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Dear Doc: I like to walk — it’s a stroll, not a jog. I’m in my 80s. Is this worthwhile or am I just wasting my time? That’s something important to oldsters like me. — A.T., from Madison

Dear A.T.: Any time you move, you get benefit. Recent research from the Framingham Heart Study bears this out. They found that each hour of light physical activity resulted in larger brain volume.

When they analyzed this, it appeared that for each hour per day of activity a person got, on average, it lessened brain aging by one year. Now, that doesn’t mean you can walk yourself back to being 18 years old, but it did show that light activity did something.

By the way, averaging 7,500 steps per day meant getting back two years of brain age. So keep moving!

Dear Doc: I truly believe in the advice I hear and read you providing to your radio call-in and column write-in fans. Have you ever discussed chronic dry and irritated eyes? Over-the-counter drops don’t seem to cut it for me. Thanks. — C.T.

Dear C.T.: You have to pick the right drops. You need either a drop or gel that is just for hydration. Ask your pharmacist to steer you to one. Drops like Visine aren’t the ones you want; they have decongestants that pucker up your eyes to get rid of the redness.

To make hydrating drops work best, close your eyes for two minutes and cover with a warm compress. There are great ones that can be heated in the microwave for 20 seconds — very soothing.

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Since my own eye doctor recommended doing this, my eyes have really improved. I can now go to plays and concerts without glasses. What I thought was a cataract issue was simply a dryness problem.

Doc: Recently, you recommended Tylenol (acetaminophen) for arthritis pain relief, saying it is an anti-inflammatory. It is not. It is an analgesic. I’m surprised you didn’t recommend Aleve (naproxen). — M.M., from Dallas

Dear M.M.: You’re right. Tylenol reduces pain and is great for arthritis for those who can’t take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. I didn’t say it decreased inflammation — unless I made a grammar error, and those grammar police can check on that.

What acetaminophen does do, in the right dose, is help with achy joints. If you have two or less alcoholic drinks a day, you can tolerate up to 4,000 milligrams of the stuff. I recommend a pill with an arthritis strength dose of 650 milligrams — two when you get up, two when you go to sleep and two during the day if you ache.

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If you drink more than two drinks a day, then take just one pill three times a day. Try it — it works for lots of folks.

Dear Doc: I love, love, love garlic. My wife doesn’t like when I have too much of it — she says my breath stinks. I’ve heard garlic produces all kinds of benefits. Is that true or false? — R.E., from Wisconsin

Dear R.E.: A recent article in one of the oncology journals looked at 800 patients with colon cancer, comparing them to 800 randomly chosen people without colon cancer. The odds of having this disease were 30% lower for folks who consumed regular amounts of onions and garlic, which are in the same veggie family.

It’s not a great study, but since I love garlic I have chosen to believe it. The scientist in me says “perhaps,” while the gourmand in me says “Yes. For sure!” Stay well.

This column provides general health information. Always consult your personal health care provider about concerns. No ongoing relationship of any sort is implied or offered by Dr. Paster to people submitting questions. Any opinions expressed by Dr. Paster in his columns are personal and are not meant to represent or reflect the views of SSM Health.

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