As you know, I spend a lot of time on tobacco and vaping. Why? Because, COVID-19 aside, it’s a big public health problem we can solve if we talk about it.
Back in the day, when I was a kid, two-thirds of all men smoked and nearly 50% of the women did as well. Now it’s down to 18% for each. Still too high.
The poorer you are, the more likely you are to light up. I have never figured out why. At more than $3,000 a year for cigarettes, who can afford it, least of all the poorest among us?
Now, vaping has become so prevalent. A few years ago, as e-cigarettes gained popularity, the number of high school students who reported vaping jumped 75% in one year, according to the Wall Street Journal, with 20% of high school students saying they vaped within the last month. That’s awful. The FDA was asleep on the job when it came to regulating e-cigarettes. That’s a shame.
We know cigarettes are bad, but what about vaping? A study recently published in the American Heart Association’s flagship journal Circulation surveyed more than 7,000 adults, looking at cigarette smoking and e-cigarettes.
The study examined inflammatory and oxidative stress biomarkers, which we know are key factors in cardiovascular disease, heart attacks and strokes. Five biomarkers of inflammation and oxidative stress were analyzed, with analysis divided into four groups: regular cigarette smokers, regular e-cig smokers, those who smoked cigarettes and vaped, and those who didn’t do either.
Researchers found those who combined e-cigs and cigarettes had high inflammatory and oxidative stress markers — just as high as those who smoked cigarettes.
My spin: If you think vaping with smoking is safer than just smoking, think again. It’s not. Vaping is dangerous, too.
Dear Doc: My eyes are dry. I notice this at night when I’m binge-watching movies. What’s the best solution?
Gentle Reader: Dry eyes are a problem. When we stare at a computer or any screen we don’t blink as much as we should. And as we get older, our eyes get drier.
For most of us, there are some simple solutions, things I’ve done for a couple of years that have improved my symptoms and my vision quite a bit.
First off, you need to get a microwavable eye mask. They cost about $10 online. Then buy some good eye drops to promote hydration. I use the Refresh brand, and I like the gel the best. Do not buy an eye drop such as Visine, as it has a decongestant that can dry out your eyes. Microwave the eye mask for about 30 to 40 seconds, put the drops in your eyes and put on the mask for four minutes. Do that twice a day.
Next off, supplement with fish oil or flaxseed oil. Several studies show that two types of omega-3 fatty acids in those oils (eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA, and docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA) improve symptoms, especially for people who wear contacts. Taking about 1,000 milligrams twice a day seems to do the trick. Some also have said supplementing with curcumin might work, but I don’t think the research on that is very good.
My spin: All of us have eye fatigue — Zoom fatigue, Netflix fatigue, computer fatigue. Dry eyes add to that fatigue. There are things you can do that just might help.
Dear Doc: Does the dietary supplement turmeric have any proven positive effects other than psychological? The label says it “may help support joint function, mobility and comfort.” I’m skeptical. —C.C.S.
Dear C.C.S.: There’s lots of anecdotal information about turmeric — it’s an old remedy from traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine.
As with all supplements, I suggest trying it for two to four weeks, then stopping it for a period before trying it again. The placebo effect tends to disappear over time.
The science behind turmeric is scanty, but that doesn’t mean it won’t work. 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.