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Keyword: healthy aging

Immunizations are not just for infants and children going back to school. In honor of Immunization Awareness Month, we are shining a light on the vaccines that some may not realize are just as important – vaccines for older adults.

MUSC Health Primary Care doctors Mark Newbrough and Julianna Marwell are geriatricians, focusing on the care of older adults. Illnesses often take a bigger toll on our bodies as we age, including certain infections, such as influenza, whooping cough, pneumococcal pneumonia, and shingles. Fortunately, vaccines, or immunizations, are available that can lessen the chances for older adults to become seriously ill from these infections. 

Recommended Immunizations for Patients Over 50

Dr. Newbrough and Dr. Marwell sat down to talk through their recommendations for most patients over 50. They recommend four main immunizations for the flu, whooping cough, pneumococcal diseases, and shingles. These immunizations are covered by insurance and can be scheduled at a local MUSC Health Primary Care practice.

Flu Shots (Influenza)

Yearly flu shots are the first line of defense for older patients. Flu shots are available without a prescription at your doctor’s offices, community clinics, and pharmacies. Many employers and senior living facilities even offer the flu vaccine on site. The CDC states that getting the flu vaccination can reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalization and death for older adults. And don’t forget — by getting the flu shot you’re also protecting those around you who may be more susceptible to the flu virus.

Can I get the flu from the flu shot? Dr. Newbrough clears up this common misconception saying, “Because the shot does not contain actual influenza virus, a person cannot get the flu from the flu shot.” There may be some side effects like soreness where the shot was given or low grade fever for a day or so, but the vaccine cannot actually cause the flu.

Tdap Vaccine

Whooping cough can be a serious disease for older adults, those with chronic lung disease, or young children. The Tdap vaccine protects people from tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (commonly known as whooping cough).

Although most older adults were immunized for these infections when they were younger, the CDC recommends boosters for all older adults to protect them and those around them who may be susceptible, including their grandchildren and great grandchildren. The Tdap immunization is available at pharmacies without a prescription, as well as at your doctor’s office. Tdap should be given once every ten years.  

Pneumococcal Vaccines 

Older adults are at greatest risk of illness and death from pneumococcal disease, and the pneumonia shots reduce these risks. All older adults need to take both shots, the PCV 13 and the PPSV 23, to be fully protected. The shots cannot be given at the same time, and people need to wait one year between shots. Once an adult over 65 has had both shots, they will not need to take anymore “pneumonia shots.” Pneumococcal vaccines are available at your primary care office, pharmacies, health clinics, and other locations without a prescription.


The virus that causes chicken pox and shingles is the same virus. Most older adults were exposed to the chicken pox virus when they were young. Later in life, during periods of extreme stress or medical illness, the virus may reappear as a painful, localized rash called shingles. It can occur anywhere on the body, including in a person’s eye, and the pain may last long after the rash heals. For these reasons, the CDC also recommends the shingles vaccine for older adults. There are two different shingles vaccines including the new Shingrix vaccine. Talk to your doctor about which vaccine is best for you. 

Other Vaccines 

Your health provider can help you understand if there are other immunizations that you may need. For instance, hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccines are typically recommended for patients with certain conditions like chronic liver disease.

People  with certain allergies or health conditions may not be able to receive certain immunizations, so be sure to talk to your doctor about any conditions or allergic reactions you may have had previously that would affect your immunizations.

Keeping Track of Your Vaccinations

No matter where you get your immunizations, whether at your primary care doctor, pharmacy, or other certified immunization provider, electronic health immunization records are stored in the South Carolina Immunization Registry. These records do not transfer to other states, so keeping your own record is helpful if you’ve just moved to South Carolina or are moving to another state.

Dr. Marwell recommends keeping a record of your vaccines for easy reference, in your wallet or purse, along with a list of medications. Understanding your history helps your care team provide the best possible treatment for your unique needs. It is always okay to ask your provider questions about your care, especially why you’re getting a certain vaccine.

Primary Care Doctors at MUSC Health

MUSC Health Primary Care doctors like Dr. Marwell, Dr. Newbrough, and many more are available to help you with your health care, from vaccines to more complex issues. Dr. Newbrough explains that healthy aging takes a comprehensive approach, not only managing your physical health, but your social, spiritual, and mental health as well. Vaccinations are just one small part of the whole and we are here to help.

MUSC Primary Care Doctor Mark Newbrough with patient

MUSC Health Primary Care appointments are available in locations throughout the Lowcountry including downtown Charleston, West Ashley, Mount Pleasant, North Charleston, Summerville, and more. Call 843-792-7000 to schedule your appointment with an MUSC Health Primary Care physician.

Guest Post by:
Robert A. Glass, M.D.
Internal Medicine
MUSC Health

Raise your hand if you have ever tried the latest fad diet or extreme workout plan to lose a few pounds quickly. Almost everyone has. With the obesity problem in America reaching epidemic proportions, the airwaves and bookshelves are filled with people purporting to have the latest and greatest method for shedding those unwanted pounds.

The unfortunate part of most folk’s approach to weight loss is that it focuses on the short term and not on the facts that we know about the physiology of weight gain and loss. Despite what the specialty weight loss clinics and infomercials may tell you, sustained weight loss is only a product of consistent effort and lifestyle change. Fortunately, your local MUSC Physicians Primary Care clinic has access to all the tools you need to start making the scale go the right way.

Personalized Nutrition Plans

The basic physiology of weight loss dictates that the number of calories put in must be less than the number of calories used. From portion size to number of vegetable servings per day, it is vital to have a comprehensive nutrition plan that ensures you are taking in both the proper type and amount of calories each day. Meeting with a certified MUSC nutritionist is a wonderful experience for most patients that shows them exactly what their grocery list and dinner plate should look like, and many find that it jump-starts their weight loss and lifestyle change efforts.

Get Up

While diet control is the lynchpin to losing weight, consistent exercise is the key to keeping that weight off. Many folks can use a fad diet for three to four weeks and lose weight, but almost none can sustain that diet for a lifetime and keep weight off over the long term. Exercising for at least one hundred and fifty minutes per week is a great start to establishing a healthy pattern that will allow you to lose weight and then keep it off for years to come. Many people seek assistance from professionals to help structure their exercise plan. The MUSC Wellness Center has a multitude of programs for people of all ages and skill levels to get you moving in a fun and non-judgmental atmosphere. You can even meet with personal trainers to develop completely personalized exercise plans.


Though medications are not a long-term solution for weight loss, they can be used to jump-start your weight loss program. There are multiple FDA-approved medications that your MUSC Physicians Primary Care provider can discuss with you. Certain conditions, such as high blood pressure, may limit which medications can be used, but one can usually be found if a patient is interested.


Though it may seem like an extreme measure to some, weight loss surgery in the right patient can be very effective. Many people with large amounts of weight to lose can experience excellent benefits with weight loss surgery. Quite often, successful bariatric surgery can also lead to improvement or even resolution of such diseases as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Your MUSC Physicians Primary Care physician can tell you if you meet basic qualifications to schedule an appointment with an MUSC weight loss surgeon.

These four avenues just brush the surface of what is available through MUSC for those looking to lose weight. Obesity has never been a greater problem than now, and MUSC Physicians Primary Care is ready to help you in every way possible to make that morning trip to the scale a much better experience. Once the pounds start coming off, you will be able to live the life you wanted and truly get up every morning to get down.

Guest Post by:
Robert A. Glass, M.D.
Internal Medicine
MUSC Health

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was one of the most influential twentieth century Presidents of the United States. While his childhood bout with polio and subsequent wheelchair use was well publicized, few know about his battle with high blood pressure. Modern day blood pressure medications had yet to be discovered in President Roosevelt’s time. Accordingly, many of his great acts of history were done with blood pressures that would likely cause any modern day physician to hospitalize their patient. Can you imagine trying to divide Europe after World War II from the intensive care unit? Any modern day President would have found himself in that exact situation with blood pressure readings similar to President Roosevelt’s.

Former President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Former President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Since the time of FDR, medicine has grown tremendously in our ability to treat high blood pressure. Though FDR was cared for by some of the best physicians in the country, he still did not get the care that is available today down the street at your local MUSC Physicians Primary Care practice. In partnership with your primary care physician, there are three concrete steps that you can take to ensure that your blood pressure is even better than the President.

Get Screened

Unbeknownst to many, blood pressure screening is an essential part of a complete wellness and prevention program. It is recommended that all adults of average risk have their blood pressure screened at least every two years. This requirement can be met through regular visits to your physician as part of your regular health maintenance. There are also health fairs or corporate wellness programs that provide blood pressure screening, and these results can then be taken to your primary care physician for discussion.

Control Your Diet

Obesity is an epidemic in the United States, and it greatly contributes to poor blood pressure control. A well-balanced diet is important for all adults, regardless of their health problems. Salt intake is particularly important for those with high blood pressure. It is currently recommended that people with high blood pressure consume less than two grams of salt per day. Consuming more may worsen your blood pressure. Make sure that you read the label on all foods that you eat and know how much salt you are consuming. If you want further education, then discuss with your primary care doctor or consider sitting down with an MUSC nutritionist for more detailed information.

Take Your Medication

The majority of adults with high blood pressure ultimately require some form of medication. Many medications are only taken on an as needed basis, like pain relievers. It is a common misconception that blood pressure medicines can also only be taken as needed. In order to take their full effect, blood pressure medications should be taken every day as directed, whether you feel any symptoms or not. Blood pressure is often referred to as the “silent killer” because patients never feel symptoms until the situation has gotten out of hand. By taking medication every day, you can prevent this “silent killer” from having large unwanted effects on your health.

If you follow these three steps of getting screened, controlling your diet, and taking your medication, then you will be able to take control of your health in a way that even one of the greatest men in American history could not. Come see us at your local MUSC Physician Primary Care location and discuss more how we can partner together to provide you health care fit for a President.


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