TO YOUR GOOD HEALTH: Measles rates low in U.S., but worldwide, it’s still deadly

DEAR DR. ROACH: My mother had the measles. She also had mumps and German measles. She stayed home for a few days, used up a box of tissues and went back to school a week later. But some doctors quickly learned that if they didn’t pretend that these viruses were deadly, they wouldn’t make any money. Anyone fearful of these viruses is a product of brainwashing. How many people in this country have died of measles this year? ZERO. But many had measles. So what did we learn? Measles is not deadly. — M.F.D.

ANSWER: If you were to think of a deadly disease, you might think of something like Ebola, some outbreaks of which have killed 90 percent of people who are infected. Some might consider rabies, which is nearly always fatal in someone who isn’t vaccinated before developing symptoms.

Measles doesn’t come to mind for most. Few Americans under the age of 50 have seen a case. Only about 1 person per thousand dies of measles in North America. (Another 1 per thousand may develop encephalitis, a severe inflammation of the brain. One in 2,000 or so will develop subacute sclerosing panencephalitis, a uniformly fatal late complication.) With measles rates having been low in the past few decades, measles deaths in the U.S. are indeed rare.

However, worldwide, it’s another story. Every year, 146,000 people die of measles, dwarfing Ebola or rabies as a far deadlier disease. There are ongoing outbreaks in Europe right now, with multiple deaths.

Doctors push hard for vaccination, despite the fact that vaccines make doctors little, if any, money. We do not want the days of rampant measles back again, with hundreds of thousands of sick kids per year and hundreds of deaths. Anyone with a sense of history rightly fears measles. Fortunately, measles could be completely eliminated from the planet, the same way smallpox was, with appropriate vaccination.

DEAR DR. ROACH: I am nearly 65 years old. I am currently experiencing headaches on the left side of my head. I also have had some memory problems. My MRI report said that I have: “increased signal in the periventricular and sub-cortical white matter. These changes are nonspecific and may be related to microvascular ischemia.”

I stopped smoking in 1980 and have not smoked since. I have had high blood pressure since 1997, but I have been under medication treatment, first with atenolol and now with lisinopril, and have a stable blood pressure of 130/80.

I want to stop and reverse whatever is causing this. I want to prevent any further damage to my brain, because I do not want to be a burden to my sons. Can you please help me reverse this? — O.R.T.

ANSWER: The brain consists of gray matter and white matter. Gray matter are mostly the nerve cell bodies, and white matter are mostly the connections between different areas of gray matter. Both gray and white matter need to be functioning properly for overall brain to do so.

Abnormalities in the white matter of the brain are nonspecific. Many conditions can cause the kinds of changes seen on your MRI scan; however, the most common causes I see are high blood pressure and smoking. I’m glad you quit smoking and that your blood pressure is under reasonable control. Some doctors would recommend (and I’m one of them) getting the blood pressure down a bit more: below 120/80, as long as it isn’t causing symptoms, in order to prevent further damage. I’m afraid there is no way we know of to reverse damage that is already there.

Regular moderate exercise and a healthy diet (with less meat and more vegetables than most eat) can help as well.