Tips Of The Week


BE HAPPY!

There is little question that happy people have a lower risk of illness and live longer. So, the real question becomes: Are people born with a happy disposition or can we will ourselves to be happier? Recent research provides an answer. Since 1938, the Harvard Study on Adult Development collected data and health information on 724 men of varying social and economic strata. They found the happiest of these men were able to let go of past failures and toxic relationships and also able to stay socially connected. While most of our ability is based on our genes, researchers found that 40 percent of people’s happiness comes from the choices they make, like choosing to “let go” and “stay connected.” Many people find happiness by doing the things they most enjoyed during their childhood.


MEDICATION CONCERNS

Largely because older adults take more medications to treat age-related conditions, they are twice as likely as other adults to suffer adverse drug events that are serious enough to land them in emergency rooms. The risk of unwanted side effects also increases as aging bodies are likely to gain more fat and hold less water than they once did. As a result, ingested medications tend to become more concentrated in seniors’ bodies and linger longer in their systems. To compound matters even further, medications may move more slowly through older adults’ digestive systems, possibly leading to increased absorption and increased risk of side effects. With all this in mind, seniors are urged to monitor the effects of their prescribed medications. Older adults should have no qualms about discussing drug side effects with their prescribing physicians, even if they aren’t sure whether a symptom is a side effect of the medication they are taking. As you get older you may be faced with more health conditions that you need to treat on a regular basis. It is important to be aware that the increased use of medications and the normal body changes caused by aging can increase the chance of unwanted or maybe even harmful drug interactions.


A STEADY DIET OF PROTEIN

One of the chief concerns among seniors is that they maintain their muscle mass, which goes a long way toward preserving their independence. Sedentary individuals can lose as much as 3%-5% of their muscle mass each decade after age 30, and even active types also lose some muscle. However, a three-year study involving 1,741 healthy older men and women points to a way for seniors to maintain their muscle mass. According to conventional wisdom, it did not matter if you got your protein during breakfast, lunch, or dinner as long as your intake was sufficient. Now, researchers have found that people who eat their protein at all three meals throughout the day are best able to maintain their muscle mass. The term “sarcopenia” refers to the skeletal loss of muscle mass that contributes to frailty.


HELPING THOSE IN NEED

It is often pointed out that the act of giving benefits the giver as much (if not more) than the recipient. With this in mind, seniors who are looking to volunteer their time and energy need search no further than their local hospital to find people who could benefit greatly from their largesse. There are numerous hospital volunteer programs that can provide avenues for senior volunteers to give back to their community in meaningful ways. Volunteering does more than produce altruistic feelings. Helping others is associated with better overall health and fewer functional limitations among seniors. It only takes a few hours of volunteering per week for seniors to make a real difference in hospital patients’ lives and their own. Hospital volunteers can fill in the gaps in patients’ time when friends, family members, and other visitors can’t be there. 


FIRST, THE GOOD NEWS

The good news is that giving up the smoking habit enables seniors to avoid the risk for frailty increased by smoking. If you haven’t already guessed, the other news is that research suggests that current smokers over age 60 have an increased risk of developing frailty, which is defined as a combination of five physical components: unintentional weight loss, self-reported exhaustion, weakness, slow walking speed, and low physical activity. “Frailty” is defined as having three or more of the five criteria. According to recent research, current smoking was found to be associated with an approximate  60% increased risk of developing frailty, largely because smoking increases the risk of developing a number of diseases, including “chronic obstructive pulmonary disease” (COPD).  Smoking is a “modifiable lifestyle factor,” which means that the ability to quit is under our control, although quitting usually takes several tries.  Medications and support that can help smokers quit are available. Smoking is difficult to give up at any age, but it can be particularly difficult for seniors whose smoking habit is decades long. When you quit smoking, there are always dramatic--and immediate--benefits to your health. 


MARRIAGE-MINDED SENIORS

Since there is no known cure for dementia, researchers are looking for ways to avoid this age-related condition. Currently, they have identified modifiable risk factors such as smoking, diet, inactivity, and alcohol consumption. Recently, researchers have also discovered that being married may also be added to the list of things that individuals over the age of 65 can do to avoid dementia. According to an analysis study of over 800,000 individuals involved in fifteen studies on four continents, lifelong single individuals were 42% more likely to develop dementia than married individuals, even after taking onto account age and gender. It is thought that because married individuals are more likely to engage in social interactions, their cognitive function is better preserved. Whether or not you are married, you can preserve your brain’s health by regularly engaging with friends, family, and people with whom you enjoy special interests. 


GET OUT MORE OFTEN

For seniors, the simple delight of getting out of the house could be a life-extending measure. In fact, a recent study involving 3,375 adults between the ages of 70 and 90 years reveals that those who get out of the house daily are more likely to live longer than those who remain indoors, regardless of their health status or functional capacity. We have all been warned of the dangers to health that are posed by a sedentary lifestyle, owing to the fact that the body needs exercise. Now, it seems there is also a good psychological reason to get outside the house, in that it helps lower stress levels and keeps seniors actively engaged.  According to a 2015 study, approximately 2 million older adults in the United States never (or rarely) leave their homes, primarily due to functional difficulties.


BREAKFAST CONVERSATION

Of course, our mothers told us that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” and there are many reasons why. To begin with, if we skip breakfast, we tend to make up for the lost calories by overeating during the rest of the day. In addition, recent research suggests that skipping breakfast increases the risk of developing “atherosclerosis” (hardening of the arteries). The study went on to note that breakfast skippers were also more likely to be obese and to have higher blood pressure, cholesterol, and fasting blood-sugar levels. So, there may be more ill effects associated with skipping breakfast than many of us thought. Do yourself a favor and have a bite to eat in the morning.  A study other than the one mentioned above found that eating protein before carbohydrates at mealtime may minimize post-meal spikes in blood sugar. So, try eating your eggs before toast in the morning.


INTERMITTENT FASTING

There has been recent interest in “intermittent fasting” as a means of fighting obesity and incurring other potential health benefits. Along with helping to promote weight loss, intermittent fasting has been found to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, increase insulin sensitivity, protect nerve cells from certain kinds of damage, and may even slow aging and reduce the risk of age-related diseases. Regarding intermittent fasting’s influence on weight loss, laboratory testing reveals that it helps to convert “white fat” (which is essential for storing excess energy and releasing lipids as needed) into “brown fat” (which burns energy), making it a potential candidate for treating obesity and metabolic diseases. More research is needed to determine when and how long to fast. Intermittent fasting is undertaken without restricting overall calorie intake. Humans have fasted throughout evolution. Sometimes it was done because food was not available. It has also been a part of major religions, including Islam, Christianity and Buddhism. Common intermittent fasting methods involve daily 16 hour fasts, or fasting for 24 hours, twice per week. 


SINGLE PILL TREATMENT FOR HIV

In days past, HIV patients had to take a regime of pills in order to keep ahead of the HIV virus. This could lead to dosing errors. Today, there is a single pill that contains all of  the  different  drugs  needed  to keep  the  virus at  bay,  but with the ease of a single medicine.  Another distinct advantage to the single pill treatment is that less toxicity builds up in the bloodstream of the infected person. In addition, people taking the one pill treatment are not as likely to build up drug resistance. However, there is one important caveat: if a person is sensitive or allergic to a drug, there is no way to tell which ingredient is causing problems.  Discuss with your doctor how often to test for HIV.  To protect your health, it is important to get on and stay on HIV treatment. Treatment is important because it helps your body fight HIV. Most people living with HIV who don’t get treatment eventually develop AIDS.


LOWER LEFT ABDOMINAL PAIN

When abdominal pain is persistent or chronic, it is best to be examined by a doctor for diagnosis. While the source of the pain may be something as benign as gas, there are other, more serious potential causes. For instance, “diverticulitis,” one of the more common causes of lower left abdominal pain, involves infection and inflammation of small pouches (diverticula) that develop in walls of the large intestine (colon). Other possible causes of lower left abdominal pain include “celiac disease” (a chronic condition that occurs in the digestive tract when a person cannot digest gluten, a protein found in wheat); lactose intolerance; inflammatory bowel diseases (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis; and “irritable bowel sydrome” (a chronic gastrointestinal disorder). “Appendicitis” (an inflamed appendix, located in the lower right abdomen), which causes dull pain near the navel that sharpens and moves to the lower right abdomen, warrants immediate medical attention.   If you’re looking for a family practice that can provide comprehensive health care, we offer services for adults and children. Not only do we evaluate your health needs, but we also complete a full health history of your family while providing education about health care for your age and gender.


NEW BLOOD PRESSURE GUIDELINES

New guidelines (the first since 2003) issued by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association lower the definition of “high blood pressure.” The new guidelines, which establish “normal” blood pressure at less than 120/80 mm HG and “elevated” as between 120 and 129 for systolic and under 80 for diastolic, account for complications that can occur at lower numbers (former guidelines identified normal blood pressure as under 140/90 mm Hg) and to allow for earlier treatment. Under the new guidelines, nearly half (46%) of the U.S. adult population has high blood pressure, which should be treated earlier with lifestyle changes and, if necessary, medication. Weight loss, regular exercise, less sodium, and healthy eating can lower blood pressure.  Quitting smoking and cutting back on caffeine consumption are two lifestyle changes that can help lower blood pressure.


A STERNUM WARNING

Many people misconstrue pain or discomfort in the area of the sternum with a heart attack due to its proximity to the heart. The “sternum” (otherwise known as the breastbone) is the flat bone positioned at the front of the chest, where it connects to the ribs with cartilage. As part of the rib cage, the sternum protects the heart and lungs from injury. When pain is experienced just below the sternum (“substernal pain”), it can be due to gastrointestinal problems, costochondritis (inflammation and irritation of the cartilage between the sternum and ribs), injury of the sternoclavicular joint (which connects the top of the sternum to the collarbone), collarbone injuries, hiatal hernia, sternum fracture, acid reflux, muscular strain, or bruising. A hiatal hernia occurs when the stomach moves out of its normal position up past the diaphragm and into the chest. If you’re looking for a family practice that can provide comprehensive health care, we offer services for adults and children. Not only do we evaluate your health needs, but we also complete a full health history of your family while providing education about health care for your age and gender. 


STOP THE BLEEDING

“Hemophilia” is a genetic disorder caused by a missing or defective clotting protein. Although this genetic defect is passed down from parents to children, about one-third of cases are caused by a spontaneous mutation. A hemophiliac may bleed spontaneously or for longer than normal after injury or surgery. The two main types of hemophilia, Hemophilia A (due to factor VIII deficiency) and Hemophilia B (due to factor IX deficiency), are nearly clinically identical and are associated with spontaneous bleeding into joints and muscles and internal or external bleeding after injury or surgery. Treatment known as “factor replacement therapy” involves injecting the missing factor protein into the bloodstream, where it is immediately available to stop bleeding. Half of the infused clotting factor activity is removed by the body every 12 to 24 hours, which means that within two or three days, almost none is left and a hemophiliac’s blood is again unable to clot. If you're pregnant or considering pregnancy, and have a family history of hemophilia, talk to your doctor. You may be referred to a specialist in medical genetics or bleeding disorders, who can help you determine if you are a carrier of hemophilia. 


SYMPTOMS OF MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS

While the exact cause of “multiple sclerosis” (MS) remains unknown, it is considered an autoimmune disease that causes “demyelination” (disruption of the fatty white substance that insulates and protects nerve cells) of the spinal cord and brain cells. As a result, messages between the brain and body are slowed or blocked, causing muscle weakness, trouble with coordination and balance, visual disturbances, numbness and tingling, and thinking and memory problems. Because there is no single test for MS, it is important to report any of these symptoms to a physician, who can conduct a medical history, physical exam, neurological exam, MRI, and other tests to diagnose it. While there is no cure for MS, medications can slow its progress. While multiple sclerosis can occur at any age, it most commonly affects people between the ages of 15 and 60, and women are about twice as likely to develop the disease as men.  MS medications work by suppressing, or altering, the activity of the body's immune system. These therapies are based on the theory that MS is, at least in part, a result of an abnormal response of the body's immune system that causes it to attack the myelin surrounding nerves. 


EATING WITH YOUR HANDS

When it comes to food portion size, we all have varying definitions that influence our eating habits. With this in mind, it is possible to adopt a “hands-on” approach to gauging portions that may prove helpful. When sizing a portion of fruits, vegetables, or grains, think in terms of an average-size adult fist. When doling out a portion of peanut butter, olive oil, or salad dressing, think of a teaspoon-sized amount as being equal to the size of a thumb tip (from the joint up). One ounce of cheese should be about the size of a whole thumb, while a flat palm can hold about 3 ounces of chicken, meat, or fish. A cupped hand holds 1-2 ounces of nuts. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a deck of playing cards is about the size of 3 ounces of poultry/meat/fish, while a baseball is the size of a cup of pasta, a tennis ball is equal to a half-cup of fruit, and 3 dice equal 1.5 ounces of cheese.


BLOOD DONATION

There is no question that blood donation is one of the most important aspects of preserving the health of patients in need of the life-preserving commodity. Anyone who is interested in making a contribution that has the potential to save lives should not wait to be asked to make a blood donation. While an estimated 38 percent of the U.S. population is eligible to donate blood at any given time, less than 10 percent of that eligible population actually does so annually. The first step in donating blood is finding out if you are eligible to do so. Once that qualification is met, blood donation is a simple four-step process that involves registration, medical history and mini-physical, donation, and refreshments. The average adult has ten pints of blood in his or her body, and donation involves
giving roughly one pint of blood. Donors must be in good health and will be screened for certain medical conditions, such as anemia. Donors who meet these requirements can give blood every 56 days. 


BREATHE EASIER

Patients diagnosed with “chronic obstructive pulmonary disease” (COPD) are often prescribed oxygen therapy. While this may once have posed a problem for COPD patients, the development of portable oxygen concentrators makes it possible to live without the restraints posed by traditional oxygen therapy devices. Instead of carrying and refilling cumbersome oxygen tanks, a portable oxygen concentrator makes its own oxygen from the surrounding air. That means that COPD patients need not fear running out of air, and they do not have to contend with switching regulators or refilling or replacing oxygen tanks. These portable devices are great for the home and make it easier to travel as they are small and light enough to carry around relatively easily. Many insurance plans (including Medicare) will cover up to 80 percent of the cost of oxygen therapy equipment if patients’ test results indicate they require oxygen therapy. Many people mistake increased breathlessness and coughing as a normal part of aging. In the early stages of COPD, you may not notice the symptoms. COPD can develop for years without noticeable shortness of breath. You begin to see the symptoms in the more developed stages of the disease.


OBESITY’S LINK TO CANCER

According to a report recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as 40% of all cancers are related to obesity. This is particularly alarming news  in light of the fact that, between 2013 and 2014, the CDC counted as many as two out of every three U.S. adults as being overweight or obese. The cancers that researchers specifically linked to obesity include a type of esophageal cancer called “esophageal adenocarcinoma,” postmenopausal breast cancer, colorectal cancer, endometrial cancer, gallbladder cancer, gastric cardia cancer, kidney cancer, thyroid cancer, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, meningioma (a slow-progressing type of brain tumor), and multiple myeloma. Fortunately, there is something we can do about obesity to lessen the cancer risk. Two out of three of the cancers mentioned above occur in individuals between the ages of 50 and 74.


AN APPLE A DAY REVISITED

Your grandmother may have recommended eating “an apple a day to keep the doctor away,” and research has proven her to be correct. Researchers found that apples contain strong antioxidants that help brain cells resist damage. In the case of apples, the antioxidant is called “quercetin,” which is a compound that counteracts the damage done by chemicals known as “free radicals.” This study adds strength to the theory that the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and brain diseases such as Parkinson’s disease might be reduced by eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. On the basis of serving size, fresh apples have some of the highest levels of quercetin. Other foods high in this antioxidant include onions, blueberries, and cranberries. Free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can damage cells in the body, are created by aerobic activity as well as external sources such as smoking. Fruits and vegetables supply vitamins and minerals and are sources of phytochemicals that function as
antioxidants, phytoestrogens, and anti-inflammatory agents. Additionally, they supply dietary fiber, which is linked to lower incidence of cardiovascular disease and obesity.


INTERMITTENT FASTING

There has been recent interest in “intermittent fasting” as a means of fighting obesity and incurring other potential health benefits. Along with helping to promote weight loss, intermittent fasting has been found to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, increase insulin sensitivity, protect nerve cells from certain kinds of damage, and may even slow aging and reduce the risk of age-related diseases. Regarding intermittent fasting’s influence on weight loss, laboratory testing reveals that it helps to convert “white fat” (which is essential for storing excess energy and releasing lipids as needed) into “brown fat” (which burns energy), making it a potential candidate for treating obesity and metabolic diseases. More research is needed to determine when and how long to fast. Intermittent fasting is undertaken without restricting overall calorie intake. Humans have fasted throughout evolution. Sometimes it was done because food was not available. It has also been a part of major religions, including Islam, Christianity and Buddhism. Common intermittent fasting methods involve daily 16 hour fasts, or fasting for 24 hours, twice per week.


SINGLE PILL TREATMENT FOR HIV

In days past, HIV patients had to take a    regime of pills in order to keep ahead of the HIV virus. This could lead to dosing errors. Today, there is a single pill that contains all of  the  different drugs needed to keep the virus at bay, but with the ease of a single medicine.  Another distinct advantage to the single pill treatment is that less toxicity builds up in the bloodstream of the infected person. In addition, people taking the one pill treatment are not as likely to build up drug resistance. However, there is one important caveat: if a person is sensitive or allergic to a drug, there is no way to tell which ingredient is causing problems. Discuss with your doctor how often to test for HIV. To protect your health, it is important to get on and stay on HIV treatment. Treatment is important because it
helps your body fight HIV. Most people living with HIV who don’t get treatment eventually develop AIDS.


LOWER LEFT ABDOMINAL PAIN

When abdominal pain is persistent or chronic, it is best to be examined by a doctor for diagnosis. While the source of the pain may be something as benign as gas, there are other, more serious potential causes. For instance, “diverticulitis,” one of the more common causes of lower left abdominal pain, involves infection and inflammation of small pouches (diverticula) that develop in walls of the large intestine (colon). Other possible causes of lower left abdominal pain include “celiac disease” (a chronic condition that occurs in the digestive tract when a person cannot digest gluten, a protein found in wheat); lactose intolerance; inflammatory bowel diseases (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis; and “irritable bowel sydrome” (a chronic gastrointestinal disorder). "Appendicitis” (an inflamed appendix, located in the lower right abdomen), which causes dull pain near the navel that sharpens and moves to the lower right abdomen, warrants immediate medical attention. If you’re looking for a family practice that can provide comprehensive health care, we offer services for adults and children. Not only do we evaluate your health needs, but we also complete a full health history of your family while providing education about health care for your age and gender.


NEW BLOOD PRESSURE GUIDELINES

New guidelines (the first since 2003) issued by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association lower the definition of “high blood pressure.” The new guidelines, which establish “normal” blood pressure at less than 120/80 mm HG and “elevated” as between 120 and 129 for systolic and under 80 for diastolic, account for complications that can occur at lower numbers (former guidelines identified normal blood pressure as under 140/90 mm Hg) and to allow for earlier treatment. Under the new guidelines, nearly half (46%) of the U.S. adult population has high blood pressure, which should be treated earlier with lifestyle changes and, if necessary, medication. Weight loss, regular exercise, less sodium, and healthy eating can lower blood pressure. Quitting smoking and cutting back on caffeine consumption are two lifestyle changes that can help lower blood pressure. 


WORKING SOLUTIONS

While many men are more than happy to retire, they may miss the opportunities that work introduces to help them bond with one another. When this source of male bonding recedes, older men may want to find other ways to connect with people. Good ways to begin this search for new social circles includes joining groups with pre-established structures such as walking groups, golf or bowling leagues, a card or chess club, or a class at an adult community center. These groups help older men recreate a work-like environment in which they can feel comfortable. Otherwise, men with similar interests can band together to launch a workplace-like project that provides each with a sense of purpose and feeling of belonging. When people work together, they tend to share personal thoughts and feelings.


BRUISING EXPERIENCES

Seniors may notice that they are more prone to bruising due to age-related changes in their skin and underlying blood vessels. Bruises occur when an injury leads to breakage of tiny blood vessels called “capillaries.”  As the blood pools under the surface of the skin, the familiar black-and-blue mark forms. Because older individuals’ skin and blood vessels become more fragile with age, they are more likely to develop bruises on their hands, arms, legs, and feet, areas of the body more prone to bruising because they have less fat for cushioning. Seniors should also be aware that medications such as antiplatelet agents, anticoagulants, corticosteroids, certain antibiotics, and even some herbal supplements (such as ginkgo biloba) increase the likelihood of bruising. If bruising becomes more frequent, severe, or worrisome, a doctor should be consulted. 


THE MEDICARE ANNUAL WELLNESS VISIT

Seniors  who have been on Medicare Part B for a year  are eligible for the Annual Wellness Visit (AWV), designed to address the health risks and needs of aging adults. While the AWV has been a part of the Medicare Part B expansion since 2011 under the Affordable Care Act, relatively few seniors know about it. However, awareness is increasing as seniors recognize that the AWV offers many benefits that increase a person’s preventive care. The visit begins with the patient filling out a questionnaire and having a conversation with his or her doctor that reveals the patient’s level of independence. The patient’s vision, hearing, balance, body mass, and mental health are also assessed, followed by the doctor’s recommendations. The Annual Wellness Visit (AWV) is offered free of charge to qualified seniors. Like the Welcome to Medicare visit, the Annual Wellness Visit is not a head-to-toe physical.  However, you cannot receive your Annual Wellness Visit within the first year you are enrolled in Medicare or within the same year you have your Welcome to Medicare exam.


PRESERVE YOUR BRAIN POWER

Nearly all seniors want to do everything they can to preserve their brain power and reduce their risk of developing dementia. As it turns out, there is a lot they can do. According to a report from two dozen international experts who reviewed existing research into dementia, seniors can best preserve their brain power by addressing hearing loss, avoiding obesity, treating high blood pressure, stopping smoking, seeking treatment for depression, becoming physically and socially more active, and reducing their risk of developing diabetes. Experts say that addressing all these modifiable risks could prevent about 35 percent of cases of dementia. By contrast, targeting the gene (the ApoE gene) primarily responsible for dementia would prevent only 7 percent of cases. Just as physical exercise strengthens the body, an active mind promotes cognitive well-being.


BE HAPPY!

There is little question that happy people have a lower risk of illness and live longer. So, the real question becomes: Are people born with a happy disposition or can we will ourselves to be happier? Recent research provides an answer. Since 1938, the Harvard Study on Adult Development collected data and health information on 724 men of varying social and economic strata. They found the happiest of these men were able to let go of past failures and toxic relationships and also able to stay socially connected. While most of our ability is based on our genes, researchers found that 40 percent of people’s happiness comes from the choices they make, like choosing to “let go” and “stay connected.” Many people find happiness by doing the things they most enjoyed during their childhood.


MEDICATION CONCERNS

Largely because older adults take more medications to treat age-related conditions, they are twice as likely as other adults to suffer adverse drug events that are serious enough to land them in emergency rooms. The risk of unwanted side effects also increases as aging bodies are likely to gain more fat and hold less water than they once did. As a result, ingested medications tend to become more concentrated in seniors’ bodies and linger longer in their systems. To compound matters even further, medications may move more slowly through older adults’ digestive systems, possibly leading to increased absorption and increased risk of side effects. With all this in mind, seniors are urged to monitor the effects of their prescribed medications.  Older adults should have no qualms about discussing drug side effects with their prescribing physicians, even if they aren’t sure whether a symptom is a side effect of the medication they are taking. As you get older you may be faced with more
health conditions that you need to treat on a regular basis. It is important to be aware that the increased use of medications and the normal body changes caused by aging can increase the chance of unwanted or maybe even harmful drug interactions.


A STEADY DIET OF PROTEIN

One of the chief concerns among seniors is that they maintain their muscle mass, which goes a long way toward preserving their independence. Sedentary individuals can lose as much as 3%-5% of their muscle mass each decade after age 30, and even active types also lose some muscle. However, a three-year study involving 1,741 healthy older men and women points to a way for seniors to maintain their muscle mass. According to conventional wisdom, it did not matter if you got your protein during breakfast, lunch, or dinner as long as your intake was sufficient. Now, researchers have found that people who eat their protein at all three meals throughout the day are best able to maintain their muscle mass. The term “sarcopenia” refers to the skeletal loss of muscle mass that contributes to frailty.


HELPING THOSE IN NEED

It is often pointed out that the act of giving benefits the giver as much (if not more) than the recipient. With this in mind, seniors who are looking to volunteer their time and energy need search no further than their local hospital to find people who could benefit greatly from their largesse. There are numerous hospital volunteer programs that can provide avenues for senior volunteers to give back to their community in meaningful ways. Volunteering does more than produce altruistic feelings. Helping others is associated with better overall health and fewer functional limitations among seniors. It only takes a few hours of volunteering per week for seniors to make a real difference in hospital patients’ lives and their own. Hospital volunteers can fill in the gaps in patients’ time when friends, family members, and other visitors can’t be there. 


STAY BUSY

Many people complain there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. Of course, that level of busyness may be harmful to health when it causes stress. Seniors, on the other hand, are encouraged to stay busy as a means of remaining socially engaged, staying fit, and even improving memory. According to the Dallas Lifespan Brain Study, in which 330 adults between the ages of 55 and 89 were examined, the busiest of these individuals displayed better cognitive function than the least busy study participants. While no one is quite sure why being busy improves brain function, researchers speculate that staying busy and active may simply be a form of mental stimulation, which leads to intellectual growth. Even if you are not on your feet, you can stay busy by doing a crossword puzzle.


TAKEN WITH MORE THAN A GRAIN OF SALT

The culprit that is primarily responsible for the development of high blood pressure and heart disease is sodium (salt). The vast majority of Americans consume more than twice the sodium recommended for a healthy diet, ingesting about an average of 3,400 milligrams daily. That is why the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that we decrease our average daily sodium intake by more than half to less than 1,500 milligrams per day. Aside from avoiding sodium (which mostly comes from processed foods), the AHA also recommends that we increase our potassium intake since this mineral facilitates the excretion of sodium through the urine and out of the body. Potassium also helps relax blood vessel walls, which helps lower blood pressure. As sodium accumulates in the body, it holds on to more water to dilute it. As a result, the amount of fluid surrounding cells and the volume of
blood in the bloodstream increases, creating more work for the heart and more pressure on blood vessels.  Regulated by your kidneys, sodium helps control your body’s fluid balance. It also helps send nerve impulses and affects muscle function. When there’s extra sodium in your bloodstream, it pulls water into your blood vessels, increasing the total volume of blood inside them. Blood pressure increases.


REASON FOR CHEER

While we may look forward to the holidays, many of us find gatherings of friends and family to be quite stressful.  Seniors, in particular, might find that the holiday season brings an unwelcome reminder of those who are no longer present to share in the joy of playing the proud parent and grandparent. Others may wistfully recall past traditions that no longer take place. Whatever the mindset of the family elders, friends and relatives should pay particular attention to their emotional needs. Engaging in conversation that evokes the memory of days past may not only prove to be therapeutic for the older storyteller, but it may also help provide younger family members with a unique glimpse of their family heritage.  The holiday season may be a good time to begin an outline of the family tree, with help from older relatives’ insights and knowledge of their past.  If your loved one is having difficulty participating in the celebrations, then bring the celebrations to them. Traditions change as we age and you can create new traditions with your aging loved one this holiday season.


STOMACH CANCER DETECTION

Nearly 28,000 people in the United States are expected to be diagnosed with stomach (gastric) cancer this year, which is difficult to detect because it rarely causes symptoms in its early stages. Consequently, only one in five cases of stomach cancer in this country are diagnosed before the disease has spread to other parts of the body. Thus, it is especially important to note that new research has resulted in a breath test for stomach cancer, which not only can be used to diagnose the disease, but also can predict whether an individual is at high risk. The technology used to diagnose stomach cancer, “nanoarray analysis,” can detect small changes in gut compounds in a person’s exhaled breath.  When stomach cancer does cause symptoms, poor appetite, weight loss, nausea, and
abdominal pain are often mistaken for symptoms of other conditions. The treatment options for stomach cancer depend on many factors. The location and the stage (extent of spread) of the tumor are important. In choosing your plan, you and your cancer care team will also take your age, general state of health, and personal preferences into account.


THE ART OF REDUCING FALLS

Because falls pose such a serious threat, it’s important that seniors do everything they can to reduce their risk of falling. One effective means of preventing falls is to take up the Chinese martial art of “tai chi.” This ancient form of exercise, which began as a fighting art, has evolved into a stylized, meditative mode of training that involves methodically slow circular and stretching movements and balancing positions. According to an analysis of ten randomized controlled trials whose participants (aged 56 to 98) practiced tai chi for one hour, one to three times per week, for 12 to 26 weeks, tai chi reduced their incidence of falls by 43 percent. Local senior centers often offer tai chi classes.  There is a large body of evidence that suggests that tai chi improves balance and flexibility. 


GET SOME SLEEP 

Prior to the development of LED screens, cable TV, smart phones, and tablets, people found it easier to get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep (more for teenagers). Now that the sun no longer necessarily governs our sleeping cycles, sleep-deprived individuals are finding that they are increasingly having trouble concentrating and staying alert during the day. Because many of the major restorative functions in the body (such as muscle growth, tissue repair, protein synthesis, and growth-hormone release) occur mostly during sleep, depriving our bodies of these recuperative processes places us at increased risk of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and even early mortality. With these potential consequences in mind, it is important
to cultivate good sleep habits. To get a better night’s sleep, exercise more during the day; avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine close to bedtime hours; and establish a regular bedtime and bedtime habits that exclude the use of cell phones. In some cases, sleep disorders can be a symptom of another medical condition. These sleeping problems may eventually go away once treatment is obtained for the underlying cause. When sleep disorders aren’t caused by another condition, treatment normally involves a combination of medical treatments and lifestyle changes. 


ADVANCE PREPARATION

An “advance directive” is a legal document that outlines a person’s wishes in the event that he or she were to become incapacitated and unable to make his or her own healthcare decisions. As important as these documents are, many older individuals have not completed one.  In fact, a review of 150 studies that were carried out in a recent 15-year period shows that only 46 percent of people aged 65 and older had completed an advance directive. Those without these instructions run the risk of being subjected to end-of-life treatments that run counter to their own personal wishes. Advance directives also relieve family members of the responsibility of making difficult and stressful decisions if a loved one’s health worsens.  The two most common types of advance
directives are the “living will” and the “durable power of attorney for health care,” which is sometimes called the “health care power of attorney” or “health care proxy.”


CARBOHYDRATE CRAVING, OBESITY, AND DEPRESSION 

There are times when people crave certain foods, such as carbohydrates when they are feeling blue because carbohydrates release the mood-boosting brain chemical known as “serotonin.” However, the type of carbohydrate eaten may have a significant impact on how long the good feeling lasts. While eating a candy bar may result in an initial elevation in mood, research indicates that, about an hour later, you will feel tenser and less energetic than before. This is due to sugar rushing into the bloodstream and triggering the release of insulin, which causes sugar and energy levels to fall. When the resultant low mood refuels the craving for sugar and
simple carbohydrates, a vicious circle of depression, overeating, and weight gain may follow. By eating controlled portions of complex-carbohydrate foods such as whole grains and beans, it is possible to feel satiated and sustain a good mood without gaining weight unnecessarily. 


GENETIC COUNSELING

Expanded research  in recent decades has led to a greater understanding of how underlying inherited factors cause many illnesses and birth defects. This relatively new information is available in the form of genetic counseling to concerned couples who are about to embark upon starting families. This medical specialty makes use of family history and medical tests to provide couples with information about risks and probabilities that a specific birth defect (or inherited disease) might occur. Even in families without an unusual pattern of medical problems or children with birth defects, there may be considerations of age or ethnic background that could be reason enough to seek out such information  when planning a pregnancy. Aside from presenting risks in terms of numbers, genetic counseling helps couples weigh risks in terms of personal values and decision making.


LUPUS

Lupus is a very serious and debilitating disease that causes the body’s own immune system to strike against the body.  Lupus is considered an inflammatory disease, meaning that it causes inflammation, and it is chronic, meaning that it lasts a long time. When a person has lupus, the   immune system will actually attack organs and tissues and can affect lungs, heart, kidneys, the joints, the skin and blood cells. The symptoms and signs of lupus can be tricky for doctors to identify since they tend to be similar to the symptoms of other diseases. Symptoms include joint pain, fatigue, blueish fingers and toes, headache, chest pain, and a signature red, butterfly shaped rash on the face.  To date, there is no known cure for lupus. The treatment for lupus depends on your signs and symptoms. As your signs and symptoms flare and subside, you and your doctor may find that you'll need to change medications or dosages. 


CHILDREN AND ASPIRIN DON’T MIX

Reye’s syndrome is a rare but potentially fatal disease of the brain and liver that strikes during recovery from viral illnesses such as the flu or chicken pox. It occurs most frequently in children between the ages of 4 and 16. While scientists are not sure of its cause, it is believed that aspirin may play a role by interacting with a virus to trigger the condition. Because it is often difficult to determine whether the source of a child’s illness is viral or bacterial, children under the age of 18 should not be given aspirin or stomach-upsetting medications that contain silicates (which are in the same drug family as aspirin). Instead, both acetaminophen and ibuprofen are considered safe alternatives.  Aspirin can show up in some unexpected places, so parents should always check the label before giving their child any medication, including over-the-counter products and alternative and herbal remedies. Though aspirin is approved for use in children older than 2, children and teenagers recovering from chickenpox or flu-like symptoms should never take aspirin.   Early diagnosis and treatment of Reye's syndrome can save a child's life. If you suspect that your child has Reye's syndrome, it's important to act quickly. 


THE HEART DISEASE GENDER GAP

While cancer may appear to be more of a health threat, the fact is that heart disease tops the list of this country’s most serious health problems and is the leading cause of death.  Not only does heart disease pose a risk to men, but women are also at risk. On average, men experience their first heart attack at age 65. For women, the average for a first heart attack is age 72. Men also survive heart attacks more often than women because they are likely to be more familiar with the classic symptoms of a heart attack. Aside from the characteristic chest pain, women often experience shortness of breath, exhaustion, and discomfort in the lower chest.  One study that measured how long people waited before seeking treatment for a heart attack found a median delay time of about 54 hours for women compared with about 16 hours for men.  Both men and women can experience well-known symptoms like gripping chest pains and breaking out in a cold sweat. But women can also have subtler, less recognizable symptoms such as pain or discomfort in the stomach, jaw, neck or back, nausea and shortness of breath. 


MORE COFFEE?

Few health topics have been discussed more frequently and comprehensively than those surrounding coffee drinking. As the pendulum of coffee’s possible effects swings from damaging to healthful and everything in between, a new study suggests coffee consumption may actually add years to coffee-drinkers’ lives. After analyzing the health data of nearly a half-million healthy individuals over age 35 from 30 different countries, researchers  concluded   that  drinking  three cups of coffee daily would  increase a  man’s life by around three months and a woman’s life by around a month, on average. Researchers say that they have found that coffee (even decaffeinated) lowers the risk of heart disease and diseases of the gut. The study is more suggestive than definitive. Drinking coffee before exercising increases performance, and drinking coffee with friends promotes socializing, both of which are known to extend one’s lifespan. Too much of any one thing can have serious side effects, and the same is true of caffeine. More than 500 to 600 milligrams (about 5-7 cups) of caffeine a day can lead to significant dehydration. Moderation is key! 


SITTING DISEASE

Back aching? Suffering from poor posture? Noticed that the weight is creeping up? The diagnosis might be a metabolic condition coined “sitting disease.” Sitting disease is just what it sounds like: an increased risk of diabetes and heart attacks that comes from too much time spent sitting. Think about the morning commute, a whole day at work, another commute, and then an evening unwinding in front of the TV, and it’s really no wonder that we are in trouble. Regular exercise does not prevent or cure sitting disease. What does? Taking ten minutes out of every hour to be active. Stretch; bend; twist; park far from the building; and take short, brisk walks in order to add years to life.  Use any opportunity to get up and move, walk, and stretch.  Standing is the easiest way to prevent sitting disease is to stand, and some office workers are investing in standing desks. Not only does standing burn up to 50 percent more calories than sitting, it is enough to prevent your metabolism from going into hibernation. 


ACTS OF GENEROSITY

Older individuals are likely to find that they are in a position to give to others in terms of time, energy, or money. Those who find that “it is better to give than to receive” know that acts of generosity not only help others, but also help themselves. In fact, researchers recently conducted a study that looked into generosity’s effect on the brain. They found that performing an act of generosity, no matter how small, made generous individuals happier. This means that even charitable acts that did not necessarily involve a great deal of sacrifice were conducive to givers’ happiness. With this in mind, we should all be committed to performing random acts of kindness for others. Offering to go food shopping for a neighbor with limited mobility can prove to be a most rewarding experience for both parties involved. 


HEPATITIS

There are several types of hepatitis, as well as plenty of ways in which to contract the disease. All hepatitis types share one common denominator: they all cause liver inflammation. Hepatitis A comes from ingesting contaminated water or food. Hepatitis B is an STD. Hepatitis C comes from blood-to-blood contact, and there are a few other forms, hepatitis D, E, G, and X, that have other causes.  The first symptoms of hepatitis resemble flu symptoms: fever, fatigue, achiness, appetite loss, and belly pain. Urine may be dark, and stools may be pale. The skin might feel itchy and may become yellowish. Because hepatitis can be easily missed, check with the doctor whenever any of the above symptoms arise.  No matter which type of hepatitis is found, the doctor will likely perform a liver function test.  To diagnose hepatitis, your doctor may press down gently on your abdomen to see if you have pain or tenderness. Your doctor may also feel for an enlarged liver. If your skin or eyes are yellow, it will be noted during the exam.


EAT LESS, LIVE LONGER

There is some evidence showing that cutting back on calorie intake (“calorie restriction”) may help increase life span by slowing metabolism and increasing muscle mass. Calorie restriction generally involves consuming about 10%-15% fewer calories than a person’s regular intake without reducing key nutrients. This can be accomplished by making smarter food choices and controlling portions. According to a study involving 220 middle-aged adults who achieved a 12% calorie restriction over a two-year period, their average blood pressure dropped by 4% and their total cholesterol decreased by 6%. They also experienced a 47% reduction in levels of C-reactive protein, which is an indicator linked to cardiovascular disease. Thyroid hormone levels also dropped 20%. Some studies link lower thyroid activity with slower body aging.  Older individuals who have difficulty getting sufficient calories (and consequently proper nutrients) will not benefit from unnecessary weight loss.


PREDIABETES

A prediabetes diagnosis should be treated as a major wake-up call. Prediabetes is not a guarantee that diabetes will follow, but the chance is very, very high. Prediabetes usually has no symptoms at all, so a person could be completely unaware. Those who have prediabetes do not process sugar as well as a healthy person, so their blood sugar is higher than normal, but not quite high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. While weight is very often a risk factor, prediabetes can also develop as people age and if lifestyle habits are not healthy. Again, like weight, age alone is not a reliable risk factor. Even children can become prediabetic.  If there is a family history of diabetes, or if risk factors are present, talk to the doctor about ways to minimize the risk of prediabetes developing.  According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), pre-diabetes is reversible. Treatment may include diet, exercise, and medication. Type 2 diabetes can develop within 10 years if you have pre-diabetes and don’t make lifestyle changes.  


TAKING DIABETES TO HEART

One of the reasons diabetes poses such a threat to health is that it is a major contributor to cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in this country. While it has been known for quite some time that people with diabetes are more prone to heart attacks, no one was exactly sure how high the risk was. According to the latest research, diabetes appears to double the risk of dying from a heart attack, stroke, or other heart condition. These findings accentuate the need for diabetics to control the disease that is characterized by overly high blood sugar levels. One out of four Americans aged 65 years and older has type-2 diabetes. Diagnosis and treatment are essential. Most of the problems associated with diabetes are due to lack of control. The more patients know about their condition and work to regulate it, the lower their risk of complications will be. 


LYING IN WAIT

Lung cancer is the world’s deadliest cancer. It is very persistent and difficult to treat, and recent research may shed some light as to why these hard realities are so. Lung cancer can lie dormant for more than two decades before turning deadly. In most cases, smoking triggers the initial genetic fault to quietly cause cell mutations that make different parts of the same tumor genetically unique. By the time patients are sick enough for a lung cancer diagnosis to be made, their tumors have traveled down multiple evolutionary paths, making it difficult for one targeted medicine to have an effect. This research shows that it is important to detect lung cancer before it has shape-shifted into multiple clones.  Computerized tomography (CT) is currently used to detect lung cancer. However, by the time that a nodule is large enough to be detected, it may contain high numbers of genetically diverse cancer cells. 


FLU SHOT TIMING

While some might think there is a “best time” to get a flu shot, waiting for the perfect moment may cause you to put it off and miss out on the vaccine’s benefits. The flu season generally begins around early October and usually extends from December to March. In the preceding two flu seasons, flu activity has peaked around mid- to late- February. The body needs two weeks after the shot to develop a protective response. Some studies also show the benefit of a flu shot begins to decline after four to six months, especially among elderly individuals. While getting a flu shot in October may provide the most benefit, timing is not as important as actually getting one.  The flu vaccine prevents 50% to 60% of influenza infections in a typical season. 


TAKEN WITH MORE THAN A GRAIN OF SALT

The culprit that is primarily responsible for the development of high blood pressure and heart disease is sodium (salt). The vast majority of Americans consume more than twice the sodium recommended for a healthy diet, ingesting about an average of 3,400 milligrams daily. That is why the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that we decrease our average daily sodium intake by more than half to less than 1,500 milligrams per day. Aside from avoiding sodium (which mostly comes from processed foods), the AHA also recommends that we increase our potassium intake since this mineral facilitates the excretion of sodium through the urine and out of the body. Potassium also helps relax blood vessel walls, which helps lower blood pressure. As sodium accumulates in the body, it holds on to more water to dilute it. As a result, the amount of fluid surrounding cells and the volume of blood in the bloodstream increases, creating more work for the heart and more pressure on blood vessels. Regulated by your kidneys, sodium helps control your body’s fluid balance. It also helps send nerve impulses and affects muscle function. When there’s extra sodium in your bloodstream, it pulls water into your blood vessels, increasing the total volume of blood inside them. Blood pressure increases. 


STAY IN TOUCH

If you have an elderly parent, close relative, or friend, make it your business to regularly stay in touch. While emailing and texting help with daily contact, there is really no substitute for a visit to lift an older individual’s spirit and feeling of belonging. This strong recommendation is made on the basis of a great deal of research that shows that averting loneliness and social isolation helps greatly to boost longevity. In fact, the most recent research on this topic reveals that loneliness poses just as much of a mortality risk to seniors as obesity does. So, the next time that your thoughts turn to an elderly parent or other senior, make a call and stay in touch.  A robust social life helps seniors avert cognitive loss. 


STOMACH CANCER DETECTION

Nearly 28,000 people in the United States are expected to be diagnosed with stomach (gastric) cancer this year, which is difficult to detect because it rarely causes symptoms in its early stages. Consequently, only one in five cases of stomach cancer in this country are diagnosed before the disease has spread to other parts of the body. Thus, it is especially important to note that new research has resulted in a breath test for stomach cancer, which not only can be used to diagnose the disease, but also can predict whether an individual is at high risk. The technology used to diagnose stomach cancer, “nanoarray analysis,” can detect small changes in gut compounds in a person’s exhaled breath.  When stomach cancer does cause symptoms, poor appetite, weight loss, nausea, and abdominal pain are often mistaken for symptoms of other conditions. The treatment options for stomach cancer depend on many factors. The location and the stage (extent of spread) of the tumor are important. In choosing your plan, you and your cancer care team will also take your age, general state of health, and personal preferences into account.


WINTER ITCH

Seniors are especially vulnerable to dry, heated air in rooms with central heating that gives rise to “winter itch.”  Skin is most supple when the humidity is 70%. However, when the humidity drops to 10% in the winter, water loss through the skin into the air causes the skin to become dry and itchy. Simply treating this problem with an application of oil leaves winter-itch sufferers with nothing more than oily dry skin. Instead, the key is to try to use moisturizers to hold moisture in the skin. To accomplish this, try applying a moisturizer within three minutes of emerging from the shower while the skin is still wet. If dry skin, scaling, or itching persists, see a dermatologist.  If you have “winter itch,” take short, lukewarm showers or baths with a non-irritating, non-detergent-based cleanser. As we age, our skin undergoes a number of changes. How skin ages will depend on several factors: lifestyle, diet, heredity, and personal habits such as smoking and drinking. 


GET SOME SLEEP 

Prior to the development of LED screens, cable TV, smart phones, and tablets, people found it easier to get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep (more for teenagers). Now that the sun no longer necessarily governs our sleeping cycles, sleep-deprived individuals are finding that they are increasingly having trouble concentrating and staying alert during the day. Because many of the major restorative functions in the body (such as muscle growth, tissue repair, protein synthesis, and growth-hormone release) occur mostly during sleep, depriving our bodies of these recuperative processes places us at increased risk of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and even early mortality. With these potential consequences in mind, it is important to cultivate good sleep habits.  To get a better night’s sleep, exercise more during the day; avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine close to bedtime hours; and establish a regular bedtime and bedtime habits that exclude the use of cell phones. In some cases, sleep disorders can be a symptom of another medical condition. These sleeping problems may eventually go away once treatment is obtained for the underlying cause. When sleep disorders aren’t caused by another condition, treatment normally involves a combination of medical treatments and lifestyle changes. 


AVERTING THE STRESS OF CAREGIVING

According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, about 34.2 million Americans have provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older in the past 12 months. Approximately two-thirds (65%) of these caregivers are women, with an average age of 69.4 years. As one might imagine, caregiving can be rewarding, but challenging as well, so much so that stress leads more than 20% of caregivers to report that their health has suffered as a result of their responsibilities. With this in mind, caregivers should take steps to preserve their own health, including taking time to exercise, get adequate sleep, and eat well. Beyond that, it helps to enlist the help of others and to take occasional breaks from caregiving.  There eventually comes a time when caregivers must consider passing on their responsibilities to a nursing home or extended-care facility.


CARBOHYDRATE CRAVING, OBESITY, AND DEPRESSION 

There are times when people crave certain foods, such as carbohydrates when they are feeling blue because carbohydrates release the mood-boosting brain chemical known as “serotonin.” However, the type of carbohydrate eaten may have a significant impact on how long the good feeling lasts. While eating a candy bar may result in an initial elevation in mood, research indicates that, about an hour later, you will feel tenser and less energetic than before. This is due to sugar rushing into the bloodstream and triggering the release of insulin, which causes sugar and energy levels to fall. When the resultant low mood refuels the craving for sugar and simple carbohydrates, a vicious circle of depression, overeating, and weight gain may follow. By eating controlled portions of complex-carbohydrate foods such as whole grains and beans, it is possible to feel satiated and sustain a good mood without gaining weight unnecessarily. 


SITTING DISEASE

Back aching? Suffering from poor posture? Noticed that the weight is creeping up? The diagnosis might be a metabolic condition coined “sitting disease.” Sitting disease is just what it sounds like: an increased risk of diabetes and heart attacks that comes from too much time spent sitting. Think about the morning commute, a whole day at work, another commute, and then an evening unwinding in front of the TV, and it’s really no wonder that we are in trouble. Regular exercise does not prevent or cure sitting disease. What does? Taking ten minutes out of every hour to be active. Stretch; bend; twist; park far from the building; and take short, brisk walks in order to add years to life. Use any opportunity to get up and move, walk, and stretch.  Standing is the easiest way to prevent sitting disease is to stand, and some office workers are investing in standing desks. Not only does standing burn up to 50 percent more calories than sitting, it is enough to prevent your metabolism from going into hibernation. 


HEPATITIS

There are several types of hepatitis, as well as plenty of ways in which to contract the disease. All hepatitis types share one common denominator: they all cause liver inflammation. Hepatitis A comes from ingesting contaminated water or food. Hepatitis B is an STD. Hepatitis C comes from blood-to-blood contact, and there are a few other forms, hepatitis D, E, G, and X, that have other causes.  The first symptoms of hepatitis resemble flu symptoms: fever, fatigue, achiness, appetite loss, and belly pain. Urine may be dark, and stools may be pale. The skin might feel itchy and may become yellowish. Because hepatitis can be easily missed, check with the doctor whenever any of the above symptoms arise. No matter which type of hepatitis is found, the doctor will likely perform a liver function test. To diagnose hepatitis, your doctor may press down gently on your abdomen to see if you have pain or tenderness. Your doctor may also feel for an enlarged liver. If your skin or eyes are yellow, it will be noted during the exam.


MORE COFFEE?

Few health topics have been discussed more frequently and comprehensively than those surrounding coffee drinking. As the pendulum of coffee’s possible effects swings from damaging to healthful and everything in between, a new study suggests coffee consumption may actually add years to coffee-drinkers’ lives. After analyzing the health data of nearly a half-million healthy individuals over age 35 from 30 different countries, researchers  concluded   that  drinking  three cups of coffee daily would  increase a  man’s life by around three months and a woman’s life by around a month, on average. Researchers say that they have found that coffee (even decaffeinated) lowers the risk of heart disease and diseases of the gut. The study is more suggestive than definitive. Drinking coffee before exercising increases performance, and drinking coffee with friends promotes socializing, both of which are known to extend one’s lifespan. Too much of any one thing can have serious side effects, and the same is true of caffeine. More than 500 to 600 milligrams (about 5-7 cups) of caffeine a day can lead to significant dehydration. Moderation is key!


ACTS OF GENEROSITY

Older individuals are likely to find that they are in a position to give to others in terms of time, energy, or money. Those who find that “it is better to give than to receive” know that acts of generosity not only help others, but also help themselves. In fact, researchers recently conducted a study that looked into generosity’s effect on the brain. They found that performing an act of generosity, no matter how small, made generous individuals happier. This means that even charitable acts that did not necessarily involve a great deal of sacrifice were conducive to givers’ happiness. With this in mind, we should all be committed to performing random acts of kindness for others. Offering to go food shopping for a neighbor with limited mobility can prove to be a most rewarding experience for both parties involved. 


PREDIABETES

A prediabetes diagnosis should be treated as a major wake-up call. Prediabetes is not a guarantee that diabetes will follow, but the chance is very, very high. Prediabetes usually has no symptoms at all, so a person could be completely unaware. Those who have prediabetes do not process sugar as well as a healthy person, so their blood sugar is higher than normal, but not quite high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. While weight is very often a risk factor, prediabetes can also develop as people age and if lifestyle habits are not healthy. Again, like weight, age alone is not a reliable risk factor. Even children can become prediabetic. If there is a family history of diabetes, or if risk factors are present, talk to the doctor about ways to minimize the risk of prediabetes developing. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), pre-diabetes is reversible. Treatment may include diet, exercise, and medication. Type 2 diabetes can develop within 10 years if you have pre-diabetes and don’t make lifestyle changes. 


LYING IN WAIT

Lung cancer is the world’s deadliest cancer. It is very persistent and difficult to treat, and recent research may shed some light as to why these hard realities are so. Lung cancer can lie dormant for more than two decades before turning deadly. In most cases, smoking triggers the initial genetic fault to quietly cause cell mutations that make different parts of the same tumor genetically unique. By the time patients are sick enough for a lung cancer diagnosis to be made, their tumors have traveled down multiple evolutionary paths, making it difficult for one targeted medicine to have an effect. This research shows that it is important to detect lung cancer before it has shape-shifted into multiple clones. Computerized tomography (CT) is currently used to detect lung cancer. However, by the time that a nodule is large enough to be detected, it may contain high numbers of genetically diverse cancer cells. 


EAT LESS, LIVE LONGER

There is some evidence showing that cutting back on calorie intake (“calorie restriction”) may help increase life span by slowing metabolism and increasing muscle mass. Calorie restriction generally involves consuming about 10%-15% fewer calories than a person’s regular intake without reducing key nutrients. This can be accomplished by making smarter food choices and controlling portions. According to a study involving 220 middle-aged adults who achieved a 12% calorie restriction over a two-year period, their average blood pressure dropped by 4% and their total cholesterol decreased by 6%. They also experienced a 47% reduction in levels of C-reactive protein, which is an indicator linked to cardiovascular disease. Thyroid hormone levels also dropped 20%. Some studies link lower thyroid activity with slower body aging. Older individuals who have difficulty getting sufficient calories (and consequently proper nutrients) will not benefit from unnecessary weight loss.


TAKING DIABETES TO HEART

One of the reasons diabetes poses such a threat to health is that it is a major contributor to cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in this country. While it has been known for quite some time that people with diabetes are more prone to heart attacks, no one was exactly sure how high the risk was. According to the latest research, diabetes appears to double the risk of dying from a heart attack, stroke, or other heart condition. These findings accentuate the need for diabetics to control the disease that is characterized by overly high blood sugar levels. One out of four Americans aged 65 years and older has type-2 diabetes. Diagnosis and treatment are essential. Most of the problems associated with diabetes are due to lack of control. The more patients know about their condition and work to regulate it, the lower their risk of complications will be. 


ITP AWARENESS

ITP is a bleeding disorder with a name that sounds more like a job in computers. However, saying ITP is easier than saying idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, which is the actual name of the disorder. ITP occurs when the body does not make enough platelets, which help blood to clot. As a result, there is the potential for excessive bleeding or bruising to take place. ITP can happen to anyone, and it usually follows a viral infection. In younger people, the problem tends to resolve itself. In adults, ITP is more likely to be chronic or long term, and may lead to the need for more aggressive treatments such as the use of pharmaceuticals or the removal of the spleen. ITP occurs when the body sees blood platelets as the enemy and produces antibodies against them.  People with mild ITP may need nothing more than regular monitoring and platelet checks, and children usually improve without treatment. 


“FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH” MOLECULE DISCOVERED

While skin creams may treat wrinkles, this so-called “anti-aging” treatment does not actually turn back the clock. However, recent research suggests that scientists have uncovered a molecule that can reverse aging from within. Scientists have identified that the metabolite NAD+, which is naturally present in every cell of our body, plays a key role as a regulator in protein-to-protein interactions that control DNA repair. When laboratory mice were treated with a NAD+ precursor (or “booster”) called NMN, the mice’s cells were better able to repair DNA damage caused by radiation exposure or old age. After just one week of treatment, the treated cells of old mice were indistinguishable from those of young mice. Human trials with NMN are expected soon.  The research mentioned above has attracted the attention of NASA for possible application on a mission to Mars. 


TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY

Between awareness of the health of professional sports players and troops returning home from deployment, few people are unaware of traumatic brain injury. However, the average person should know more than simple recognition of the condition’s existence; they need to know the symptoms as well. Traumatic brain injury can happen to anyone after a serious blow to the head or other kind of head injury. A concussion is the mildest form of brain injury. After a head injury, be aware of symptoms such as a persistent headache, nausea or vomiting, seizures or convulsions, inability to awaken the injured party, slurred speech, and dilated pupils. Symptoms might not appear right away, so be on the alert for them. More than half of all traumatic brain injuries occur from motor vehicle accidents. Language and communications problems are common following traumatic brain injuries. These problems can cause frustration, conflict and misunderstanding for people with a traumatic brain injury, as well as family members, friends and care providers.


FIVE WAYS TO LOWER BLOOD PRESSURE

An estimated half of individuals over age 65 have high blood pressure. Because this condition often does not cause any obvious symptoms, it’s important to have your blood pressure checked. If medications are needed to manage hypertension, be sure to stick to your drug-taking regimen. Other things you can do include “mindful breathing.” This simple technique involves breathing through your nose for a count of five, holding your breath for a few seconds, then exhaling every last bit of air. Try this technique for a few minutes to relax. Additional habits that can help lower blood pressure are maintaining a healthy weight, interacting with pets, and eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fats. You can combine two of the hypertension-lowering techniques mentioned above by walking a dog regularly. 


ATRIAL FIBRILLATION

The heart is a very complex organ that pumps blood throughout the entire body. Without a properly functioning heart, life is not sustainable. In order to pump effectively, the heart receives electrical signals from the brain. The two upper chambers beat in rhythm with the two lower chambers. In people who have atrial fibrillation, the two upper chambers beat chaotically and out of rhythm. Often, the heart fixes itself and is able to pick up the correct beat again; however, medical intervention is sometimes needed. People with atrial fibrillation may not have symptoms. If they do, symptoms could include a rapid heartbeat or palpitations, confusion, dizziness, chest pain, fatigue, and shortness of breath. Atrial fibrillation can lead to an increased risk of heart failure, heart attack, and stroke. The treatment that is most appropriate for your atrial fibrillation will depend on how long you've had it, how bothersome your symptoms are and its underlying cause.


STEP UP 

If you like exercise that is fun to do, you might try dancing. Not only will it help keep your body fit, but dancing also helps keep your mind young. Partner dances such as waltz, foxtrot, swing, salsa, and tango have their own unique mix of steps and protocols. Keeping in step forces your mind to rewire itself and create new neural connections as you learn the dance moves. This constant remodeling of the brain is referred to as “neuroplasticity,” which helps keep the brain young. While navigating the floor, integrating new movement patterns with the music, and connecting with your partner, you are multi-tasking in a way that few other forms of exercise can match. According to one study, dancing was the only physical activity (including walking, bowling, and bicycling) found to be linked with a lower risk of dementia.  


SEPSIS

Sepsis is a very serious illness that can, if left untreated, lead to death. In fact, at least half of all people who end up in an advanced stage of sepsis infection do die. Fortunately, sepsis has three stages and, caught early on, most people will recover. Stage one sepsis begins when a bacterial infection rages and causes an overwhelming immune response in the body. For sepsis to be present, there are at least two of the following symptoms: body temperature over 101 or below 96.8 F., rapid heartbeat over 90 bpm, and a respiratory rate over 20 breaths per minute. Left untreated, sepsis will be upgraded to severe sepsis, and later on to septic shock. Drug-resistant bacteria may be a cause of the increase in cases of sepsis. 


AS YOU LIVE AND BREATHE

Pneumonia, which affects about two million people annually, is an infection of the lungs that ranges in severity. While so-called “walking pneumonia” does not require hospitalization, older adults with weakened immune systems can find their health to be quite compromised. Some pneumonia cases are caused by a virus that can be treated with antiviral medications, but most are caused by bacteria, which can be treated with antibiotics. However, prevention is best. Current recommendations call for all adults aged 65 years and older to receive a dose of PCV13 (pneumococcal conjugate) vaccine, followed by PPSV23 (pneumococcal polysaccharide) vaccine at least one year later. While the vaccine is considered to be a once-in-a-lifetime shot, some doctors recommend a booster 5-10 years later. According to the CDC, the percentage of adults 65 years and over who have ever received a pneumococcal vaccination is 63.5 percent.


FOOD POISONING

No one likes to spend too much time in the bathroom; however, for people who have ingested something that has been contaminated with bacteria, the bathroom is where they will be. Normally, food poisoning is not too severe, and most people recover from it over the course of a few days or a week. Food poisoning involves vomiting and diarrhea. Because so much water is lost during a bout of this illness, those afflicted should aim to replace lost fluids with water or an electrolyte drink. Food poisoning can result from undercooked foods, foods that have remained out and unrefrigerated for too long, or foods that have been prepared by someone who has bacteria on his or her hands. If food poisoning symptoms do not improve or become debilitating, call the doctor promptly. If you have certain kinds of bacterial food poisoning and your symptoms are severe, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics. Food poisoning caused by listeria needs to be treated with intravenous antibiotics during hospitalization.


PROCESSING AGE

If you have ever said that you feel younger than your age, you know that chronological age does not always match biological age. While measuring chronological age simply entails counting birthdays, scientists calculate biological age by measuring “telomeres.” Like the plastic tips on shoelaces, telomeres protect chromosomes from deterioration and progressively shorten with age. Even though telomeres naturally shorten and fray  as we age, unhealthy factors such as smoking and being overweight  may accelerate the process. With this in mind, one way to stave off aging and maintain telomere length is to exercise. In fact, a recent study involving 1,500 women  ages 65 to 94  found that active women are biologically eight years younger than their sedentary counterparts.  Shortened telomeres are associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and major cancers. 


RESTLESS LEG SYNDROME

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) can feel like a form of torture for those who suffer from it. Imagine just drifting off to sleep, and then suddenly being plagued by a feeling of pins and needles in your legs, or the impossible-to-ignore feeling that your legs just have to move. While doctors might not be sure what causes RLS, they do know that suffering from the syndrome can lead to more health problems. People who cannot sleep due to legs that want to keep going can experience the effects of sleep deprivation, including daytime fatigue; attention problems; motor vehicle accidents; and, eventually, an increased risk for chronic illnesses. The good news is, RLS is treatable by the doctor. Genetics may play a significant role in restless leg syndrome. RLS can be a side effect of certain medications. If so, it goes away when you stop taking the medication.


GET SLEEP TO IMPROVE YOUR MEMORY

As we all know, older adults face many obstacles (including frequent trips to the bathroom, insomnia, and sleep apnea) that stand in the way of a good night’s sleep. The good news is that addressing and treating these problems helps us feel more awake and alert during daytime hours. We also now know that during non-REM “deep sleep,” when we enter the non-dreaming restorative stage of sleep, our memories consolidate. So, when we are able to get the quality deep sleep that we need, our memory improves. Thus, it is important to adhere to a regular sleep schedule and not rely on sleep medications. Sedating the brain is not the way to get the benefits that natural sleep provides. To get a better night’s sleep, keep your bedroom cool (less than 68 degrees F.); avoid excessively bright light (especially blue light from computer screens, cell phones, and tablets); and avoid caffeine and alcohol at least four hours before bedtime.


DVT AND PULMONARY EMBOLISM

Deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, occurs when blood clots in the deep internal veins of the body, usually in the legs. Most of the time, DVT happens to people who are confined to one place for long periods of time due to surgery, bed rest, or pregnancy. Having DVT is life changing and puts the patient at a significant amount of risk. Should the clot loosen, it could travel to the lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism. Anyone with DVT should call 911 immediately if certain symptoms occur. The symptoms of a pulmonary embolism include chest pain that gets worse when inhaling, rapid heart rate, increased respiration, fainting, and anxiety; however, not everyone will experience these symptoms. Deep vein thrombosis may cause leg pain and swelling. Even if you're at risk, you can take steps to prevent DVT. Regular exercise and a low-fat, high fiber diet can help you prevent blood clots.


GET SLEEP TO IMPROVE YOUR MEMORY

As we all know, older adults face many obstacles (including frequent trips to the bathroom, insomnia, and sleep apnea) that stand in the way of a good night’s sleep. The good news is that addressing and treating these problems helps us feel more awake and alert during daytime hours. We also now know that during non-REM “deep sleep,” when we enter the non-dreaming restorative stage of sleep, our memories consolidate. So, when we are able to get the quality deep sleep that we need, our memory improves. Thus, it is important to adhere to a regular sleep schedule and not rely on sleep medications. Sedating the brain is not the way to get the benefits that natural sleep provides. To get a better night’s sleep, keep your bedroom cool (less than 68 degrees F.); avoid excessively bright light (especially blue light from computer screens, cell phones, and tablets); and avoid caffeine and alcohol at least four hours before bedtime.


MALE BREAST CANCER

When a person hears the words “breast cancer,” they often automatically think of a woman. However, although quite rare, men can also be diagnosed with breast cancer. Most of the time, male breast cancer manifests as a tumor, or lump, in the nipple area. Male breast cancer is staged the same way that female breast cancer is, and if it is caught early in stages 0 to 1, then the survival rate can be 100 percent. Unfortunately, male breast cancer seems to be far deadlier than female breast cancer because men tend not to be on the lookout for the signs and symptoms. This fact makes late diagnosis more likely. Look for nipple retraction, redness, puckering, or nipple oozing. Male breast cancer is most often treated with surgery.  


AMASSING MORE MUSCLE MASS

Our muscle mass peaks at around age 30, and up to 30 percent of our muscle mass is lost by age 80. The good news is that, to minimize “sarcopenia” (age-related loss of muscle tissue), we need only to eat more protein at breakfast and lunch. Doing so can spell the difference between losing muscle mass and increasing lean tissue mass. Unfortunately, most people tend to eat very little protein in the morning, have a bit more at lunch, and eat the most protein at dinner. When most protein is consumed at one meal, the body has difficulty assimilating it. With this in mind, seniors are advised to spread out their protein consumption over the course of the day. Eating more protein at breakfast and lunch is only part of the prescription for maintaining muscle mass. Exercise is also essential.For seniors, maintaining muscle mass and function is vital to having functional independence. In addition to a healthy diet, exercise is the most powerful intervention to address muscle loss, whether it occurs in the context of advancing age or debilitating chronic or acute diseases.


GALLSTONES 

On the right side of the abdomen, just underneath the liver, lies a little pear-shaped organ called the gallbladder. The gallbladder stores bile, the fluid that is released into the small intestine to help with the digestion of food. Sometimes little bits of digestive fluid build up and solidify into gallstones that can range in size from as tiny as a grain of sand to something relatively giant—about the size of a golf ball. People can develop just one gallstone, or they can develop several at one time. Sometimes gallstones don’t cause any symptoms, and thus don’t need any treatment. Other times, however, they can cause intense pain and need immediate attention. Gallstones are quite common in the United States. If you don't have any symptoms, a policy of active monitoring is often recommended. If your symptoms are more severe and occur frequently, surgery is usually recommended. The gallbladder isn't an essential organ and you can lead a perfectly normal life without one. 


OVERCOMING ARTHRITIS LIMITATIONS 

Nearly half of individuals aged 65 years and older have physician-diagnosed arthritis. While this inflammatory condition can be managed with pain medication, there is also evidence that regular activity can help older adults with arthritis stay independent. How much activity is necessary, you may ask? Even though federal guidelines recommend 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, few older adults with arthritis can meet this standard. Fortunately, researchers have found that osteoarthritis sufferers between the ages of 49 and 83  who engaged in only 45 minutes of moderate activity per week were 80 percent more likely to improve their walking speed and ability to perform light activities. This is encouraging news for arthritic seniors who want to stay mobile. Physical activity and exercise help combat arthritis by strengthening the muscles that surround the joints and relieving pressure on bone and cartilage. 


SLEEP APNEA

Sleep apnea  is a disorder that causes a person’s breathing to pause or become quite shallow during sleep. The pauses can last from a few seconds to an alarming several minutes, and they might happen repeatedly throughout the night, which can, obviously, lead to a bleary morning and a feeling that one did not actually sleep very well at all. The three types of sleep apnea are obstructive (OSA), the most common; central (CSA); and a combination of the two. OSA can be caused by obesity, allergies, enlarged tonsils, or family history.  People with  CSA lack the effort to breathe during the night. Sleep apnea can lead to a number of difficulties such as cardiovascular problems and car crashes. Between one and six percent of adults suffer from sleep apnea. If you think you have sleep apnea, see your doctor. Bring a record of your sleep, fatigue levels throughout the day, and any other symptoms you might be having. Be sure to take an updated list of medications, including over the counter medications, with you. 


HEALTHY HEART HABITS 

If maintaining a healthy heart hasn’t really been your focus for a while, don’t worry. It’s never too late to begin taking positive lifestyle steps towards upgrading the health of your heart. Begin with a visit to the doctor’s office for a full physical. He or she will assess any risk factors that can increase the likelihood of cardiovascular problems. Become familiar with the numbers for blood pressure levels, blood sugar levels, and cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Take time every day for some exercise. The heart is a muscle, and like other muscles, it benefits from use. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Finally, make an extreme effort to stop smoking cigarettes as soon as possible.  Men over the age of 45 and women over age 55 are at an increased risk for heart problems. It's never too early or too late to learn the warning signs of a heart attack. Not everyone experiences severe chest pain with a heart attack. And heart attack symptoms in women can be different than men. 


MENINGIOMA

A meningioma is a type of tumor that grows in the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord, the meninges. Most of the time, these tumors are benign, or noncancerous. Infrequently, the tumor is malignant, or cancerous. Most commonly, meningiomas occur in older women, but they can also occur in men and at any stage of life. Meningiomas grow very slowly, and they don’t always need to be treated, especially if they cause no symptoms. Doctors are not entirely sure what causes meningiomas, but there seems to be a connection to radiation exposure and a certain genetic disorder. Symptoms include headaches, blurred vision, seizures, numbness, speech trouble, and limb weakness. P.S. As many as 90 percent  of meningiomas are not cancerous.    


HEMOPHILIA 

While scabbed skin might be unsightly, it’s actually a sign that the body is working correctly. After the skin is broken and bleeding occurs, the blood should clot and form a scab, and eventually the wound should heal. In people who have blood clotting factor abnormalities, the process is interrupted, sometimes with very dangerous outcomes. Clotting factor is a protein that the body uses to form blood clots. People with hemophilia have less clotting factor than normal or no clotting factor at all. They can bleed excessively and bruise easily. A simple blood test can verify whether or not a person has hemophilia. There is no cure for the disorder. Treatment includes injections of clotting factor into the bloodstream.  Bleeding into the joints can cause arthritis, a common complication of hemophilia. The preferred treatment for hemophilia is factor replacement therapy. The missing factor protein is injected into an affected person’s vein. The injection makes the factor immediately available in the bloodstream; the body is able to activate it to continue the clotting cascade and stop the bleeding. 


COLON CANCER

Cancer of the large intestine is called colon cancer. Most of the time, colon cancer begins when little polyps that form in the colon become cancerous. Polyps can be small and may not even produce any symptoms, which is why regular screenings for colon cancer are so important. Screenings usually become a routine part of a health care plan around the age of 50, and sometimes earlier depending on family history and risk factors for the disease. As a rule of thumb, discuss any persistent changes in bowel habits with the doctor, including diarrhea and constipation. Report any rectal bleeding or blood in the stool along with abdominal cramps, a feeling that the bowel hasn’t completely emptied, weakness, or fatigue.  There may be an association between the typical western diet and an increased risk of colon cancer. If you’re 50 or older, talk to your doctor about which colon screening test is right for you and get tested as often as recommended.  


KIDNEY HEALTH

While the head and the heart garner a lot of attention, healthy kidneys should be of equal importance. People with
certain risk factors such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension, hereditary factors, or certain ethnicities should have kidney function tested as part of routine healthcare. Others should take care of the kidneys by making lifestyle enhancements such as getting fit and staying active. Keep an eye on blood sugar levels and don’t let them get too high. Make sure blood pressure is in a healthy range. Lose weight and eat a healthy diet, and stay well hydrated. Try not to take too many over-the-counter  medicines as these can lead to kidney damage. Lastly, quit smoking.   People with chronic illnesses like heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes can still have healthy kidneys if they keep their illness in check. Follow doctor’s orders! If you have healthy kidneys and use over-the-counter medicines for occasional pain, they probably don’t pose a risk. But if you take them for chronic pain or arthritis, you should talk to your doctor about monitoring your kidney function or finding alternative ways to control your pain.


STEPS TO GOOD HEALTH

Many adults are so busy taking care of children or taking care of their own parents as they age that they forget to take care of themselves. One of the most fundamental ways in which adults can maintain a healthy lifestyle is by fueling their bodies properly. Healthy foods and good nutrition can go a long way towards increasing both everyday and long-term health. Generally, there is always room for improvement. Start with baby steps. Cut back on processed foods and sugar. Increase fresh fruits and vegetables to 2-3 servings of each every day. Opt for lean protein sources, whole grains, and healthy fats. Talk to the doctor about a vitamin supplement to round out a healthy diet. Try to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day as proper hydration can really make the difference in how healthy a person feels. Opt for water over other beverages.


READING BETWEEN THE LINES

If we are fortunate, we learned early in life that reading a good book is one of life’s most enduring pleasures.
Unfortunately, all too many younger people have forsaken curling up with a good book for scanning the Internet for snippets of gossip and tweets. This is regrettable because not only is reading an enriching activity, but it may also provide readers with health benefits. When researchers analyzed the reading habits and medical records of 5,635 participants (age 50 and older) in the Health and Retirement study, they found that those who read books regularly had a 20 percent higher chance of living longer than non-readers. Researchers also found reading newspapers and magazines did not confer the same beneficial effect. It is likely that reading books stimulates the mind in ways that improve cognitive function and increase life expectancy. Reading a book gives your brain lots of information to remember, including a variety of characters, scenery, sub-plots that are developing and so on. It has been shown to slow or possibly prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia. 


FAMILY HISTORY

While filling out a family medical history questionnaire at the doctor’s office may be an arduous task for older patients, this information may provide valuable insight into their health prospects. The longer a person’s parents have lived, the more likely it is that their offspring will stay healthy into their 60s and 70s. An 8-year study of middle-aged offspring reveals that those with long-lived parents enjoyed a lower incidence of heart disease, heart failure, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and atrial fibrillation. It was found that the risk of succumbing to  heart disease was 20% lower for each decade that at least one parent lived beyond age 70. Parents’ lifespans are predictive of their children’s disease onset. While having healthy, long-lived parents does indicate longer and healthier lives of their children, lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, low physical activity, and obesity also are determining factors.  


GETTING UP FROM YOUR CHAIR

Falls pose a particular risk for seniors, one in three of whom falls each year. Most concerning is the fact that one in five of these falls results in a serious injury. With this in mind, you might want to assess your risk of falling, especially if you have already experienced a fall or two. If so, you should know that a simple test known as the “chair stand” is the strongest predictor of future falls. To perform this test, you need only sit in a straight-backed chair and rise to a standing position  without using your arms. Taking longer than 16.7 seconds to complete five chair stands is an indication that you are at increased risk of falls. Chronic joint pain, particularly in the neck and back, can increase seniors’ risk of falling  by hampering their mobility and/or compromising their balance. 


WHAT’S THE LIMIT?

As we all know, the average life expectancy of a person born in the United States has increased considerably, from 47 years  in 1900  to 79 years today. In addition, the age of the oldest living person has also increased, which has led some to wonder if there is a maximum age  to which humans can live. To help find the answer, it is instructive to look at mortality and population data from over 40 countries that is stored in the Human Mortality Database. These statistics reveal that, while more people are living to be 100 years and older, there cannot be expected to be much more in the way of human life expectancy beyond 100 to 115 years. One person who achieved the maximum documented lifespan of any person in history was a French woman named Jeanne Calment, who died in 1997  at the age of 122.


MAINTAINING YOUR INDEPENDENCE

According to a large number of surveys, nine out of ten seniors say they want to live independently for as long as
possible. In order to do so, people over the age of 65 must avoid disability by maintaining good physical and cognitive function, preventing disease, and adequately managing existing medical conditions. It should also be pointed out that seniors can help preserve their independence by removing or avoiding barriers that stand in the way of their ability to carry out daily activities such as bathing, dressing, and walking for exercise. If help is needed in these areas, an occupational therapist can identify and modify improvements at home that can help facilitate easier and safer daily functioning. The easiest steps to take at home to ensure safety are incorporating better lighting in the household and wearing shoes with gripping soles that resist slipping.


FOND REMEMBRANCES

As you age, does it seem to you that you tend to have more positive memories of the past than negative recollections? Psychologists now know that, compared with younger adults, older adults tend to recall fewer pessimistic than upbeat images. The older people are, the more they display a memory bias that favors the recall of optimistic images. Based on the results of the study, researchers believe that, with age, people place increasingly more value on emotionally meaningful goals and, thus, invest more cognitive and behavioral resources in obtaining them. To put it another way, it is often said that it does not pay to dwell on the negative. Doing so corrupts your attitude and ability to get through life. Psychologists encourage the recall of happy memories as a way to forge a healthier mental landscape.


ARE YOU GETTING A HEALTHY DOSE?

Seniors should be sure that they are not getting higher doses of prescription medications than they need. In many cases, patients over the age of 65 are prescribed a higher dose of medication  when a lower dose would work just as well. As we get older, our bodies metabolize medications differently, as the kidneys and liver process drugs less efficiently. As a result, medications tend to linger in seniors’ systems longer. In addition, because many older adults are likely to have a higher percentage of body fat compared with muscle, the medications they take may be more highly concentrated in their bodies than they would be in younger individuals. These are factors that should be discussed with the prescribing physician. Taking higher doses than are needed subjects seniors to a higher risk of side effects. Medications are the most common treatment for many diseases and conditions seen in older people. They not only treat and cure diseases that were untreatable just a few years ago, they aid in the early diagnosis of disease; prevent life-threatening illnesses; relieve pain and suffering; and allow people with terminal illnesses to live more comfortably.  


BETTER MEMORY, IMPROVED THINKING ABILITY

One of the primary purposes of this column is to inform seniors about what they can do to improve the quality of their lives and increase their longevity. Eating better, exercising more, and remaining intellectually engaged will all increase the odds of meeting these goals, and at least one study says  the results of spreading this information may be paying off. According to an English study involving more than 7,500 people over the age of 65, the proportion of those who developed dementia over the past two decades has fallen. Although researchers are not exactly sure what is responsible for this good news, they suspect that regular exercise, a nutritious diet, and having an active mind may be paying dividends. Improved treatment of diseases that attack the arteries may be one reason for declining rates of dementia among seniors. 


Central Jersey Medicine and Geriatrics - 60I Ewing Street - Suite C7 - Princeton, NJ 08540 - (609) 921 -8766
Robert Platzman, D.O - Board Certified - Internal Medicine / Board Certified - Geriatric Medicine
Heidi Hinshaw - FNP - BC