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Seniors and Music Therapy

Posted on: February 26th, 2015 by Steven Katz

“Turn off that music, I’m trying to concentrate!” Music has been shown to benefit older adults in manyiStock_000008463695Medium ways—but a new study from Georgia Tech suggests that seniors turn it off during certain learning activities.

Read more here.


Copyright © AgeWise, 2015

Bite Into a Healthy Lifestyle

Posted on: February 23rd, 2015 by Steven Katz

Snacks can be a fun and valuable part of a person’s healthful eating plan – but they can also add Dietunneeded calories, sugar, sodium and fat. During National Nutrition Month, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics offers smart snacking ideas that help everyone “Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle.”

“If you choose carefully, and plan ahead, sensible snacks can be part of any healthful eating plan,” says registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy Spokesperson Isabel Maples. “Snacks can prevent overeating at mealtimes and throughout the day. For children and adults alike, snacks can supply foods and nutrients that we might miss in meals. Snacks especially offer a great way to eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy.”

Each March, the Academy encourages Americans to return to the basics of healthful eating through National Nutrition Month. This year’s theme encourages consumers to adopt a healthy lifestyle that is focused on consuming fewer calories, making informed food choices and getting daily exercise in order to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, reduce the risk of chronic disease and promote overall health.

“A healthy snack can provide an energy boost, and satisfy your midday hunger. If you haven’t eaten for three or more hours, a snack can help bring up your blood sugar level for optimal energy. For older adults with smaller appetites or limited energy, several small meals including snacks may be easier for their bodies to handle,” Maples says.

Maples offers ideas for biting into healthy snacks:

  • Plan your snacks. “Keep a variety of tasty, nutrient-rich, ready-to-eat foods nearby, for when you need a bite to take the edge off hunger. Then, you won’t be so tempted by less-healthy options from vending machines, convenience stores or the contents of your own kitchen.” Snack ideas include fresh fruit, air-popped popcorn, whole-wheat crackers, dried fruit and nut mixes, almonds and fat-free yogurt.
  • Make snack calories count. “Snack on foods that fill the nutrient gaps in your day’s eating plan. Think of snacks as mini-meals to help you eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy – foods we often don’t eat enough.”
  • Go easy on high-calorie snacks such as chips, candy and soft drinks. “They often contain solid fats, and added sugars. Make these occasional choices that fit your day’s plan.”
  • Snack when you’re hungry – not because you’re bored, stressed or frustrated. “Exercise can actually be a great way to feed those emotional urges.”
  • Snack on sensible portions. “Choose single-serve containers, or put a small helping in a bowl rather than eating directly from the package.”
  • Quench your thirst. “Water, low-fat or fat-free milk and 100-percent juice are just a few options. Flavored waters might be high in added sugars, so check the label.”

Making the right food and nutrition choices is a necessary part of biting into a healthy lifestyle. A registered dietitian nutritionist can help. To learn more and to find an RDN in your area visit

Source: The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The Academy is committed to improving the nation’s health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy. Visit the Academy at

A “Nightcap” Before Bedtime? Not a Good Idea!

Posted on: February 23rd, 2015 by Steven Katz

Do you have a “nightcap” to help yourself relax before bedtime? This might not be such a good idea, iStock_000057967664Mediumaccording to sleep researchers. Experts have long known that consuming beer, wine or spirits right before bedtime can cause us to wake up after only a few hours and then feel tired during the day. A recent study from the University of Missouri School of Medicine helps explain why.

Mahesh Thakkar, Ph.D., and his team report that alcohol is a powerful sleep inducer, and almost one in five Americans drinks alcohol to help fall asleep. But, says Prof. Thakkar, alcohol interferes with the body’s natural mechanism that regulates sleepiness and wakefulness. This mechanism, called sleep homeostasis, makes us want to sleep if we haven’t slept in a while, and wakes us up if we’ve slept too long.

The researchers found that drinking alcohol interferes with the sleep homeostatic mechanism, putting pressure on us to go to sleep right away. When this happens, the sleep period is shifted. In addition, as the alcohol wears off, we may wake up. Said study co-author Dr. Pradeep Sahota, “Based on our results, it’s clear that alcohol should not be used as a sleep aid. Alcohol disrupts sleep and the quality of sleep is diminished.” He added, “Additionally, alcohol is a diuretic, which increases your need to go the bathroom and causes you to wake up earlier in the morning.”

These findings are important for seniors, who are at higher risk of sleep problems, such as difficulty falling asleep, waking during the night and waking up too early. Poor quality sleep worsens many health conditions and can lead to depression and falls. Instead of having a drink, seniors are advised to read a book or listen to soothing music before bedtime, and to improve the sleep environment. Adding exercise during the day—but not right before sleep—also helps.

Dr. Thakkar said, “Sleep is an immense area of study. Approximately one-third of our life is spent sleeping. Coupled with statistics that show 20 percent of people drink alcohol to sleep, it’s vital that we understand how the two interact. If you are experiencing difficulty sleeping, don’t use alcohol. Talk to your doctor or a sleep medicine physician to determine what factors are keeping you from sleeping. These factors can then be addressed with individualized treatments.”

Source: IlluminAge AgeWise, reporting on a study from the University of Missouri Health System.

Sterling Care Offers Nutrition Tips During National Nutrition Month

Posted on: February 23rd, 2015 by Steven Katz

As we age, we become more at risk for malnutrition. Experts estimate that as many as one in four olderSterling_iStock_000013598559Small Americans suffer from poor nutrition. The reasons range from higher rates of chronic diseases, which can diminish one’s appetite, to changing taste buds, to living alone and losing interest in cooking.

Whatever the cause, the effects of malnutrition can be costly. Studies have shown that older Americans who are malnourished see their doctors more often and have more visits to the emergency room and hospitals. Additionally, their hospital stays last nearly twice as long, increasing the cost of their stay by thousands of dollars. Because poverty is another cause of malnutrition, this creates a vicious circle.

That’s why Sterling Care is providing this list of foods your body needs to stay healthy as you age:

  • Fruits – Variety is key here. Enjoy berries, citrus, apples, bananas, and even avocados to get the full range of nutrients.
  • Vegetables – Here, you’re looking for lots of color. Dark, leafy greens such as kale and spinach, purple cabbage, red beets, and orange peppers and carrots will provide a variety of healthy choices.
  • Whole grains – Barley, oatmeal and whole grain bread and crackers provide lots of fiber while retaining most their nutrients.
  • Calcium – Older adults need about 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day, which is critical for maintaining bone health. But you needn’t rely solely on dairy products to get it. Dark leafy greens, broccoli, almonds, white beans and sardines are all excellent sources of this mineral.
  • Protein – Adults older than 50 need about 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. For a person weighing 150 pounds, this would translate to 102 grams of high-quality protein. To get the most nutrition for your proteins, avoid processed meats and go with fresh fish, chicken, eggs, and even red meat on occasion.  Vegetarians can go with beans, nuts, and seeds.

As a company dedicated to the health and well-being of seniors, we recognize the importance of nutrition in maintaining optimum health. Older Americans are at greater risk for malnutrition and we’re dedicated to helping ensure seniors have the resources they need to eat well.

Social Network Games Create Intergenerational Ties

Posted on: February 18th, 2015 by Steven Katz

If you have a Facebook account, you are probably well aware of FarmVille, Candy Crush Saga, iStock_000020709305MediumDiamond Dash, Bejeweled Blitz and a host of other social network games (SNGs). Most of us think of these games as a pleasant diversion at best, and, at worst, a waste of time. But did you know that today, these games help create connections among family members who are separated by distance—and sometimes, by years?

According to a recent study from Montreal’s Concordia University, published in the journal Information, Communication and Society, more families are playing these games together, and it is a fun and meaningful way to interact—similar to the old board games many of us enjoy, but available to family members who aren’t able to sit across the table from each other.

Senior author Mia Consalvo says, “Maintaining those connections is especially important as families find themselves dispersed across countries and continents. SNGs give families a convenient and cheap way to transcend geographical boundaries.”

Consalvo and her team from Concordia’s Game Studies and Design department interviewed social network gamers about the ways they connected with family through gaming. The researchers reported, “These online games offer families a common topic of conversation and enhance the quality of time spent together, despite the fact that most SNGs don’t necessarily involve any direct communication.”

SNGs might also, in a sense, enlarge our family circle, as we connect with family members we’ve lost touch with—or have never even met. Chatty Facebook posts get us acquainted with distant cousins, and gaming with them helps cement the sense of family circle.

And the best news for seniors: the Concordia team calls social gaming “transgenerational.” Says Consalvo’s colleague Kelly Boudreau, “It’s not just siblings in their early 20s using SNGs to connect. Grandfathers are playing online games with granddaughters, mothers with sons. These multigenerational interactions prove social networks are tools that break down both communication and age barriers.”

Source: IlluminAge AgeWise reporting on study from Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Alzheimer’s Caregivers Face Extra Stress

Posted on: February 18th, 2015 by Steven Katz

Caring for a loved one with dementia or other behavioral health conditions has major impact on Home carequality of life.

The United Hospital Fund and AARP Public Policy Institute recently issued a report with compelling new evidence that family caregivers who provide complex chronic care to people who have cognitive and behavioral health conditions face particularly demanding challenges, including high levels of self-reported depression. As a result, a majority of them (61 percent) reported feeling stress “sometimes to always,” between their caregiving responsibilities and trying to meet other work or family obligations.

Adding to the challenge, people with cognitive and behavioral conditions (collectively termed “challenging behaviors” in the report) were generally sicker than other people requiring caregiving. These persons needing care often had chronic physical health diagnoses—including cardiac disease, stroke/hypertension, musculoskeletal problems (such as arthritis or osteoporosis), and diabetes—at higher rates than those without cognitive and behavioral conditions. Further illustrating the complexity, family caregivers of people with challenging behaviors often met with resistance from the person they were trying to help.

Family Caregivers Providing Complex Chronic Care to People with Cognitive and Behavioral Health Conditions, a publication in the “Insight on the Issues” series, summarizes the new findings. They are drawn from analysis of data based on a national survey of 1,677 family caregivers, 22 percent of whom were caring for someone with one or more challenging behaviors.

The report concludes, “All caregivers need training and support; caregivers who are responsible for people with challenging behaviors are among those most in need of assistance.”

“Take a hard look at this profile of today’s overstretched and overstressed caregiver for someone with cognitive or behavioral issues,” said Susan Reinhard, AARP’s Senior Vice President for Public Policy. Pointing to the expected surge in the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and the projected drop by more than half in the ratio of potential caregivers to those likely to need care, she said, “This is the face of caregiving’s future unless we improve long-term services and support for family caregivers.”

“Caring for a family member is hard enough when the family member is on the same page,” said co-author Carol Levine, Director of the Families and Health Care Project for United Hospital Fund. “But when that family member has a cognitive impairment, like Alzheimer’s, or a behavioral issue, such as depression—things that can interfere with daily life as well as decision-making—the burden on the caregiver is multiplied. And currently, our health care system often doesn’t provide the kind of support that can make a difference.”

The report outlined six recommendations:

  1. Focused caregiver assessments
  2. Better integration of behavioral and physical health programs
  3. Respite and adult day care programs for family caregivers
  4. Training of family caregivers to better understand and respond to challenging behaviors
  5. Better training of health care providers to work more effectively with family caregivers
  6. Revisions to most support and training materials for family caregivers to reflect care management of the whole person, rather than just the specific condition.

Source: AARP. The report was produced with support from the John A. Hartford Foundation.  Read the entire Family Caregivers Providing Complex Chronic Care to People with Cognitive and Behavioral Health Conditions report on the AARP website, where you will also find earlier reports from the groundbreaking Public Policy Institute/United Hospital Fund.

Blindness Due to Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) Should Not be Considered an Inevitability

Posted on: February 9th, 2015 by Steven Katz

The American Academy of Ophthalmology advises that early detection and today’s treatments foriStock_000022060202Medium common eye disease among seniors can help stop vision loss.

While age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of new cases of blindness in Americans age 65 and older, seniors who develop AMD should not consider blindness in advanced age to be inevitable, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. During AMD Awareness Month, the Academy is advising the public that regular eye exams, along with today’s treatments for AMD—if provided early enough—can help seniors avoid unnecessary AMD-related vision loss.

AMD, which affects an estimated 11 million Americans, is the deterioration of the eye’s macula—the light-sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye that is responsible for central vision, the ability to see fine details clearly. AMD has two forms—wet and dry. While dry AMD leads to a gradual loss of vision, wet AMD leads to faster vision loss and is the most advanced form of the disease. Wet AMD is responsible for 80 to 90 percent of all AMD-related blindness. As AMD is not commonly detected in patients until they begin to suffer vision loss, it is critical for seniors to understand the importance of routine eye exams. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that by age 65, seniors should get eye exams every one to two years, or as recommended by their ophthalmologist.

Years after Joan Nick, an 86-year-old retiree from Carmel, Calif., lost vision in her right eye in her 60s due to glaucoma, she was diagnosed with dry AMD in her left eye. Her ophthalmologist at the time advised her not to worry since the disease typically progresses slowly. But, during a routine eye exam, Nick was shocked to find she could not read an eye chart. Although she hadn’t noticed any changes in her vision, her AMD had progressed from dry to wet. Nick immediately visited a retina specialist who began treatment that restored the vision lost to AMD.

“I am so thankful that this treatment has given me a second chance to enjoy the activities I love, such as reading and cooking,” says Nick.

Rahul N. Khurana, M.D., Nick’s ophthalmologist specializing in retina-related conditions and a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, encourages seniors to learn from Nick’s example of taking action to fight the progression of AMD. “Many older people develop AMD and other age-related eye diseases as part of the body’s natural aging process, but seniors should not suffer in silence about their sight loss because they feel it’s inevitable,” said Dr. Khurana. “There is so much that we ophthalmologists can do these days to help seniors prevent, slow and treat AMD. It’s important for seniors to know that people with AMD today have a much better chance of saving their vision than they did 10 years ago.”

For individuals who have been diagnosed with dry AMD, nutrient supplements have been proven beneficial in lowering the risk of developing wet AMD. For those who have the wet form of AMD, treatments are available and include anti-VEGF injections that are administered directly into the eye, thermal laser therapy, or photodynamic therapy which involves a light-activated injected drug in combination with a low-power laser.

Seniors who are worried about AMD or other eye conditions, and have not had a recent eye exam or for whom cost is a concern, may qualify for EyeCare America, a public service program of the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology that offers eye exams and care at no out-of-pocket cost for eligible seniors age 65 and older. Visit to see if you are eligible.

More information about AMD

Symptoms of dry AMD include:

  • Blurry or hazy vision, especially in your central vision
  • Need for increasingly bright light to see up close
  • Colors appear less vivid or bright
  • Difficulty seeing when going from bright light to low light
  • Trouble or inability to recognize people’s faces

Symptoms of wet AMD include:

  • Distorted vision—straight lines will appear bent, crooked or irregular
  • Dark gray spots or blank spots in your vision
  • Size of objects may appear different for each eye
  • Colors lose their brightness or do not look the same for each eye

Learn about AMD risk factors and view an AMD vision simulator to see how this eye disease can affect vision. For more information about AMD and other eye diseases, visit

Source: The American Academy of Ophthalmology, the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons. For more information, visit The Academy’s EyeSmart® program educates the public about the importance of eye health and empowers them to preserve healthy vision. EyeSmart provides the most trusted and medically accurate information about eye diseases, conditions and injuries. OjosSanos™ is the Spanish-language version of the program. Visit or to learn more.

With Trans Fats, Foods Last Longer But Memories Don’t

Posted on: February 9th, 2015 by Steven Katz

You have probably read that trans fats are bad for the heart. Trans fats, also known as trans fatty iStock_000047994676Mediumacids, are created when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil to keep foods solid and to extend their shelf life. Here’s where trans fats are often found:

  • packaged baked goods, such as cookies, crackers and frozen pies
  • snack foods such as microwave popcorn
  • certain margarines
  • coffee creamer
  • refrigerated dough products
  • frozen pizza
  • fast foods

Though food manufacturers find trans fats useful, medical science says they should be avoided. Many studies have shown that trans fats raise the risk of heart disease by raising the level of “bad cholesterol” (LDL). Trans fats have been linked to cancer, diabetes and stroke, as well. Prof. Beatrice Golomb of the University of California-San Diego says it best: “As I tell patients, while trans fats increase the shelf life of foods, they reduce the shelf life of people.”

At a recent American Heart Association scientific conference, Dr. Golomb reported on a study that gives us yet another reason to avoid trans fats: they seem to damage the memory. Dr. Golomb’s team studied a group of 1,000 healthy men, and found that the higher a participant’s consumption of trans fat, the worse he performed on a word memory test. Each additional gram of trans fat consumed per day resulted in fewer words recalled. This held true across test subjects of different ages, ethnicities and education levels.

Dr. Golomb explained, “Foods have different effects on oxidative stress and cell energy.” You have probably heard of the benefits of antioxidants. Trans fats, says Golomb, are pro-oxidant, and increase oxidative stress.

The best way to avoid the damaging effect of trans fats is not to consume them at all! Read food labels carefully, and if you see trans fats in the ingredients, leave the product to live out its shelf life – on the shelf.

This article is not mean to replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Consult your doctor or nutritionist with questions about cognitive and cardiac health, and about a diet that is best for you.

Source: IlluminAge AgeWise reporting on study from the American Heart Association.

How Much Do You Know About Heart Health?

Posted on: February 2nd, 2015 by Steven Katz

February is American Heart Month. See if you’re smart about your heart by taking this brief quiz!Fun heart

The American Heart Association recently reported that the death rate from cardiovascular disease has fallen more than 30 percent over the last decade, due to better treatment for heart attack, congestive heart failure and other heart disease. But this care comes at a cost: expenditures for the care for heart disease rose to more than $315 billion during the same decade. And heart disease continues to be the number one killer in the U.S. Every 39 seconds, someone dies of cardiovascular disease.

Education is the first step to lowering the risk of heart disease. Start by taking this short quiz to see how much you know about taking care of your heart. (Answers appear below.)

True or False?

  1. The heart is a muscle.
  2. Many diseases and conditions can contribute to the risk of heart disease.
  3. A heart attack always begins with sharp chest pain.
  4. The best thing to do if you experience heart attack symptoms is to call 911 right away.
  5. Women need to worry more about breast cancer than about heart disease.
  6. Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your heart.
  7. If you have a family history of heart disease, you have exactly the same risk yourself.
  8. High blood cholesterol is one of the top risk factors for heart attack.
  9. As we grow older, it’s best to rest as much as possible.
  10. Even a person who has suffered a heart attack should exercise.
  11. It’s possible to eat a “heart smart” diet even if you dine out often.
  12. Emotional stress and anxiety can worsen a heart condition.

Answers to “Test Your Heart Health IQ”:

  1. The heart is a muscle.
    TRUE—The heart is the hardest working muscle in the body, pumping enough blood in your lifetime to fill a supertanker!
  2. Many diseases and conditions can contribute to the risk of heart disease.
    TRUE—A number of conditionsincluding hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol and diabetes increase the risk of heart disease.
  3. A heart attack always begins with sharp chest pain.
    FALSE—A heart attack can begin slowly, with subtle signals. Symptoms can include:
    •    a feeling of pressure or discomfort in the chest
    •    discomfort in the arms, neck, back, jaw or stomach
    •    shortness of breath
    •    nausea, dizziness, sweating for no reason
    •    fatigue and lack of energy
  4. The best thing to do if you experience heart attack symptoms is to call 911 right away.
    TRUE—“Better safe than sorry” is very true when it comes to heart attack. Excellent treatments are now available, and the sooner treatment begins, the better the chance of saving the patient’s life and preventing disability. If you experience chest pain, especially if associated with any other of the signs listed above, call 911 right away. Acting quickly can save your life.
  5. Women need to worry more about breast cancer than about heart disease.
    FALSE—Women are far more likely to die of cardiovascular disease than from breast cancer. It is a myth that heart disease is primarily a men’s health problem. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women—and more women than men die within one year of a heart attack.
  6. Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your heart.
    TRUE—Smoking is one of the top risk factors for heart disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cigarette smokers are up to four times more likely to develop heart disease. And even if you don’t smoke, exposure to secondhand smoke may raise your risk by up to 30%.
  7. If you have a family history of heart disease, you have exactly the same risk yourself.
    FALSE—Although your risk increases if a family member was diagnosed with heart disease, it’s not all in the genes! A healthy lifestyle can cut your risk. Obesity and inactivity are greater risk factors than genetic inheritance for most people. Here are the steps to take to lower the risk:
    •    If you smoke, quit.
    •    Take steps to lower blood pressure and cholesterol level.
    •    Increase physical activity.
    •    Maintain a healthy weight.
    •    If you are diabetic, follow your care plan.
  8. High blood cholesterol is one of the top risk factors for heart attack.
    TRUE—Lowering your cholesterol level through diet and lifestyle changes (and in some cases, medication) can cut your risk.
  9. As we grow older, it’s best to rest as much as possible.
    FALSE—The older you are, the more important regular physical exercise is to your well-being. Inactivity can lead to a downward spiral of decline. Ask your healthcare provider about an exercise program that’s right for you.
  10. Even a person who has suffered a heart attack should exercise.
    TRUE—For most patients, preventing another heart attack will include a cardiac rehabilitation program. Be sure you discuss your workout regimen with your healthcare provider and follow his or her instructions.
  11. It’s possible to eat a “heart smart” diet even if you dine out often.
    TRUE—Most menus feature at least a few low-fat, low-cholesterol, low-sodium items. Avoid fried foods, instead selecting baked or broiled. (If you aren’t sure how a dish is prepared, ask your server.) Skip dessert, and order your salad with low-fat dressing served on the side.
  12. Emotional stress and anxiety can worsen a heart condition.
    TRUE—Stressful emotions can raise your blood pressure, causing your heart to work harder. Lifestyle changes and relaxation techniques help lessen the effects of stress.

This article is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Speak to your healthcare provider if you have questions about heart health or heart disease.

Source: IlluminAge AgeWise, 2015

“Beating Depression” Wordfind

Posted on: February 2nd, 2015 by Steven Katz

Depression affects many older adults, and can have a serious impact on quality of life. It should not beiStock_000047433106Medium considered “just a part of growing old.” If you or a senior loved one is experiencing prolonged periods of sadness or low mood, a healthcare provider can help. The good news is, depression is treatable!

Give your brain a little exercise with this month’s puzzle , which contains the names of 20 mood-boosting lifestyle choices and treatment options.

Need a little help? Click here  for the puzzle solution.

Copyright © IlluminAge AgeWise, 2015