Too busy to compile a list of New Year’s resolutions? How about a single resolution which will have a positive effect on your physical, emotional and mental health? Take advantage of the “miracle drug” of physical activity! Why call exercise a “miracle drug”? Here are just a few things researchers recently had to say about the benefits of exercising for seniors and people of every age:
- University of Texas at Dallas researchers demonstrated both short-term and long-term improvement in blood flow to the brain when senior subjects exercised—and a corresponding improvement in memory.
- French researchers recently confirmed that taking part in an exercise program reduces the risk of falling for older adults.
- The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke found that regular moderate exercise reduces the risk of stroke.
- The American College of Rheumatology said that regular exercise reduces pain and boosts quality of life for people with arthritis.
- The American Heart Association issued a recommendation that doctors evaluate patients’ physical activity habits as routinely as they check blood pressure and other risks for cardiovascular diseases.
Prof. Osvaldo Almeida of the University of Western Australia recently stated, “The message is, it’s never too late to start physical activity, and by engaging in regular physical activity, older people not only survive longer, but they ensure that the chance of them aging successfully—without significant functional impairments—also increases. Not only do they add years to life, but they add quality to their years.”
All seniors can safely do some form of regular exercise, no matter what medical problems or disabilities they face. In fact, frail or disabled persons have the most to gain. It’s never too late to start! Before beginning an exercise program, talk to your healthcare provider, and get a “prescription” for an exercise program that’s right for you. In general, older adults need to have several major components in their exercise routine:
Aerobic exercise is activity which increases your heart rate and breathing, bringing more oxygen to the body. When the heart pumps harder, the muscles of the blood vessel walls strengthen and become more flexible, reducing blood pressure and improving blood flow to the brain and all other vital organs. The heart, a muscle itself, becomes stronger and stronger. Any activity that makes your heart pump faster and makes you breathe a little harder, such as walking quickly or dancing, is aerobic exercise.
Muscle strengthening and flexibility exercise programs are offered at community centers, senior centers, and health clubs. The old cliché “use it or lose it” is really true: when we don’t use our muscles, they slowly atrophy (become small and weak). And when the ligaments that hold our joints together are not stretched to their fullest length regularly, they shorten, reducing flexibility. The good news is that you can get back much of your muscle strength and flexibility, no matter how weak or stiff you’ve become!
Balance training instruction and classes can help prevent falls, and enhance confidence in exercising. Balance problems are very common as we grow older, resulting from loss of muscle strength, decreased flexibility, and loss of sensation in the feet. Activities such as tai chi improve proprioception—our sense of body placement.
Increasing regular physical activity is the most important prescription your doctor can give you to improve overall health and well-being. Follow your doctor’s recommendations and enjoy the improvement you will experience in body and in mind.
Copyright © IlluminAge AgeWise, 2014.
Over the last few years, aging experts have been looking at the role played by a sense of purpose—the feeling that our lives have meaning, and that we have a place in the world, that we make a difference. A number of studies have found that having a sense of purpose motivates us to take care of ourselves, reduces stress, and lowers the risk of a host of ailments that become more common as we age.
In November 2014, an article appearing in The Lancet suggested that having a sense of purpose can even add years to our lives. As reported by University College London (UCL), seniors who experienced a certain type of well-being were 30 percent less likely to die over the course of a study that was conducted by researchers from UCL, Princeton University and Stony Brook University. The researchers explained that “eudemonic well-being” is the positive feeling we get when we feel that what we do is worthwhile and that we have a purpose in life.
Explained study leader Professor Andrew Steptoe, Director of the UCL Institute of Epidemiology, “We cannot be sure that higher well-being necessarily causes lower risk of death, since the relationship may not be causal. But the findings raise the intriguing possibility that increasing well-being could help to improve physical health. There are several biological mechanisms that may link well-being to improved health, for example through hormonal changes or reduced blood pressure. Further research is now needed to see if such changes might contribute to the links between well-being and life expectancy in older people.”
The study appeared in the Nov. 6, 2014 issue of The Lancet.
Source: AgeWise reporting on news release from University College London.
It’s a subject few people openly discuss—yet millions of senior American women are living with urinary incontinence (UI), a troublesome problem that if not managed, can lead to infection, isolation, falls, inactivity and an overall decline in health. Many of these women and their families fail to realize that UI can be treated, often without surgery.
The American College of Physicians (ACP) recently reported that each year, treatment for UI costs upwards of $19.5 billion. In September 2014, the organization released updated, evidence-based recommendations for non-surgical treatment options “to help doctors and patients understand the benefits, harms, and costs of tests and treatment options so they can pursue care together that improves health, avoids harms, and eliminates wasteful practices.”
Treatment recommendations depend on the type of incontinence a woman is experiencing:
Stress incontinence means that urine leaks from the bladder when a woman laughs, coughs, exercises or lifts something heavy. It is caused by physical changes in the muscles of the pelvic floor caused by factors such as childbirth, menopause and obesity. This type is most common in women. For this type, the ACP recommends a specific series of exercises of the pelvic floor called Kegel exercises.
Urgency incontinence, sometimes called “overactive bladder,” happens when the bladder begins to empty itself suddenly, perhaps when the patient thinks about going to the bathroom or hears running water. It can be caused by damage to the nerves or by irritation from infection or certain foods. For urgency incontinence, the ACP is recommending “bladder training, a form of behavioral therapy that involves urinating on a set schedule and gradually increasing the time between urination.” If bladder training is unsuccessful, the ACP recommends medication as recommended by the patient’s physician.
Mixed UI is a combination of stress and urgency incontinence. For this type, the ACP recommends Kegel exercises with bladder training. They also recommend weight loss and exercise for women who are obese.
ACP president Dr. David Fleming states that about half the women who experience this problem don’t even report it to their healthcare provider. He says to doctors, “Urinary incontinence is a common problem for women that is often underreported and underdiagnosed. Physicians should take an active approach and ask specific questions such as onset, symptoms and frequency of urinary incontinence.”
The information in this article is not meant to replace the advice of your doctor. If you are experiencing incontinence, seek the advice of your healthcare provider.
Source: AgeWise reporting on material from the American College of Physicians. You can read the entire “Nonsurgical Management of Urinary Incontinence in Women” set of guidelines in the Sept. 16, 2014 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Many seniors take dietary supplements in an effort to improve their health. Some supplements have medical value. But many are worthless, even dangerous. Seniors can be at risk for health fraud by scammers who target people who are at their most vulnerable. These crooks prey on the hopes of those who are experiencing ill health, pain and fear. The companies spend a bundle on infomercials and ads in the back of magazines—often more than they spend on the ingredients that go into their products.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reminds consumers that supplements are not FDA-approved. Consumers should be wary of products that promise fast, easy weight loss or a miracle cure for diseases and conditions such as arthritis, cancer or HIV/AIDS. They should be aware of red flag terms such as “male enhancement,” “anti-aging” and “scientific breakthrough.” Consumer protection experts also warn of pyramid schemes that recruit seniors to invest in worthless supplement products and sales materials.
The hit to your pocketbook isn’t the top danger of these products. Some supplements can endanger your health. It’s important to know that, for the most part, supplements are not regulated, and the FDA only steps in if a safety issue is suspected. Many supplements are produced in unregulated plants, often out of the U.S., with no safety standards or inspections. Some contain substances that have not been tested on humans, as well as pharmaceutical ingredients that should not be available over the counter or have been banned entirely. For example, “all-natural muscle builder” products have been found to contain steroids. Some “Chinese herbal” weight loss pills actually contained sibutramine, a dangerous and banned drug. A recent study appearing in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that even when the FDA orders a recall of supplements containing banned ingredients, manufacturers and dealers regularly ignore the order and these products continue to be sold.
The study authors, from Harvard Medical School, analyzed recalled supplements and found that many remained on store shelves over a year after the recall. Dr. Pieter A. Cohen and his colleagues said, “Action from the FDA has not been completely effective in eliminating all potentially dangerous adulterated supplements from the U.S. marketplace. More aggressive enforcement of the law, changes to the law to increase the FDA’s enforcement powers, or both, will be required if sales of these products is to be prevented in the future.”
For now, it is largely up to consumers to protect themselves. Read up on supplement safety on the FDA website. Speak to your doctor before you spend your money on supplements. Following the advice of a trained, licensed healthcare provider is the wisest choice when it comes to making healthcare decisions. Scam artists take advantage of our hopes. But the best source of a sense of well-being comes from knowing we have made educated choices.
Copyright © IlluminAge AgeWise, 2014, with excerpt from the Journal of the American Medical Association.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 15 million family members and friends are now serving as unpaid caregivers for the 5.4 million people who are living with Alzheimer’s disease in the United States. This means that most of us know someone who is living with or caring for someone who has been touched by the disease. Chances are that this holiday season you’ll be considering gifts for some of these parents, grandparents, relatives or friends. The Alzheimer’s Association offers these ideas to add to your shopping list.
Gifts for family caregivers
The best gifts you can give someone who is caring for a relative with Alzheimer’s are those that relieve stress or provide a bit of respite for the caregiver.
- The gift of time: For a cost-effective and truly meaningful gift, create coupons for cleaning the house, preparing a meal, mowing the lawn or shoveling the driveway, or for providing respite time that allows the caregiver time off to focus on what they need.
- Gift certificates: Give gift certificates for restaurants and laundry/dry cleaning services, especially those that deliver; lawn care services; computer/technology support; housekeeping services; or personal pampering services, such as massages, facials and manicures/pedicures.
Gifts for people living with Alzheimer’s
In the early stages:
- Items to aid memory: Magnetic reminder notepads; Post-it notes; baskets or trays that can be labeled within cabinets or drawers; a pocket-sized diary or notebook; erasable white boards for important rooms in the house; a calendar featuring family photos and marked with special family occasions, such as birthdays and anniversaries.
- Items that may help with daily activities: Memory phone that can store pictures with the names and contact information of family and friends; an automatic medication dispenser that can help the person living with Alzheimer’s remember to take their medicine; night lights that come on automatically when it gets dark; a clock with the date and time in large type.
- Entertainment: Give DVDs of the person’s favorite movies, or musical compilations of the person’s favorite tunes. Plan an outing to a movie, play, concert, sporting event or museum, or organize a holiday outing with the person’s friends and family. Arrange for activities such as scrapbooking or other craft projects that are social in nature.
Giving electronics may seem like a good idea to make life easier for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia, but that isn’t always the case. If you decide to give someone with the disease a new piece of electronic equipment, remember to review the operating instructions with them slowly and more than once. Make a copy of the instructions for the person and for yourself, so you can talk them through the process on the phone if needed.
In the middle to late stages
- Items that provide sensory stimulation: In the later stages of the disease, sensory stimulation may bring back pleasant memories, so gift ideas include scented lotions, a soft blanket or afghan to keep the person warm, or a fluffy bathrobe in the person’s favorite color.
- Clothes: Clothing should be comfortable, easy to remove and easily washable, which might include sweatsuits, knits, large-banded socks, shoes with Velcro ties, and wrinkle-free nightgowns, nightshirts and robes.
- Music: Research shows that music has a positive impact on individuals with Alzheimer’s, bringing back memories of good times, increasing stimulation, and providing an opportunity for interacting with family members.
- Framed photographs or a photo collage: Copy photos of family members and friends, insert the names of the people in the photo, and put in frames or a photo album.
Source: The Alzheimer’s Association is the leading global voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care and support, and the largest private, nonprofit funder of Alzheimer’s research. Visit the Alzheimer’s Association website to find resources and support for people with Alzheimer’s and family caregivers.
Holiday travel can mean long lines and hurried sprints through sprawling terminals. It also can mean neck, wrist, back and shoulder pain, and even injury, from carrying and lifting heavy luggage.
In fact, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there were 75,543 luggage-related injuries in 2013.
“Holiday travel can be uniquely stressful and physically taxing, especially when transporting heavy and cumbersome luggage,” said orthopaedic surgeon and American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) spokesperson Brett A. Taylor, MD. “To ensure that you arrive at your holiday destination free from pain, it’s important to know how to optimally choose, pack, carry and lift your luggage.”
To avoid luggage-related injury and pain, AAOS offers the following safety tips:
- When purchasing new luggage, look for a sturdy, light piece with wheels and a handle.
- Pack lightly. When possible, pack items in a few smaller bags instead of one large luggage piece. Many airlines restrict carry-on luggage weighing more than 40 pounds.
- When lifting luggage onto a platform or into a car trunk, stand alongside of it, bend at your knees, not your waist, lift with your leg muscles, then grasp the handle and straighten up. Once you have lifted your luggage, hold it close to your body.
- When placing luggage in an overhead compartment, first lift it onto the top of the seat. Then, place your hands on the left and right sides of the suitcase and lift it up. If your luggage has wheels, make sure the wheel-side is set in the compartment first. Once wheels are inside, put one hand atop the luggage and push it to the back of the compartment.
- Do not twist your body when lifting and carrying luggage. Instead, point your toes in the direction you are headed, and then turn your entire body in that direction.
- Do not rush when lifting or carrying a suitcase. If it is too heavy or an awkward shape, get help.
- Do not carry heavier pieces of luggage for long periods of time. If it is too heavy, make sure to check luggage when traveling rather than carrying it on a plane, train or bus.
- If using a backpack, make sure it has two padded and adjustable shoulder straps. Choose one with several compartments to secure various-sized items. Slinging a backpack over one shoulder does not allow weight to be distributed evenly, which can cause muscle strain.
- Carry – don’t drag – your luggage when climbing the stairs. Better yet, take the elevator.
No matter which winter celebrations are a tradition in your family, these twelve great tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will brighten your holidays by helping keep you and your loved ones safe and healthy. When you’re done checking them out, find a link at the bottom of this article that will provide a musical reminder!
- Wash hands often to help prevent the possibility of spreading germs and getting sick. Wash your hands with soap and clean running water for at least 20 seconds.
- Bundle up to stay dry and warm. Wear appropriate outdoor clothing: light, warm layers, mittens, hats, scarves, and waterproof boots.
- Manage stress. Give yourself a break if you feel stressed out. Find support, connect socially, and get plenty of sleep.
- Don’t drink and drive or let others drink and drive. Whenever anyone drives drunk, they put everyone on the road in danger.
- Be smoke-free. Avoid smoking and secondhand smoke. It’s common knowledge that smokers have greater health risks because of their tobacco use, but nonsmokers also are at risk when exposed to tobacco smoke (also referred to as secondhand smoke).
- Fasten seat belts while driving or riding in a motor vehicle. Use seat belts on every trip, no matter how short the trip. And always buckle your children in the car using a child safety seat, booster seat, or seat belt according to their height, weight, and age.
- Get exams and screenings. Ask your health care provider what exams you need and when to get them. Update your personal and family history.
- Get your vaccinations, which help prevent various diseases and save lives. Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine each year. Vaccination is especially important for people who are at high risk for complications from flu, and for people who live with or care for someone who is at high risk.
- Monitor children. Keep potentially dangerous toys, food, drinks, household items, and other objects out of children’s reach. Dress your children warmly for outdoor activities. Develop family rules on safe behavior—on using electronic media, for instance.
- Practice fire safety. Most residential fires occur during the winter months, so don’t leave fireplaces, space heaters, stoves, or candles unattended. Have an emergency plan and practice it regularly.
- Prepare food safely. Remember these simple steps: Wash hands and surfaces often, avoid cross-contamination, and cook foods to proper temperatures and refrigerate them promptly.
- Eat healthy, stay active. Eat fruits and vegetables, which pack plenty of nutrients and help lower the risk for certain diseases. Limit your portion sizes and foods high in fat, salt, and sugar. Also, be active for at least 2½ hours a week and help kids and teens be active for at least 1 hour a day.
A Musical Reminder!
Having trouble remembering all these words of advice? The CDC has given them the “Twelve Days of Christmas” treatment with the “Twelve Ways to Health Holiday Song” You can even send an online greeting card to remind your friends.
Source: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adapted byIlluminAge AgeWise, 2014.
With all the new “brain exercise” programs that promise to build cognitive health, how should we select the right activities? The good news is that many things that we enjoy are also good for the brain. Studies show that mental stimulation can lower the level of harmful proteins that raise the risk of dementia. Taking part in these activities even encourages the development of new connections in the brain.
Give your brain a workout with this month’s puzzle , which contains the names of 20 brain-boosting activities. Yes, even bingo is on the list! Several studies have demonstrated that the game provides good mental exercise and improves thinking skills.
Need a little help? Click here for the solution.
Copyright © IlluminAge AgeWise, 2014
In an America shaped by Currier and Ives lithographs and Norman Rockwell paintings, the holiday season is supposed to be one of warmth, love and good cheer. For too many Americans, however, it can be a time of sadness and grief, says University of Alabama at Birmingham psychologist Josh Klapow, Ph.D.
“Personal issues don’t magically go away because the calendar turns to November or December,” said Klapow, an associate professor in the UAB School of Public Health. “Problems with relationships, jobs, finances or health can take on enhanced importance during the supposedly ‘merry’ holiday period.”
Klapow explained, “The death of a loved one during the holidays can trigger strong feelings, even if the death occurred several years ago. In the case of someone who died recently, the holidays can take on a whole new meaning for their family and friends.”
Klapow offers four suggestions that can help ease those feelings.
- Remember that this holiday season might not be the same as those of past years. Expecting everything to seem the same might lead to disappointment. There is no right or wrong way — people should celebrate and grieve when they want.
- Accept that this might be a difficult time, and be prepared for rushes of emotions. This is normal. A lot of people fear that they will “break down” at holiday gatherings. Try to schedule breakdowns — go ahead and have a cry before going out. Allow a moment to grieve. When emotions are temporarily depleted, it makes it easier to take on the day.
- Do not overcommit. Take time for yourself without becoming isolated. Embrace support from family and friends, and choose events that sound most appealing at the time. Decline ones that feel like an obligation.
- If faith is important, spend time with people who understand and respect a desire to pray and talk about common beliefs.
Source: University of Alabama Birmingham School of Public Health
Exercising has a lot of benefits to our health. Just by putting physical activities, like exercising, into a habit, you are helping yourself to be healthy, strong and fit each single day, as you get older. Studies have also shown that seniors can get a lot of health benefits when they exercise regularly or stay physically active. Even moderate exercises, that do not need extreme routines, can help as long as they are active physically.