Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Too Much Salt May Affect More Than Just Blood Pressure

Too Much Salt May Affect More Than Just Blood Pressure
You have probably read about the importance of limiting salt consumption for years. Perhaps your doctor has put you on a low-sodium diet. Our bodies do need a certain amount of sodium (one of the chemical elements in salt). Sodium helps maintain a healthy balance of fluids in the body, helps nerves transmit electrical impulses, and helps muscles contract and relax normally. But most of us get all we need from the salt that naturally occurs in food.
According to The National Heart Lung and Blood Association, 500mg is a safe daily minimum intake of sodium to maintain optimum health. Most Americans consume more than six times that much. The American Heart Association recommends consuming less than 1500mg of sodium per day.
Most scientists agree that too much sodium can increase blood pressure, which can lead to heart problems and stroke. But what if you have low-to-normal blood pressure? Should you put the salt shaker back on the table? Reach for the salted caramels?
Not so fast, says a new study authored by two faculty members from the University of Delaware’s College of Health Sciences and two physicians at Christiana Care Health System. The researchers discovered that too much sodium can cause harm to the heart, kidneys and brain, as well as blood vessels, regardless of whether or not it raises blood pressure.
“High dietary sodium can also lead to left ventricular hypertrophy, or enlargement of the muscle tissue that makes up the wall of the heart’s main pumping chamber,” says University of Delaware’s David Edwards, one of the study’s authors. “As the walls of the chamber grow thicker, they become less compliant and eventually are unable to pump as forcefully as a healthy heart.”
The study also revealed that high sodium intake is associated with reduced functioning in the kidneys, even if the increase in blood pressure was minimal. Another finding was sodium’s adverse effect on the sympathetic nervous system, the main purpose of which is to regulate the body’s “fight or flight” response.
“Chronically elevated dietary sodium may ‘sensitize’ sympathetic neurons in the brain, causing a greater response to a variety of stimuli, including skeletal muscle contraction,” says William Farquhar of University of Delaware, another of the study’s authors. “Again, even if blood pressure isn’t increased, chronically increased sympathetic outflow may have harmful effects on target organs.”
Coauthor Claudine Jurkowitz of Christiana Care acknowledges the challenges associated with studying the effects of salt restriction on clinical outcomes, including getting an accurate assessment of salt consumption and the large number of study subjects needed to obtain meaningful data. In spite of these and other challenges, Jurkowitz concludes, “A large body of evidence confirms the biological plausibility of the association between high sodium intake and increases in blood pressure and cardiovascular events.”
So how does one shake the salt habit? Study author William Weintraub, chief of cardiology at Christiana Care, says that hiding the salt shaker may not be enough. “Approximately 70 percent of the sodium in our diets comes from processed foods, including items that we don’t typically think of as salty such as breads and cereals,” he says. “Also, restaurant food typically contains more salt than dishes prepared at home, so eating out less can help reduce salt intake, especially if herbs and spices – instead of salt – are used to add flavor to home-cooked meals.”
As Weintraub notes, one way to reduce salt intake it to use alternative seasonings. In addition to herbs and spices, try lemon or lime juice. This way, you still get flavor as well as the health benefits many of these replacement seasonings offer. And remember, switching to sea salt or other “gourmet” salts won’t help; they might be pretty, but they have virtually the same amount of sodium as plain table salt.
The information in this article is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Talk to your healthcare provider about a nutritional plan that includes a safe level of sodium for you.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Home Care Supports Arthritis Patients

Home Care Supports Arthritis Patients
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 50 million Americans are living with arthritis. It is the most common disease in people over the age of 65, and approximately half of the population of that age has some form of the disease. It affects all race and ethnic groups, and is the most common cause of disability in the U.S.
Arthritis is not a single disease, but is a group of over 100 different conditions, all of which can cause pain, swelling and an interference with normal movement. Some types of arthritis are thought to be hereditary; some result from overuse or injury of a joint, or from years of “wear and tear”; some types are caused by infection and still others are caused by a malfunction of the immune system. Arthritis may affect only one joint, or many joints at the same time. The joints most commonly affected are the weight-bearing joints, such as the hips and knees, and also the smaller joints of the hands and neck.
Although there is no cure for most types of arthritis, the pain and inflammation can be reduced by a variety of medical treatments. Appropriate treatment can often result in great improvement to a person’s condition, as well as preventing further damage. Treatment depends on the type and degree of the condition.
Analgesic and anti-inflammatory medications relieve pain and reduce inflammation, or both. Aspirin or ibuprofen are often prescribed. Alternative pain relievers such as corticosteroids, acetaminophen and topical ointments or rubs also may be prescribed, depending on the type and severity of a patient’s arthritis.
Exercise and rest are both important. People with arthritis tire more easily; the physician may also order rest of a painful joint. But it is just as important to remain active. Exercise helps strengthen the muscles surrounding affected joints, protecting them from further damage. It also increases blood flow and lubrication of joints, and helps keep the joint strong and mobile, preventing loss of function. Exercise also helps patients maintain a healthy weight; being overweight puts extra stress on joints. A physician-prescribed exercise program will usually include range-of-motion, strengthening and aerobic exercises.
Physical therapy benefits many arthritis patients and can include heat or cold treatments, whirlpool and massage, splinting to immobilize and rest a joint, and training in performing exercises to loosen and build up joints and surrounding muscles.
Occupational therapists help patients achieve the greatest level of independence possible by providing instruction in alternative ways of performing the activities of daily living and self-care. They can also evaluate a patient’s home environment to suggest any necessary adaptations, such as grab bars or a raised toilet seat.
Adaptive devices can make living with arthritis easier. Occupational therapists can instruct arthritis patients in the use of mobility aids that lessen the stress on joints, such as canes and walkers. For arthritis in the shoulder or hand, long-handled spoons, zipper pulls, built-up toothbrush handles and page turners make the activities of daily living easier.
Surgery may be recommended if arthritis is causing severe pain and lost joint function. Some surgical procedures repair or remove damaged tissue. Joint replacement is becoming more and more common, and most patients experience excellent results from an artificial hip or knee.
When a senior has painful arthritis, family members often worry that their loved one is not safe living at home. Is their loved one taking medications correctly? Following the doctor’s recommendations for exercise? Is their loved one becoming isolated by decreased mobility and fear of falling?
Professional home care services help senior clients manage arthritis in several important ways:
Assistance with the activities of daily living. Mobility limitations and painful joints make it hard to do some of the daily tasks most of us take for granted. A home care professional can assist with housekeeping, transportation, laundry, personal care, and meal preparation, including special diets.
Encouragement and confidence to support activity. With a home caregiver present, clients feel more secure engaging in the recommended activity program, whether it is a formal exercise program, a walk around the block, chair exercises or gardening.
Transportation to healthcare appointments and prescribed activities. Not all home care happens at home! If transportation is a challenge, the home care worker can take the client to doctor’s appointments, exercise classes, or physical therapy.
Medication management. It is very important for arthritis patients to take medications at the right time, and in the correct way. Depending on the type of caregiver and state regulations, home care workers can provide medication reminders, take clients to the pharmacy or pick up prescriptions, help organize medications, and report any side effects.
Fall protection. Arthritis is a risk factor for falls. Home caregivers can remove clutter from pathways, mop up spills promptly, perform potentially hazardous household tasks, and assist clients as they walk up or down stairs.
Care after joint replacement recovery. When a patient comes home after hip or knee replacement surgery, complying with post-surgical instructions is one of the top predictors of successful recovery. Home care helps patients comply with post-surgical instructions, such as avoiding dangerous motions that could damage the healing joint.
When arthritis compromises a senior’s mobility and quality of life, trained, professional caregivers support a client’s independence and provide welcome peace of mind for the patient and family alike.
For More Information
The Arthritis Foundation ( offers support, resources and information about more than 100 types of arthritis and related conditions.
See the website of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases ( for information and the latest updates.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons ( provides consumer information, including a detailed discussion of different types of arthritis and treatment.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Give Yourself a Fall Prevention Checkup

Give Yourself a Fall Prevention Checkup

Falliing Person Sign

The risk of falling increases as we age. Every year, one in three Americans older than 65 sustains a fall. Many of these falls turn out to be harmless. But many are serious, leading to injury, hospitalization and incapacity. And every year 10,000 seniors will receive fatal injuries from falling.
The good news is that many falls can be prevented. The first step is to know the risks, and to take steps to reduce the risks over which we have some control.
If you are an older adult, or you worry that an older loved one could be at risk of falling, start the conversation with this checklist for assessing and reducing the risk of falls. If you have questions about reducing your risk of falls, talk to your healthcare provider about a fall prevention strategy that’s right for you.

Older Americans Month 2015: “Get Into the Act”

Older Americans Month 2015: “Get Into the Act”
Older adults are a vital part of our society. Since 1963, communities across the country have shown their gratitude by celebrating Older Americans Month each May. The theme of this year’s celebration is “Get into the Act,” to focus on how older adults are taking charge of their health, getting engaged in their communities, and making a positive impact in the lives of others.
The theme also reflects on the 50th anniversary of the Older Americans Act. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Older Americans Act into law in July 1965. Since that time, the Act has provided a nationwide aging services network and funding that helps older adults live with dignity in the communities of their choice for as long as possible. These services include home-delivered and congregate meals, caregiver support, community-based assistance, preventive health services, elder abuse prevention, and much more.
By promoting and engaging in activity, wellness, and inclusivity, more Americans than ever before can “Get into the Act.” Older Americans Month offers an opportunity to emphasize how older adults can access the home- and community-based services they need to live independently in their communities. It is also an occasion to highlight how older adults are engaging with and making a difference in those communities. All Americans should work together to promote healthy aging, to increase community involvement for older adults, and to tackle important issues concerning seniors in American.
Source: U.S. Administration for Community Living (

Saturday, April 18, 2015

50 Years of Medicare - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

This year is the 50th anniversary of Medicare, which was originally created in 1965 when people over 65 found it virtually impossible to get private health insurance coverage. The program has been heralded as a huge success in improving the overall health of the elderly. However, it also highly complex and accounts for an ever-increasing portion of the federal budget.

July 30, 1965: With former President Harry S. Truman at his side, President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Medicare bill into law. — AP

Legislation creating Medicare as well as Medicaid (health care services for certain low-income people and others) passes both houses of Congress by a vote of 70-24 in the Senate and 307-116 in the House. President Johnson signs the Medicare bill into law on July 30 as part of the Social Security Amendments of 1965.

Almost 50 million Americans — 15 percent of the nation's population — depend on Medicare for their health insurance coverage. With increasing life expectancy and more boomers turning 65 every day, the number of people in Medicare is expected to double between the years 2000 and 2030.

Substantial improvements in the efficiency of the program needs to be implemented in order to forestall the predictions that Medicare funding will dry up by 2107. Future generations are counting on it. Let's hope our leaders are up for the task.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Forgetfulness and Managing Your Medicines


An article published by the National Institute on Aging ( provides a wealth of information on forgetfulness and knowing when to ask for help and better yet how to get it. One of the challenges faced by those with increasing forgetfulness is not taking medications at the appropriate times and dosages which can be life-threatening in some circumstances. Luckily, there are things you can do to prevent this from happening. 

Managing Your Medicines

Learning ways to manage your medicines could help protect your health. A brochure by the Eldercare Locator and Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, outlines some simple steps to help make sound health care decisions concerning prescription drugs:

• Maintain a medicine record
• Share any change in side effects with your doctor
• Keep your health care professionals informed of all the medicines you are taking
• Find out about different options to pay for your medicines.

To learn more, request the brochure “Prescription Drug Options for Older Adults: Managing Your Medicines” at Eldercare Locator at (800) 677-1116 or visit

The Eldercare Locator is a free service of the U.S. Administration on Aging and is administered by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a).