Thursday, July 30, 2015

Should You Weigh Yourself Every Day?

For those wishing to lose weight and keep it off, here’s a simple strategy that works: step on a scale each day and track the results.
A two-year study from Cornell University, recently published in the Journal of Obesity, found that frequent self-weighing and tracking results on a chart were effective for both losing weight and keeping it off, especially for men.
Subjects who lost weight the first year in the program were able to maintain that lost weight throughout the second year. This is important because studies show that about 40 percent of weight lost with any dietary treatment is regained in one year, and almost 100 percent of weight loss is regained at the end of five years.
“You just need a bathroom scale and an Excel spreadsheet or even a piece of graph paper,” said David Levitsky, professor of nutrition and psychology at Cornell and the paper’s senior author.
The method “forces you to be aware of the connection between your eating and your weight,” said Levitsky. “It used to be taught that you shouldn’t weigh yourself daily, and this is just the reverse.”
In the study, 162 subjects were randomly separated into an intervention group and a control group. Individuals in the intervention group were first given a target of 1 percent weight loss, which they could lose in any manner they chose.
“Because we didn’t prescribe, everyone found their own way of losing the weight,” whether they reduced portion size, stopped snacking or skipped a meal, Levitsky said. Losing 1 percent of body weight requires most people to cut only about 150 calories a day for two weeks.
Once they maintained that weight loss for 10 days, the program then gave them a new target to lose another 1 percent, and so on. The goal was to lose a total of 10 percent of their starting body weight.
Still, there was a significant difference between men and women, with women losing weight on the program, but far less than the men. “It seems to work better for men than women, for reasons we cannot figure out yet,” Levitsky said.
Overall, the researchers believe that stepping on a scale and tracking one’s weight acts as a reinforcement for some behaviors, such as eating less, and it strengthens others such as going for a walk in order to maintain body weight.
“We think the scale also acts as a priming mechanism, making you conscious of food and enabling you to make choices that are consistent with your weight,” Levitsky said.
Source: Cornell University. The study was published in the Journal of Obesity.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Confusion and Forgetfulness: The Right Diagnosis Is Important

Carolyn was worried about her 82-year-old mother. Mom, always so active and independent, had stopped going outside. Her condo was untidy, and there was little nourishing food in the kitchen. Mom seemed forgetful and her speech was slurred. Carolyn insisted that Mom go to the doctor to discuss the possibility of Alzheimer’s disease.
The doctor quickly discovered the real problem: Mom was experiencing negative side effects from a combination of medications she was taking for arthritis pain and insomnia. The doctor adjusted her medications, and Mom experienced almost immediate improvement.
As we grow older, memory loss and cognitive impairment become more common—not only as a result of Alzheimer’s, but also due to diseases such as Lewy body dementia, Parkinson’s disease, vascular dementia, and multi-infarct dementia from a stroke or series of strokes. Early diagnosis of these conditions is important so that the appropriate treatment and care can be started.
Patients and families should also remember that a complete medical evaluation may uncover a treatable, even curable, underlying cause for the patient’s symptoms. So it is important not to assume that confusion, memory loss and other personality changes inevitably signal dementia. Treatable causes may include:
Drug side effects and interactions—A medication regimen may begin simply with treatment for high blood pressure. Then another drug is added for another reason, and soon the pill reminder box is full. A number of drugs can cause confusion, alone or in combination with other drugs. Some of these include heart medications, steroids, narcotics, drugs to treat incontinence, sleep medications and antihistamines. Bring a list of all medications, including herbal preparations and supplements, to physician appointments.
Depression—Depression and dementia share many symptoms, such as forgetfulness and the inability to focus. Often, symptoms are much improved with counseling, medication and lifestyle changes.
Thyroid disease—When the thyroid gland produces too little or too much thyroid hormone, memory loss and confusion may result. A simple blood test can reveal a thyroid disorder. Most types of thyroid disease are easily treatable.
Vitamin deficiency—Sometimes elderly people have problems absorbing Vitamin B3, B12 or other vitamins from food. If the deficiency goes untreated, the resulting anemia can lead to symptoms of mental confusion, uncertainty and slowness.
Dehydration—As we grow older, the mechanism in our brain that tells us we are thirsty sends out a weaker signal, so seniors may drink less water than is needed for good health. Some heart patients may be on a restricted fluid regimen. Still other seniors try to limit fluid intake because of fear of incontinence. Dehydration symptoms, including disorientation and lethargy, can be similar to those of dementia.
Alcohol abuse—Some of the symptoms associated with alcoholism are very similar to those of dementia. Chronic alcohol abuse can cause permanent brain damage, including memory loss and confusion. But if the person gets his or her drinking under control, there is a good chance of improvement.
Head injury—Sometimes a seemingly minor fall or other injury results in a hematoma (blood clot) in the brain. This possibility increases as we grow older. These clots can prevent the brain from functioning normally, and can cause dementia-like symptoms. (Reminder: if a brain injury is suspected, call the doctor right away.)
Cognitive impairment is not a “natural part of growing older.” Geriatricians now recognize that dementia is part of a disease process. If a senior does have Alzheimer’s disease, it’s important to seek the best care to improve quality of life. But remember: the first step is to rule out other, treatable conditions.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Quiz: Seniors By the Numbers

How much do you know about the senior population in the U.S.? The U.S. Census Bureau knows plenty! Test your knowledge of these facts about our older Americans:
1. How many people in the U.S. are age 65 or older?
a. 28.1 million
b. 35.5 million
c. 46.2 million
d. 73.7 million
2. By the year 2060, how many people in America will be older than 65?
a. 44.3 million
b. 79.3 million
c. 98.2 million
d. 106.3 million
3. During what year will people older than 65 outnumber people under 18?
a. 2033
b. 2044
c. 2055
d. 2066
4. As of 2015, which generation is the largest?
a. The Greatest Generation (born before 1928)
b. The Silent Generation (born 1928 – 1945)
c. Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964)
d. Generation X (born 1965-1980)
e. Millennials (born 1981-1997)
5. What state has the highest percentage of seniors?
a. Maine
b. Florida
c. Arizona
d. Kansas
e. Oklahoma
6. Which state has the lowest percentage of seniors?
a. Alaska
b. California
c. Hawaii
d. Oregon
e. North Dakota
7. How many centenarians—people aged 100 and older—live in the U.S. today?
a. 10,622
b. 18, 937
c. 40,836
d. 53,364
8. Which state has the highest percentage of centenarians?
a. Florida
b. North Dakota
c. Utah
d. Tennessee
9. What is the only county in the U.S. with a majority of residents older than 65?
a. Rock Island County, IL
b. Muskegon County, MI
c. Sumter County, FL
d. Miami County, OH
10. What percentage of people 65 and older are married?
a. 24.7 percent
b. 44.3 percent
c. 58.6 percent
d. 68.5 percent
Answers to “Seniors By the Numbers Quiz”:
1-c; 2-c; 3-a; 4-e; 5-b; 6-a; 7-d; 8-d; 9-c; 10-d
Source: IlluminAge AgeWise; data from the U.S. Census Bureau as of May 29, 2015 and June 25, 2015.

Friday, July 17, 2015

For Many Seniors, Good Health Is a Balancing Act

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), falls are the leading cause of injuries in older adults. Many of these injuries are fatal. Nearly one out of three older adults falls each year.
While not all falls are caused by balance disorders, many are. Older Americans are at greater risk for balance problems. This is due to the natural aging process, as well as the fact that many conditions that can cause a balance issue – arthritis, taking medications, ear infections – are most common among seniors.
Some of the more common balance disorders include:
Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV)
Thanks to Alfred Hitchcock, most people are familiar with vertigo. BPPV is one of the common balance disorders and is marked by an acute feeling of dizziness that occurs by a sudden change in the position of the head. It’s caused when tiny calcium crystals become loose and disrupt the sensors of the inner ear.
This is caused by an inner ear infection, often as part of respiratory infection such as the flu, and causes dizziness and a loss of balance.
Ménière’s disease
This is a condition marked by vertigo, hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and a feeling of fullness or blockage in the ears. Scientists aren’t sure about its cause.
Perilymph fistula
This condition occurs when fluid from the inner ear leaks into the middle ear, which can cause dizziness and nausea. It can result after a head injury, sudden changes in air pressure, surgery or ongoing ear infections.
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms above, you should schedule an appointment with an otolaryngologist, often called an ENT (ear/nose/throat) doctor. The doctor can help make a diagnosis and provide treatment, and also can determine if your condition may be a result of another underlying medical condition. Side effects of a medication might also be the cause.
Treatments range from the relatively simple (if you’re diagnosed with BPPV, your doctor may perform a series of movements to dislodge the crystals) to the more complex, which may include changes in diet or even surgery.
Not all balance disorders are curable, but symptoms can be mitigated. There are a number of exercises that can help people improve their balance. Tai chi and yoga have helped many people improve their balance and flexibilty. There are also several exercises you can do at home. For example: Using the back of a chair for support, lift one leg, so you’re standing one one foot. Hold for 10 seconds, then switch legs. Repeat this 10-15 times. Or try the heel-to-toe walk. Focus on a spot ahead of you and walk toward it by touching the heel of your foot to the toes of the other foot. Repeat for 20 steps.
To learn more about ways to help improve balance condition symptoms, you may want to consider making an appointment with a vestibular rehabilitation therapist. These professionals are trained in developing an exercise program to help the body compensate for inner ear disorders.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Beating Late Summer Heat

APFC Home Care Provides Tips on How to Survive the “Dog Days” of Summer
[Medford, NJ] – July 15, 2015 – According the National Weather Service, heat is one of the leading causes of weather-related death in the United States, causing hundreds of fatalities each year. Seniors are even more susceptible to the dangers of heat, as they are less likely to sense and respond to changes in temperature. That’s why APFC Home Care is offering tips to help seniors stay safe during July and August, summer’s hottest months.
“Dehydration is one of the biggest dangers of summer heat,” says Brett Summerville, Managing Partner at APFC Home Care. “It accounts for numerous ER visits, especially among seniors, who are more vulnerable. As we age, our bodies aren’t able to regulate body temperature as easily.”
Here are some tips to help you and your senior loved ones stay safe:
  • Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to take in fluids. If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. If plain water doesn’t interest you, increase your intake of fresh fruits and juices, or add some lemon or lime juice to your water to add some flavor.
  • Keep your home safe and comfortable by running the air conditioning during the hottest parts of the day and by letting in cool air in the early morning and late evening hours.
  • Take a cool shower or bath and get plenty of rest. If you must go outside, plan this for the early morning hours, when it’s coolest.
“If you experience heavy sweating, weakness, rapid pulse, nausea or fainting, this could be a sign of heat exhaustion” says Summerville. “If these symptoms appear, get to a cool place as quickly as possible and lie down. Apply wet cloths to the body and sip some water. If you notice someone with these symptoms who also has a fever, hot, red skin, or becomes unconscious, call 911 immediately, as this may be heat stroke.”

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Democrats, Republicans Alike Say Caregivers Need Help

We don’t hear about many issues these days that draw bipartisan support—but a recent poll from the AARP shows that people of every political leaning recognize the need to improve the lot of family caregivers in America.
Maybe this is because family caregiving knows no political party. According to the AARP, 42 million of us are caring for elderly and/or disabled relatives—and the number of people who need care is expected to double by 2050. The care provided by these family members is valued at close to $500 billion each year!
A new group, the Assisting Caregivers Today (ACT) Caucus, includes U.S. Senators and Representatives from both parties. AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins said, “The fact that this caucus is both bipartisan and bicameral is significant and encouraging. It sends a message that members of Congress recognize that the issues facing family caregivers and the desire to live independently and with dignity are not bound by politics or ideology.”
The poll found that among registered voters, 77 percent think that Congress should make it a priority to improve resources for family caregivers. And candidates take note: 68 percent said that they would be more favorable to members of Congress who wanted to improve family caregiver resources!
Source: IlluminAge reporting on news release from the AARP. Read more about the poll here, and the ACT Family Caregiving Caucus here.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Making a Personal Records Inventory

Too often we need some pieces of information when we are least able to think clearly—during an emergency, a doctor’s appointment, at the lawyer’s office, or at the hospital admitting desk, for example. To avoid confusion and a time-consuming search in situations like that, it’s a good idea to get organized ahead of time when things are calm. But the job of finding and recording the information can still seem overwhelming.
Here is a form you can use to guide you. Take your time, enter information carefully, and stop from time to time to ask yourself whether the information is current. Consider asking a close family member or trusted friend to help you. If you are married, you and your spouse should each fill out a form.
When you’re done, store the information securely. Decide who should have a copy—a child? Your lawyer or accountant? A trusted friend?
Once you’ve compiled this information, things should go more smoothly the next time you or someone acting for you needs quick access to important records. And you’ll have the peace of mind that comes from having all your personal records in order.
Click here to download a checklist you can fill out, or cut and paste the text from this article.

My Personal Records and Information

The information you gather in this form should be kept private and secure, shared only with trusted family members and agents.
Personal records inventory as of (date):
Personal Information:
Phone number(s):
Email address(es):
Driver’s license number:
Religious affiliation/contacts:
Children (name, address, telephone numbers, email addresses):
Other close relatives (name, address, telephone numbers, email addresses):
Health Care Providers (name, telephone numbers, email):
Primary care physician:
Physician specialists:
Eye doctor:
Long-term care or assisted living facility:
Home care provider:
Other care providers:
Insurance Information (company, plan, policy number, phone number):
Health insurance:
Medicare supplement:
Long-term care insurance:
Car insurance:
Homeowners insurance:
Life insurance:
Legal and Financial (name and contact information):
Financial advisor:
Financial institutions:
Estate Planning Documents (location and date):
Will (including trust documents):
Living will (health care directive):
Appointment of health care representative (be sure to include the name, address, telephone number and email address of the person you have appointed):
Financial Records (describe where these are kept):
Tax returns, tax information:
Checkbook and savings passbook:
Pension, IRA, 401(k) and other deferred compensation records:
Real estate documents (deeds, mortgages, notes):
Insurance policies and premium payment records:
Health care expense and reimbursement records:
Prepaid funeral plan, burial plot documents:

Friday, July 3, 2015

Seven Fun Ways to Promote Healthy Aging

We’ve all heard that to stay healthy, we need to exercise more, eat more healthfully, quit smoking and drink alcohol only in moderation. For many of us, healthy lifestyle changes require a sacrifice and may feel like a lot of hard work. We grow weary of hearing people telling us we shouldn’t have that slice of pizza or banana cream pie and that we should start using that gym membership, which we purchased so many months ago.
The good news is that even if salad isn’t your top meal choice and you don’t enjoy spending time on the treadmill, there are several things that are actually enjoyable that can improve your health. Here’s just a few:
Get outside.
Get up off the couch, your office chair, or whatever is keeping you indoors and get out in nature. Not only will the walk (or the gardening) do you good; according to the Harvard Health Letter, you’ll also enjoy these benefits:
  • You’ll get more vitamin D. Sunlight is a natural source of vitamin D, which can help with numerous ailments including depression, cancer, osteoporosis and heart attacks. Don’t overdo it, but a little sunlight can work wonders.
  • Your mood will improve. Light tends to elevate most people’s mood and being outdoors may even increase your self-esteem. According to a study published in Environmental Science and Technology Journal, both men and women had increased self-esteem after “green” exercise.
  • You may heal more quickly. One study showed that people recovering from spinal surgery took less pain medication when exposed to natural light.
Take a nap.
Getting enough sleep overall is important for good health. Studies have shown it helps us do everything from lowering stress to maintaining a healthy weight to improving our memory. But sometimes we simply can’t fit those necessary eight hours in a single session. The answer? Take a nap! Napping provides all the benefits of “regular” sleep and can provide the perfect pick-me-up. A study by Sara Mednick, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Riverside, showed that napping is more effective than caffeine when it comes to improving performance on motor, perceptual and verbal tasks. The best time to take a nap? According to Dr. Mednick, the perfect nap should be taken between 1:00 and 3:00 pm and last for 90 minutes.
We are, by nature, social beings. According to Matthew Lieberman, author of the book Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect, “being socially connected is our brain’s lifelong passion.” Spending time with family and friends is enjoyable and allows us to connect with our fellow human beings. Additionally, it’s good for our health. A study from the Rush University Memory and Aging Project concluded that a higher level of social engagement in old age is associated with better cognitive function. A study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that people who engaged in a lot of social activity in their 50s and 60s had slower rates of memory decline compared to those who were more socially inactive. And according to a new study conducted at Brigham Young University, social isolation has been shown to be as much of a health risk as obesity.
You’ve undoubtedly heard that meditation can reduce stress, which helps the entire body function better. But for many, it may seem like there’s just not enough time to just sit and do nothing. For all you Type A’s out there, there’s good news from researchers at Carnegie Mellon University. A recent study there showed that just 25 minutes of mindful meditation a day for three consecutive days alleviates psychological stress. One of the easiest ways to meditate is to find a quiet place to be alone, sit, and concentrate on your breath.
Learn a new skill. 
Challenging your mind is one of the best ways to help strengthen your brain, which may help protect it against Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. While any mental exercise – crossword puzzles and other “brain games” – is good for the brain, a recent study done at the University of Texas at Dallas showed that learning a new skill has the most impact on brain health – and the more challenging the new skill, the greater the result. So, enroll in a computer class, take up quilting, or learn a new language. You’ll not only be gaining valuable life experience, but you’ll also be helping your brain now and in the future.
Give thanks. 
The simple act of gratitude can promote all sorts of healing. According to Dr. Lawrence Rosen, an integrative pediatrician, there are at least five benefits of gratitude that have scientific studies to back them up. According to Rosen, gratitude:
  • Reduces depression.
  • Engenders a feeling of peace.
  • Aids in restful sleep.
  • Improves heath health.
  • Strengthens memory.
It may turn out that laughter really is the best medicine! According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter reduces stress, strengthens the immune system and improves your mood. And University of Maryland scientists say it’s also good for the heart. Michael Miller, a cardiologist who led the study, said, “The recommendation for a healthy heart may one day be exercise, eat right and laugh a few times a day.” Laughing is also good for the brain. A study at Johns Hopkins University Medical School showed that adding humor during classroom instruction led to higher test scores. And, finally, laughing may extend your life. In a study of 53,000 seniors done by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, researchers discovered that study participants who had a sense of humor had a 20 percent lower mortality rate compared to those who had difficulty in finding the humor in life.