Category Archives: Health

April Is Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month

Groups raise awareness of the disease and its treatments 

More than 1 million people in the U.S. have Parkinson’s disease, says the National Parkinson Foundation, and as many as 60,000 new cases are diagnosed every year. Parkinson’s disease is a chronic, degenerative neurological disorder that affects one in 100 people over age 60. Parkinson’s strikes 50 percent more men than women. The average age at onset is 60, but some are diagnosed at 40 or younger.

Parkinson’s involves the malfunction and death of vital nerve cells in the brain, called neurons, according to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation. The job of some of these dying neurons is to produce dopamine, a chemical that sends messages to the part of the brain that controls movement and coordination. As the disease progresses, these brain neurons produce less and less dopamine, and the person loses movement control.

Common Symptoms

Symptoms vary from person to person, but primary motor signs include the following:

  • Tremor or the hands, arms, legs, jaw and face
  • Slowness of movement
  • Rigidity or stiffness of the limbs and trunk
  • Instability of posture or impaired balance and coordination

Medications and Treatments

Many medications and treatments are available to help manage the symptoms of Parkinson’s, but none yet reverse the effects of the disease. According to the Mayo Clinic, doctors may also suggest lifestyle changes, especially ongoing aerobic exercise. Physical therapy that focuses on balance and stretching may also be effective. Speech-language pathologists may help improve speech difficulties. In later cases, surgical procedures such as deep brain stimulation may be recommended.

What’s New in Parkinson’s Treatments?

Deep brain stimulation. For two decades, deep brain stimulation (DBS) therapy for Parkinson’s patients has been successful, says the National Parkinson Foundation. Evidence shows that DBS has meaningfully helped tens of thousands of patients worldwide, improving tremor, dyskinesia (involuntary movements), on-off fluctuations (reduced effectiveness of levodopa medication), and other Parkinson’s symptoms. DBS has fallen short in slowing disease progression, including walking, talking, and thinking. Some scientists advocate using guide tubes (straws that DBS leads are fed through to precisely place them into the brain) to deliver growth factors to improve brain function. There is also interest in developing DBS leads connected to pumps that could continuously supply factors to the brain while maintaining the electrical current derived from the DBS device.

The relationship between the gastrointestinal system and Parkinson’s disease. Evidence has been mounting in support of a relationship between the gastrointestinal (GI) system and Parkinson’s disease. Many pathologists and neurologists believe that Parkinson’s may start in the gut. Studies have found that many GI symptoms, such as constipation, occur as prominent and disabling Parkinson’s symptoms. People with Parkinson’s who are experiencing motor fluctuations that cannot be controlled by medication adjustment are advised to ask their doctor to test for H. Pylori (a common type of gut bacteria) infection.

Good News! Recent Study Shows Fewer Seniors Are Developing Dementia

Dementia sufferers are also developing the disease at older ages

For years we’ve heard dire predictions that dementia rates would skyrocket as the population ages, grows increasingly overweight, and develops more diabetes and high blood pressure. But a recent data analysis published in the January 2017 issue of JAMA Internal Medicine has found that the prevalence of dementia is actually decreasing.

The nationally representative report showed that adults 65 and older with dementia dropped from 11.6 percent in the year 2000 to 8.8 percent in 2012. Those results support another, smaller-scale study released in 2016, which found that dementia rates dropped by 44 percent since the late 1970s through 2008.28

The New York Times reported that the downward trend is “statistically significant and impressive,” according to Samuel Preston, a demographer at the University of Pennsylvania who was not associated with the study.

Further, in 2000, people received a diagnosis of dementia at an average age of 80.7; in 2012, the average age was 82.4—indicating that the disease is starting at older ages.

Researchers are analyzing the data to determine the causes for the lower dementia rates. Currently, medical experts are looking at two factors: education and heart health. Researchers have found that seniors with more education are less likely to develop dementia than seniors who didn’t finish high school.

Scientists theorize that further education enhances brain development and gives people “cognitive reserve” that allows them to lose cognitive function to aging without developing full-blown dementia, or delays the onset of impairment.

Many doctors believe that the biggest reason for the decline is improved heart and circulatory health. Vascular dementias decreased the most in the study, likely because of better treatments for stroke, heart disease, and blood-vessel disorders. Regular exercise can bolster cardiovascular health at any age, which may help stave off or lessen age-related cognitive decline. Doctors advise people who already have heart health issues or chronic conditions like diabetes to carefully follow their treatment plans to reduce risk of dementia and other disorders.

 

March Is National Nutrition Month

This year’s theme is “Put Your Best Fork Forward”

National Nutrition Month is a nutrition education and information campaign held every March by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The campaign focuses on the importance of making informed food choices, developing sound eating practices, and committing to physical activity habits.

The theme for 2017 is “Put Your Best Fork Forward,” which reminds us that each bite counts. Small shifts in our food choices can reap benefits over time. The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest starting with gradual changes—one forkful at a time—to create healthier, lasting habits for years to come. Whether you are preparing meals at home or making selections when dining out, Put Your Best Fork Forward helps develop the healthy eating style that’s best for you and your family.

“How much we eat is as important as what we eat, which is why this year’s National Nutrition Month theme inspires us to start with small changes in our eating habits,” says registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Spokesperson Kristi King.

Key Messages of this Year’s Campaign

  • Create an eating style that includes a variety of your favorite, healthful foods.
  • Practice cooking more at home and experiment with healthier ingredients.
  • How much we eat is as important as what we eat. Eat and drink the right amount for you.
  • Find activities that you enjoy and be physically active most days of the week.
  • Manage your weight or lower your health risks by consulting a registered dietitian nutritionist. RDNs can provide sound, easy-to-follow personalized nutrition advice to meet your lifestyle, preferences, and health-related needs.

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 eatright.org.

February Is American Heart Month

This month is also marks the “Go Red for Women” campaign

Ever since President Lyndon B. Johnson declared the first American Heart Month in 1964, the month of February has been dedicated to cardiovascular health awareness. Cardiovascular disease is the nation’s No. 1 cause of death for both men and women, killing an estimated 630,000 Americans each year. At our communities we make sure that a healthy diet and exercise are part of everyday living.

In the U.S., the most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD), which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Men and women can greatly reduce their risk for CAD through lifestyle changes and, in some cases, medication. The American Heart Association conducts research and raises awareness to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans. Throughout February awareness about heart health is evident everywhere- from grocery stores to sporting events.

Since 2004, February also has been the signature month for the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign to spread the message that heart disease is not only a man’s problem.

National Wear Red Day

On Friday, February 3, the American Heart Association and Go Red For Women celebrate American Heart Month and raise heart disease awareness by encouraging participating in National Wear Red Day. Every 80 seconds, one woman is killed by heart disease and stroke. That’s 1 in 3 deaths among women each year. Eighty percent of these deaths can be prevented with education and action. By wearing red and using the social-media hashtag #GoRedWearRed, you can help raise women’s awareness and support education on cardiovascular health.

The Surprising Benefits of Senior Living Communities

Growing numbers of seniors are enjoying their housing options

A large segment of the older population in the Unites States—individuals between the ages of 65 and 84—will increase by nearly 40 percent between 2010 and 2020, says the U.S. Census Bureau. The population over age 85 will rise by nearly 19 percent. By 2060, says the Administration on Aging (AOA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there will be about 98 million older persons, more than twice the number in 2014.

These statistics confirm the trend toward ever-growing numbers of older Americans whose need for senior-focused living situations has spurred one of the nation’s most powerful growth industries: living facilities that specialize in catering to older Americans.

By all accounts, the nearly 1 million older adults who currently live in senior communities are happy in their environments. A recent poll by Argentum (formerly Assisted Living Federation of America) found that 93 percent of residents in senior living facilities feel satisfied with the communities they live in. The survey also reported that nearly all residents—99 percent—say they feel safe in their living communities.

More communities are now being designed and updated to appeal to active seniors with a variety of abilities, interests, and preferences. As a leader in senior living management, ISL knows well what appeals to today’s seniors.  Here are a few of the most often cited reasons that older adults are choosing to move to senior living communities.

Safety. Good facilities have 24-hour staffing, state-of-the-art security systems, easy-access and handicap features, and emergency-medical services.

Social connections. Studies show that participating in social activities helps maintain cognitive health. Residents make friends, eat meals together, and celebrate holidays as a community. Senior facilities offer a wide variety of activities for residents, both on site and off. Classes, workshops, fitness options, dancing, reading groups, outdoor excursions, field trips—there is something for everyone!

No home maintenance and repair. Keeping up a home, inside and outside, is labor intensive, physically demanding, and expensive. Most senior-living residents are glad to say good-bye to these burdensome chores so they can spend time on other interests, hobbies, and activities.

Prepared meals. No more grocery shopping, meal planning, and food preparation. Residents can enjoy fine dining on a daily basis—without all the work. Many facilities offer alternative meals and can accommodate special diet needs. New residents commonly experience improvements in health and well being simply from everyday access to healthful, regular mealtimes.

If any of these reasons are appealing, maybe now is the time to look into a senior living community as a viable option in 2017!  Contact ISL to learn more.

January Is National Glaucoma Awareness Month

More than 3 million Americans have glaucoma—but half are un-diagnosed

 “Speed the cure. Spread the word,” says the Glaucoma Research Foundation. The first month of the new year is a good time to learn about and spread awareness of this sight-stealing disease. Glaucoma may affect as many as 4.2 million Americans by 2030, a 58 percent increase, says the National Eye Institute.

Glaucoma is known as “the sneak thief of sight” because there may be no symptoms and as much as 40 percent of vision can be slowly lost without a person noticing. And once vision is lost, it’s permanent.

The good news is that glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable blindness. While there is no cure for glaucoma—yet—medication or surgery can slow or prevent vision loss. Early detection is key to stopping the progress of the disease.

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is characterized by increased intraocular pressure, or pressure due to buildup of fluid within the eye. This pressure can damage the optic nerve, leading to vision loss. In the U.S., approximately 120,000 people are blind from glaucoma, accounting for up to 12 percent of all cases of blindness.

Who is at risk?

People of any age or race can get glaucoma, but these groups are at higher risk:

  • African Americans or Hispanics (especially over age 40)
  • People over age 60
  • People with a family history of the condition
  • Those diagnosed (during an eye exam) with high internal eye pressure
  • Those with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and sickle cell anemia
  • Those who have had an eye injury or eye surgery
  • Those with certain eye conditions, such as severe nearsightedness
  • Women with early estrogen deficiency
  • Those taking corticosteroid medication, specially eyedrops, for a long time

How can you protect your vision?

Early detection and treatment of glaucoma, before it causes vision loss, is the best way to control the disease. If you fall into one or more of the high-risk groups, is to get a comprehensive eye exam. The Mayo Clinic advises scheduling regular comprehensive eye exams beginning at age 40. Ask your doctor to recommend the right screening schedule for you.

Medicare Sign Ups October 15 – December 7, 2016

It’s that time of year again

For 2017 Medicare coverage, Open Enrollment begins for Medicare  in the fall of 2016, from October 15 to December 7.

People with Medicare can change their choice of health coverage (whether they receive that coverage through a private Medicare Advantage plan or traditional Medicare), and add, drop or change Medicare Part D drug coverage.

During this annual enrollment period (AEP) you can make changes to various aspects of your coverage.

  • You can switch from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage, or vice versa.
  • You can also switch from one Medicare Advantageplan to another, or from one Medicare Part D (prescription drug) plan to another.
  • And if you didn’t enroll in a Medicare Part D plan when you were first eligible, you can do so during the general open enrollment, although a late enrollment penalty may apply.

It’s very important that Medicare beneficiaries review their drug plan annually. Why? Because Medicare private drug plans can make changes each year; changes can include which pharmacies are in their networks as well as which drugs are covered and the costs.  Most people can only change their plans during the Fall Open Enrollment Period.

Find out whether medications you are taking will be covered on your plan next year. If your physician had to submit a prior authorization exception request and you need the same medication next year, call your plan to find out what you need to do to make sure that your plan continues covering your medication. Your physician may need to submit a new request and he may be able to do so before the end of the year to ensure that your coverage continues without interruption.

Now is the time to be asking questions! For more information visit

http://www.medicareadvocacy.org/the-medicare-annual-coordinated-election-period-has-begun/

For Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Learn the Ways To Prevent the Disease in Older Women

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual worldwide campaign organized by major breast cancer charities to raise awareness, offer support to those affected by breast cancer, and to encourage research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and cure.

Studies show that women in the U.S. who live to the age of 80 have a one in eight chance of developing breast cancer during their lifetime. Data from the National Cancer Institute show that half of those diagnoses will occur in women aged 65 and older.

For women with a first-degree relative (sister, mother, or daughter) diagnosed with breast cancer, the risk is doubled, according to Breastcancer.org. The risk of developing breast cancer soars to five times higher than average for women with two first-degree relatives who have been diagnosed.

However, research indicates that at least 80 percent of breast cancers are caused by lifestyle or environmental factors—and not by a genetic predisposition that runs in families, says Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

Scientists and medical practitioners have estimated that at least 25 percent of new breast cancer cases could be avoided if women maintained healthy lifestyle practices and understood risk factors. How can older women increase the odds that they will remain breast-cancer free—or that they will beat the disease if diagnosed?

Be physically active. Current guidelines recommend physical activity for at least 150 minutes per week, or 21 minutes a day. But recent studies have shown that postmenopausal women who exercise twice as much—300 minutes per week, or about 42 minutes a day—were much more successful at reducing fat levels linked to developing breast cancer in later life.

Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight can boost the risk of developing many types of cancers, including breast cancer, especially after menopause.

Don’t smoke. Smoking increases older women’s chances of acquiring health conditions that are the leading causes of death in the U.S.: heart disease, stroke, and at least 15 types of cancer, including breast cancer.

Avoid post-menopausal hormones. Contrary to medical advice women were given for years, recent studies have shown that post-menopausal hormone replacement therapy (HRT) should not be continued long term to prevent chronic diseases like osteoporosis and heart disease. While there is evidence that HRT may lower the risk of some diseases, studies show that both estrogen-only hormones and estrogen-plus-progestin hormones can increase breast cancer risk. Most doctors now advise women who do take post-menopausal hormones to continue the treatment for as short a time as possible. Ask your doctor about the risks and benefits of post-menopausal hormones for you.

Get screened. Despite some controversy, studies show that breast cancer screening with mammography can help find cancer early—when it’s most treatable. For women who are age 55 and over, mammograms are recommended every other year, although women can choose to have them every year. Clinical breast exams and self-exams are no longer universally recommended as reliable methods for cancer detection, but women should be familiar with their breasts so they can notify a health care provider if they notice changes in how their breasts look or feel.

Know the risk factors. There are a number of breast cancer risk factors that women cannot control. Knowing which ones apply to you can help you understand your own risk. The following list of factors can increase a woman’s chances of developing breast cancer. (Keep in mind that most women who have one or more of these risk factors never develop breast cancer.)

  • Age 60 years or over
  • Family history of breast cancer
  • First menstrual period before age 12
  • Menopause at age 55 or over
  • First childbirth after age 35
  • No children
  • Tall height (5-foot-8 or taller)
  • Dense breasts
  • History of benign breast disease (like atypical hyperplasia)

Fall Prevention Awareness Week: September 22–29

This year’s theme is “Ready, Steady, Balance: Prevent Falls in 2016” 

Among adults over age 65, falls are the leading cause of death from injury, nonfatal injuries from accidents, and hospital admissions for trauma. To bring attention to this critical health and safety issue, the Fall Prevention Center of Excellence sponsors Fall Prevention Awareness Week during the first week of the fall/autumn season. This year, during the week of September 22–29, older adults, caregivers, and families are encouraged to learn about seniors’ fall risks and how to prevent falls in 2016 and the years ahead.

“Falls can take a serious toll on older adults’ quality of life and independence,” says leading gerontologist Jon Pynoos, Ph.D., co-director of the Fall Prevention Center of Excellence, “and the risk for falls increases with age.”

Every 11 seconds, an older adult is seen in an emergency department for a fall-related injury, says the National Council on Aging (NCOA). At the heart of the message behind Fall Prevention Awareness Week is the good news that falls are preventable.

The NCOA advises seniors to stay safe with these six tips.

Find a good balance and exercise program. Strive to build balance, strength, and flexibility. To find a program, contact your local Area Agency on Aging for referrals. Find aging resources in your area at the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (http://www.n4a.org/). Choose a program you like and take a friend, caregiver, or family member.

Talk to your health care provider. Share your history of recent falls, and ask for an assessment of your falling risk.

Regularly review your medications with your doctor or pharmacist. Medication side effects and drug interactions can increase your risk of falling. Remember to take medications only as prescribed.

Get your vision and hearing checked yearly and update your eyeglasses. Your eyes and ears are key to keeping your balance and avoiding fall hazards.

Keep your home safe. Remove tripping hazards (loose area rugs, clutter in main walk-through areas, and wet floors in the kitchen and bathroom, for example), increase lighting in stairways and hallways, and install grab bars in the bathroom and railings on stairs.

Talk to family members. Enlist family members and caregivers’ support in taking simple steps to stay safe on your feet. Falls are not just a seniors’ issue.

Ways to Help Seniors Drink Enough Fluids on Hot Summer Days

Fun tips for staying hydrated in warmer weather  

To stay healthy, all humans need water to keep joints moving, protect organs and tissues, regulate body temperature, and overall make the body work better. On hot days, our bodies lose water more rapidly than usual. Also, senior adults have risk factors that can cause problems in the heat, including a reduced sense of thirst and decreased kidney functions, hindering the body’s ability to adapt to extreme temperatures or low hydration.

If you observe signs of confusion, dry mouth, slurred speech and altered behavior in your older adult, especially in warm weather, you might mistakenly attribute these symptoms to age, instead of the health-threatening effects of dehydration. 

Studies show that even a 2 percent reduction in body water weight (only 3 pounds on a 150-pound person) can lead to difficulties with short-term memory, attention spam and visual-motor tracking. For good health during the summer months, including optimal cognitive function, here are some fun tips for helping your senior loved ones stay well hydrated.

Infuse water with flavors. Add slices of lemons, limes, oranges, berries or cucumbers to pitchers of fresh water, and then refrigerate it. You’ll have a tasty, refreshing, natural beverage with no artificial sweeteners or preservatives. 

Include other fluids. All fluids contribute to hydration, including tea, coffee, juices, milk and soups (but excluding alcohol, which is very dehydrating). The amount of caffeine in tea and coffee does not discount the fluid in them, even if they have a slight diuretic effect, says a report by the National Research Council’s Food and Nutrition Board.

Get water from foods. Eat foods that naturally contain water. Research shows that only 70 to 80 percent of our daily hydration needs to come from water; 20 to 30 percent can come from foods. All whole fruits and vegetables contain water, but these contain the highest amounts:

  • 97% water: Cucumbers
  • 96% water: Celery
  • 95% water: Tomatoes, radishes
  • 93% water: Red, yellow, green bell peppers
  • 92% water: Cauliflower, watermelon
  • 91% water: Spinach, strawberries, broccoli
  • 90% water: Grapefruit

Provide a reusable water bottle. Avoid throwaway plastic water bottles that harm the environment—20 percent end up in landfills. Instead, buy a BPA-free refillable water bottle to help your senior adult keep track of his or her water intake each day. Try to make sure your loved one keeps the bottle nearby. With fluids right at hand, your senior is more likely to sip throughout the day.