Regular readers know that my family has suffered at least one case of Alzheimer’s and one or two of general dementia. I think it is fair to say that mental illness damages the entire family either directly or indirectly. It also has implications on individuals’ future mental health.
Harvard Medical School offers some fine counseling on the subject.
Alzheimer’s disease represents a personal health crisis, but it’s also a family concern. What does it mean for your children or siblings if you are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s? What does it mean for you if a close relative develops the condition?
“People think that if their dad or aunt or uncle had Alzheimer’s disease, they are doomed. But, no, that’s not true,” says Dr. Gad Marshall, assistant professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School. “Even though family history adds to the overall risk, age still usually trumps it quite a bit. It means your risk is higher, but it’s not that much higher, if you consider the absolute numbers.”
Family history by the numbers
Studies of family history say that if you have a close relative who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease—the most common form of dementia in older adults—your risk increases by about 30%. This is a relative risk increase, meaning a 30% hike in your existing risk.
Eat less; move more; live longer remains the mantra of this blog. Incredibly, as important as these factors are, as we age, the move more factor takes on added significance. Seniors with mobility problems can be more vulnerable than those without them. Mobility problems can come from a sedentary lifestyle as well as heavy medication.
More than half of elderly patients (age 65 and older) who visited an emergency department because of injuries sustained in a fall suffered adverse events – including additional falls, hospitalization and death – within 6 months. The results of a study examining how risk factors predict recurrent falls and adverse events were published online in Annals of Emergency Medicine (“Revisit, Subsequent Hospitalization, Recurrent Fall and Death within 6 Months after a Fall among Elderly Emergency Department Patients“).
“Our study shows an even higher rate of adverse events than previous studies have,” said lead study author Jiraporn Sri-on, MD, of Navamindradhiraj University in Bangkok, Thailand. “Patients taking psychiatric and/or sedative medications had even more adverse events. This is concerning because these types of drugs are commonly prescribed for elderly patients in community and residential care settings.” Continue reading
A reader who happens to be in the business of health, Velocity Athletic Training Radio, enjoys my blog and asked me if I would like to discuss it with her on the radio. You remember radio, don’t you? If you would like to hear it click the link below.
Some 31 million Americans experience low-back pain at any given time, according to the American Chiropractic Association.
Here are a few interesting facts about back pain:
- Low back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide, according to the Global Burden of Disease 2010.
- Back pain is one of the most common reasons for missed work. In fact, back pain is the second most common reason for visits to the doctor’s office, outnumbered only by upper-respiratory infections.
- One-half of all working Americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year.2
- Experts estimate that as much as 80% of the population will experience a back problem at some time in their lives.
- Most cases of back pain are mechanical or non-organic—meaning they are not caused by serious conditions, such as inflammatory arthritis, infection, fracture or cancer.
- Americans spend at least $50 billion each year on back pain—and that’s just for the more easily identified costs.
People are constantly on the move during the warm summer months. It’s a popular time for family vacations, moving to a new home, or catching up on outdoor yard chores.
Unfortunately, many of these common activities lead to painful back injuries. In 2014, roughly 3.7 million people visited doctors’ offices for back symptoms related to pain and/or injuries during the summer months (June through August).
Here is some good news for chocolate lovers. Researchers have found that cocoa flavanols could boost cognitive function within just a few hours of consumption. Perhaps the best news is that elderly adults reaped the best benefits.
Additionally, researchers found that regular, long-term intake of cocoa flavanols may protect against cognitive decline.
Writing in Medical News Today, Honor Whiteman reported flavanols are naturally occurring compounds found in various types of plants, with some of the highest levels found in the beans of the cocoa tree.
Eat less; move more; live longer. It’s never too late to start exercising according to researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center
Moderate-intensity exercise can help even extremely obese older adults improve their ability to perform common daily activities and remain independent.
Even this fat cat can benefit …
Findings from the National Institutes of Health-funded study are published in the July issue of the journal Obesity.
In the United States, obesity affects nearly 13 million adults age 65 and older. Both overall obesity and abdominal obesity are strongly associated with the development of major mobility disability (MMD), the inability to walk a quarter of a mile, according to the study’s lead author, Stephen Kritchevsky, Ph.D., director of the Sticht Center for Healthy Aging and Alzheimer’s Prevention at Wake Forest Baptist.
Previous data on older populations had suggested that obesity may lessen the beneficial effects of physical activity on mobility. However, this research, which analyzed data from the multicenter Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders (LIFE) study, showed that a structured physical activity program reduced the risk of MMD even in older adults with extreme obesity.
One of the courses I have taken from The Great Courses is “Lifelong Health: Achieving Optimum Well-Being at any Age” by Doctor Anthony Goodman. It consists of 36 lectures and I would recommend the course to anyone in a second if you want to learn how to live well and be functional to a ripe old age.
Dr. Goodman builds the 36 lectures around a foundation of four themes. Learning these is the key to lifelong health. These are quoted directly from the book that accompanies the lectures.
Rule One: Small changes can make a big difference. A one-degree course change for a big ship eventually makes a significant change in that ship’s trajectory. In the same way, if you start with small positive changes, over time, your efforts will culminate in a substantial positive effect on your health.
Rule Two: Moderation is key. Just as your body is designed to achieve homeostasis, so, too, is it important for you to find balance when making choices regarding food, exercise and other areas that affect your health and well-being. Some parameters and guidelines will tend to serve you well over time and I will encourage you to find the ones that work for you in the long term.
Rule Three: It’s Not Nice to Fool Mother Nature. There are no magical places, times, pills or potions that can keep you eternally young, but there are many things you can do to improve how you feel and you live your life.
Rule Four: Remember the Goldilocks rule. At all times of your life you will have the opportunity to make the best choices that bring you joy and good health and that you can maintain and sustain.
I called this post 4 Secrets of Lifelong Health even though these four rules don’t seem to be secrets to anyone. Yet, looking around us we see 66 percent of us overweight and half of them outright obese. That leads me to the conclusion that most of us don’t know how or simply don’t want to be healthy and achieve lifelong health.
If you follow these rules you will be well on your way to conquering your weight problem and being a happier healthier person.
I am a 77 year old senior citizen and can honestly say that I am healthier and happier than any time in my life. You can be, too.
I really have to confess ignorance on the subject of opioids. I make it a point to keep my drug use at a bare minimum. Naturally, I have heard of opioid abuse. Who didn’t see those shocking pictures of golf great Tiger Woods the night he tried driving under the influence of opioids?
I recently suffered some severe back pain from hanging my bike on the rack carelessly. I went to the hospital for rehab work, but didn’t take any drugs.
I wanted to report what Harvard has to say on the subject because it offers a lot of information on asking questions of your doctor.
Opioid misuse is now one of most important health problems in the United States, rivaling smoking as a cause of death. Although news reports tend to focus on an opioid crisis among the young, the opioid epidemic is increasingly affecting older people as well. In fact, the rates of hospitalization for opioid overdoses among Medicare recipients quintupled from 1993 through 2012. Although older people are still less likely than younger ones to become addicted or succumb to opioid overdoses, they are more likely to suffer side effects from extended opioid use, including memory and cognition problems and falls.
Is 70 the new 60? I just stumbled across this study and you can imagine my interest, being well into 77 years old.
A new Stony Brook University-led study to be published in PLOS ONE uses new measures of aging to scientifically illustrate that one’s actual age is not necessarily the best measure of human aging itself, but rather aging should be based on the number of years people are likely to live in a given country in the 21st Century.
The study combines the new measures of aging with probabilistic projections from the United Nations and predicts an end to population aging in the U.S. and other countries before the end of the century. Population aging – when the median age rises in a country because of increasing life expectancy and lower fertility rates — is a concern for countries because of the perception that population aging leads to declining numbers of working age people and additional social burdens.
According to Warren Sanderson, Professor of Economics at Stony Brook University and the lead author, this study’s projections imply that as life expectancies increase people are generally healthier with better cognition at older ages and countries can adjust public policies appropriately as to population aging.
If you would like more detail on items above, please check out the following posts:
Certainly one of the best concepts I have learned in producing this blog is that the brain benefits from exercise. It is the first item on the infographic above – Stay Active. I have written a Page on it – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits.)
Regarding the “Don’t be Salty” entry, it is important to keep in mind that most of the damaging salt we consume comes in the form of processed foods. Pay attention to the salt/sodium content in the foods you consume.
Stress damages us in many ways. I have written about it numerous times. You can search S T R E S S in the tags for more. One of the best posts on it is: Super tools for handling stress that I wrote in 2011. Check it out.
Last, but not least, ‘Be happy.’ I have covered the benefits of happiness in lots of posts. I think my Page – Positive psychology – What’s it all about? will also prove valuable information.
With both Alzheimer’s and dementia in my family, I am interested in all research on the subject.
Tufts reported the following in its Health and Nutrition Letter.
Could a trimmer waistline in middle age help you avoid Alzheimer’s later in life? That’s the suggestion of a study, published in Molecular Psychiatry, from the National Institute on Aging. Researchers analyzed data on 1,394 participants in a long-running study of aging, followed for an average of 14 years, who regularly underwent cognitive testing. A total of 142 participants developed Alzheimer’s disease during the study.
After adjusting for other factors, each additional point of body-mass index (BMI) at age 50 was associated with an earlier onset of Alzheimer’s of 6.7 months. “Our findings clearly indicate that higher adiposity at midlife is associated with a long-lasting effect on accelerating the clinical course of Alzheimer’s disease,” Madhav Thambisetty, MD, PhD, and colleagues concluded.
The study was not designed to prove cause and effect, however, and it’s not clear whether the association between obesity and Alzheimer’s risk might begin even earlier. It’s also true that newly diagnosed Alzheimer’s patients tend to weigh less than normal, not more.
To read further on the subject, please check out my Page – Important facts about your brain – (and exercise benefits).
Really good information in this.
To read more on lining your head up straight, check out my Page – Positive psychology – What’s it all about?
Our Better Health
You probably know that exercise and diet are important when it comes to aging well. But there is something else you control that can help you along: a positive attitude.
Research shows more and more that your approach to life may be just as important in making your “golden years” your best years.
Aging: It’s in Your Mind
Growing older brings with it some natural changes (think those creaky knees). But folks who see good years ahead and who don’t accept stereotypes about aging — such as you’re less useful — may actually live longer.
And there’s science to back that up.
One study found that thinking positively about getting older can extend lifespan by 7.5 years. And that’s after accounting for things such as gender, wealth, and overall health. Some 660 women and men in Ohio joined this study, and they were monitored for more than 20 years.
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I am all for living a long and healthy life and this blog is filled with suggestions on achieving that. But, besides having a functional brain and body in our senior years, we also want to be happy about it. Harvard has studied a group of men and boys over the past 78 years in what is one of the longest studies of adult life ever done.
“The Harvard Study of Adult Development has tracked the lives of 724 men from the time they were teenagers into old age — 268 Harvard College sophomores, and 456 boys from Boston’s inner city.”
Here are five of the big lessons they learned about what contributes to a good life.
Lesson 1: Happy childhoods matter
Having warm relationships with parents in childhood predicts that you will have warmer and more secure relationships with those closest to you in adulthood. We found that warm childhoods reached across decades to predict more secure relationships with spouses at age 80. A close relationship with at least one sibling in childhood predicts that people are less likely to become depressed by age 50. And warmer childhood relationships predict better physical health in adulthood all the way into old age. Continue reading
As a senior citizen, I am aware of the aging process going on in both my body and my brain. I exercise to help preserve both. Here are some super suggestions from Harvard HEALTHbeat on bolstering the memory aspect of your brain.
Your daily habits and lifestyle — what you eat and drink, whether you exercise, how stressed you are, and more — affect your mental health every bit as much as your physical health. A growing body of research indicates that regular exercise and a healthful diet can help protect your memory from aging-related decline. Continue reading
Eat less; move more; live longer remains the mantra of this blog. Now, according to the American Heart Association, the sooner you start, the better.
People with no major heart disease risk factors in middle age live longer and stay healthy far longer than others, according to a 40-year study reported in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.
“Good cardiovascular health in middle age delays the onset of many types of disease so that people live longer and spend a much smaller proportion of their lives with chronic illness,” said Norrina Allen, Ph.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
In the first study to analyze the impact of cardiovascular health in middle age on the duration of illness later in life, researchers examined data from the Chicago Health Association study, which did initial health assessments in the late 1960s/early 1970s and has followed participants on an ongoing basis using Medicare health records. Researchers determined how many participants had favorable factors: non-smokers, free of diabetes and normal weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels; versus those with elevated risk factors or high risk factors. Continue reading
I have posted several times on the danger of a big waistline. Check out my Page – How dangerous is a big belly? for more details. Now comes a fresh new study from down under on it.
People with a normal Body Mass Index (BMI) who carry their weight around the middle are at the highest risk of death from any cause and cardiovascular causes compared to those who are obese according to BMI but carry their weight elsewhere, a new study co-led by University of Sydney researchers shows.
Published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the study shows that normal weight people who carry fat around the middle of their body are 22 per cent more likely to die from any cause and a 25 per cent higher risk for death from cardiovascular causes compared to those who are classified as normal weight without carrying fat centrally.
The University of Sydney’s Associate Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis from the Charles Perkins Centre and School of Public Health co-led the research and says the study shows that diagnosis of obesity cannot solely rely on a person’s BMI.