Harvard’s HEALTHbeat publication says it is wise for men in midlife to approach their situation like making good investments. One needs to acknowledge the factors he can control and those he can’t.
Age and Family History are two factors over which you have no control. As you age there is a certain deterioration that occurs. Shared genes explain some of your risks, but lifestyles, the food you eat and your physical activity play a major role.
“The factors you can control make a big difference in directing your health. Here are some of the most important things to consider as you look at the health investments you want to make going forward.
“• Whether you smoke. About one in four American men smokes cigarettes, pipes, or some other form of tobacco. If you are one of them, kicking the habit is the single most important thing you can do to improve your health.”
“• What you eat. Choosing and following a healthy diet is an excellent way to reduce your chances of getting a number of life-threatening illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes, and some of the most common cancers. • How much you move. Get active, live longer. Not only that, but live better. Study after study has linked greater amounts of physical activity to improved mood, better blood sugar control, reduced risk of heart disease, and other benefits.”
Like so many folks these days, I have an iPhone and rely on it heavily for communications with friends, weather info for biking, map info for navigating, etc. If you have a smart phone I’m sure you have your own myriad uses.
With summer upon us it is important to play it safe when we play outside. Too much heat can be risky for healthy 40 year olds as well as seniors. The National Institutes of Health has issued the following tips for hot weather fun.
Check the weather forecast. If it’s very hot or humid, exercise inside with a Go4Life DVD or walk in an air-conditioned building like a shopping mall.
Drink plenty of liquids. Water and fruit juices are good options. Avoid caffeine and alcohol. If your doctor has told you to limit liquids, ask what to do when it is very hot outside.
Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothes in natural fabrics.
Dress in layers so you can remove clothing as your body warms up from activity.
Get medical help right away if you think someone might have a heat-related illness. Watch for these signs: Continue reading →
The Caption in the journal said: Age-dependent changes to cardiovascular tissues. Both the heart and vasculature undergo numerous alterations during aging as a result of deregulation of molecular longevity pathways, leading to compromised function. Illustration credit: Cosmocyte/Ben Smith.
Is there a better example of successful aging than Betty White?
Anger, stress and worry become less common. People in their 70s and 80s report being less troubled by those negative emotions than younger age groups.
Laura Christensen Ph.D., psychologist at Stanford and director of its Center on Longevity, says that as people age, they worry less about the future. “As people get older, they’re more likely to stop and smell the roses.”
onHealth suggests that we try to adopt a more positive outlook on life. Focus on daily activities that you enjoy. Let go of negative feelings. Type positivepsychology into the search box at the right for about a dozen blog posts on positive psychology. Continue reading →
Everyone knows that Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal to cap soda servings at restaurants at 16 ounces was halted by the New York Supreme Court last week.
I have written numerous posts on the evils of soft drinks, both sugary and diet (chemical-laden). But, I think that people have to right to make up their own minds and if they want to drink these concoctions they should be able to despite the fact that the drinks are a major cause of the obesity problem plaguing this country.
So, clearly I have mixed feelings about it, I oppose the drinks but support the rights of individuals to drink them.
I was very disappointed to learn that other opposition to the ban resulted not from concern about individual rights, but from generous gifts by the soft drink industry, Coca-Cola.
The NAACP joined the opposition to the ban, despite the fact the the obesity rate for African-Americans in New York City is higher than the city average. The New York Times said that “minority neighborhoods would be among the key beneficiaries of a rule that would limit the sale of super-size, calorie-laden beverages.”
Coca-Cola donated $100,000 to the NAACP as recently as December. Ironically, it was for Project H.E.L.P., (Healthy Eating, Lifestyle Change and Physical Activity), a program dedicated to promoting active and healthy living.
The Hispanic Federation also lists Coke as a donor. In February 2012, its president, Lillian Rodriguez Lopez, left the nonprofit group to become director of Latin Affairs at Coke.
It seems really disappointing to see these minority groups taking gifts from the soft drink industry and then supporting the industry in a situation that is clearly harmful to their members.
According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest CSPI, the soda industry’s generosity includes groups representing doctors, dentists, dieticians, anti-hunger advocates and others.
Sad to see this money possibly standing in the way of the war on obesity.
What are we talking about here? Wikipedia says Nature-Deficit Disorder refers to a hypothesis by Richard Louv in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods that human beings, especially children, are spending less time outdoors resulting in a wide range of behavioral problems. This disorder is not recognized in any of the medical manuals for mental disorders.
I confess that on first blush this term sounded kind of tree-hugging and politically-correct to me. Don’t we have enough important things to concern us without worrying about being out in nature?
While this being nature deprived is usually applied to children, it doesn’t have to be. I am indebted to Kelly, The Spunky Caregiver, for introducing me to the concept in the first place.
Kelly mentioned it regarding care giving for seniors. She wrote, “Getting outside alleviates our stress and can literally change the mental state we are in. I have personally seen this in caring for seniors with moderate to advanced dementia. Having trees, gardens, horses and walking trails around, is like heaven after being inside. They begin to remember stories, smile more and connect. I have also seen it in rehab patients, how it inspires and elevates their optimism for recovery. For me personally, I need to get outside to feel alive in my body and the thought of being inside for days is painful. I love the sun and the trees and the air. Taking the seniors outside is a serious paid benefit!” Continue reading →
Regular readers know that I have written repeatedly about the importance of happiness in our lives. A couple of the posts include, Why Should I Be Happy?, What is Positive Psychology? You can click on the happiness or kindness tags at the right to read others.
A paper published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health on Psychological Variables that Influence Placebo Responses says that “There is also growing evidence that personality may affect the placebo response. The main personality traits for which there is evidence of an effect are optimism, pessimism, trait anxiety, and neuroticism. Dispositional optimism and pessimism are habitual styles of expecting good or bad outcomes in life and therefore can be regarded as a dispositional bias in expectation. Optimists demonstrate an attentional bias for positive information and, even when faced with negative information, will tend to reframe the information in positive ways. Optimism correlates negatively with trait anxiety and neuroticism and positively with reported use of positive coping strategies in general. Scheier and Carver [another study] suggest that the general positive expectations associated with optimists lead to persistence and striving toward goals in the face of adversity. Optimism may therefore influence the extent to which a patient, given a placebo treatment, persists in the treatment and interprets it positively.” Continue reading →
I have posted numerous times on the value of a good night’s sleep in our daily lives. Click on How Important is a Good Night’s Sleep to see seven of them. Now comes the University of California at Berkeley with a report that helps to explain the connection between poor sleep, memory loss and brain deterioration as we grow older. The discovery may open the door to boosting the quality of sleep in seniors to improve their memory.
“UC Berkeley neuroscientists have found that the slow brain waves generated during the deep, restorative sleep we typically experience in youth play a key role in transporting memories from the hippocampus – which provides short-term storage for memories – to the prefrontal cortex’s longer term “hard drive.”
“However, in older adults, memories may be getting stuck in the hippocampus due to the poor quality of deep ‘slow wave’ sleep, and are then overwritten by new memories, the findings suggest.
““What we have discovered is a dysfunctional pathway that helps explain the relationship between brain deterioration, sleep disruption and memory loss as we get older – and with that, a potentially new treatment avenue,” said sleep researcher Matthew Walker, an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at UC Berkeley and senior author of the study to be published this Sunday, Jan. 27, in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
“The findings shed new light on some of the forgetfulness common to the elderly that includes difficulty remembering people’s names. Continue reading →
Not long ago a study published in the journal Athersclerosis reported that the more egg yolks a people ate the thicker their artery walls became. That indicates a higher risk of heart disease. Also, the effect was nearly as bad as from smoking cigarettes. The Egg Nutrition Center and American Egg Board voiced other ideas.
The incredible edible egg
Researchers measured the buildup of carotid plaque in the arteries of 1,231 subjects. The men and women in the study were all patients at cardiovascular health clinics. For comparison’s sake, the team also measured the carotid plaque buildup of smokers in the study.
Plaque buildup increased according to age – after age 40 in a fairly steady fashion. But among the 20 percent of participants who reported eating the most egg yolks – three or more per week – carotid plaque increased “exponentially,” according to the study. The buildup equaled about two-thirds of that seen among the heaviest smokers in the group.
Arterial plaque buildup is a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke; as plaque accumulates on artery walls, it narrows the space through which blood can pass, making the heart’s job of pumping more difficult. Moreover, plaque buildups can break away from the arterial wall, forming clots that can do terrible, even fatal, damage if they reach the heart or brain.
For the record, here is the nutritional breakdown of a large (56 gram) egg from SELFNutritionData:
Total Fat 6 grams
Saturated Fat 2 grams
Cholesterol 237 mg
Sodium 78 mg
Protein 7 grams Continue reading →
I have just run across this amazing test that is utterly simple to take yet profound in its revelations. How much difficulty middle-aged and older adults have sitting down and rising up off the floor actually seems to give indications of the chances of long-term survival.
The more support a person needs to get down to the floor and up from it, the more likely that person has a lower chance of living a long life, according to a study published in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology.
=============== Ability to sit and rise from the floor is closely correlated with all-cause mortality risk
Interested in how you would do on the test? Here is a You Tube demonstration:
Each of the two basic movements was assessed and scored out of 5, with one point being subtracted from 5 for each support used (hand or knee, for example). Subjects were thus assessed by a composite score of 0 to 10,
The study, performed in Brazil by Dr. Claudio Gil Araujo and colleagues, included more than 2000 middle-aged and older men and women.
Over the study period 159 subjects died, a mortality rate of 7.9%. The majority of these deaths occurred in people with low test scores – indeed, only two of the deaths were in subjects who gained a composite score of 10. Analysis found that survival in each of the four categories differed with high statistical significance. These differences persisted when results were controlled for age, gender and body mass index (BMI), suggesting that the sitting-rising test score is a significant predictor of all-cause mortality; indeed, subjects in the lower score range had a 5-6 times higher risk of death than those in the reference group.
Commenting on the results, the investigators said that a high score in the sitting-rising test might “reflect the capacity to successfully perform a wide range of activities of daily living, such as bending over to pick up a newspaper or a pair of glasses from under a table.”
Offering an explanation for the close correlation between the test scores and survival, Dr Araújo said: “It is well known that aerobic fitness is strongly related to survival, but our study also shows that maintaining high levels of body flexibility, muscle strength, power-to-body weight ratio and co-ordination are not only good for performing daily activities but have a favorable influence on life expectancy.
“When compared to other approaches to functional testing,” added Dr Araújo, “the sitting-rising test does not require specific equipment and is safe, easy to apply in a short time period (less than 2 minutes), and reliably scored. In our clinical practice, the test has been shown over the past ten years to be useful and practical for application to a large spectrum of populations, ranging from pediatric to geriatric.”
Dr. Araújo emphasized the great potential of the sitting-rising test among primary care physicians looking for a quick appraisal of musculo-skeletal fitness in clinical or industrial settings. “If a middle-aged or older man or woman can sit and rise from the floor using just one hand – or even better without the help of a hand – they are not only in the higher quartile of musculo-skeletal fitness but their survival prognosis is probably better than that of those unable to do so.”
Earlier this week I wrote about Vitamin D affecting waist reduction in a study. It is complicated to work out all the factors that affect our Vitamin D level yet this is a very valuable vitamin in our arsenal of good health.
The greatest natural source of Vitamin D
Harvard Healthbeat says, “The process by which the body makes vitamin D is complex. It starts when the skin absorbs rays in the invisible ultraviolet B (UVB) part of the light spectrum. The liver and the kidneys also participate to make a form of the vitamin that the body can use.
“A number of factors influence a person’s vitamin D levels.
Here are six important ones. 1. Where you live. The farther away from the Equator you live, the less vitamin D–producing UVB light reaches the earth’s surface during the winter. Residents of Boston, for example, make little if any of the vitamin from November through February. Short days and clothing that covers legs and arms also limit UVB exposure.
2. Air quality. Carbon particles in the air from the burning of fossil fuels, wood, and other materials scatter and absorb UVB rays, diminishing vitamin D production. In contrast, ozone absorbs UVB radiation, so pollution-caused holes in the ozone layer could end up enhancing vitamin D levels. For those of us who life In the U.S. just being out in the sun is not sufficient to get adequate Vitamin D during the winter because of the sun’s acute angle to the earth.
This photo of Oleda was taken last year when she was 77.
So, I was particularly gratified when I got this wonderful confirmation from Oleda Baker, former supermodel and breathtaking example of good health and excellent aging. In an interview which will see the light of day tomorrow morning on the blog, she said she was in complete agreement with me, “I have gotten a flu shot every single year since I was 38 yrs old that is 40 years.”
I related to Oleda that when I was teaching journalism at Northwestern University, one of my students wrote a story on seniors getting flu shots. One lady said that she had been getting flu shots for 10 years and had not had the flu in that period nor had she even gotten a cold. I said that I started getting flu shots religiously after that. In fact, I have only contracted one cold in the 20 years that I have been getting vaccinated.
Oleda responded, “I think the shot helps us in more ways than just flu.”
Perhaps they cause our bodies to build antibodies that fight off germs generally. I don’t know. As far as I am concerned flu shots work. I wouldn’t dream of disagreeing with Oleda.
If you would like to learn more about Oleda’s suggestions for beauty, health and anti-aging check her website here.
Flu activity continues to increase across the United States. The nation is experiencing an early flu season, the earliest since 2003, with high levels of activity concentrated in the south central and southeastern regions at this time. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) urge you to get a flu vaccine now if you have not done so already this season. Vaccination is especially important for people who are at high risk from flu complications.
Back in October, I wrote about my trip to the doctor for a flu shot and tried to convince you to do likewise.
Now, Heidi Godman, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter reports that the U.S. new cases of flu have gone from a few hundred a week to more than a thousand.
The CDC reports that five children have died from it.
Catching the flu is not fun. Ms. Godman reports that flu is “a highly contagious and potentially deadly respiratory disease. Some years the outbreak is relatively mild, other years it is severe. Deaths range from 3,000 a year to nearly 50,000, and about 200,000 people end up in the hospital each year. Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, fatigue, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea.
Although your lifetime risk of coming down with it is around five percent, the mortality rates are approximately 50 percent.
Now comes news that Italian doctors have developed a simple breath analysis tool that has the potential for the screening and diagnosis of colorectal cancer.
Alexandra Sifferlin wrote in Time Magazine that in a small study of 80 participants, “researchers from the the University Aldo Moro of Bari in Italy found a profile of breath-based chemicals that are linked to colorectal cancer. The scientists collected exhaled breath from 37 patients with colorectal cancer and 41 healthy control participants, and evaluated them for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that could be red flags for cancer. According to the researchers, cancer tissues operate differently compared to non-cancerous cells and may release a distinct chemical signature.”
The good news for us regular folks is that this simple low cost technique could provide an alternative to colonoscopies that deter many people.
“The technique of breath sampling is very easy and non-invasive, although the method is still in the early phase of development,” said the study’s lead author Dr. Donato F. Altomare in a statement. “Our study’s findings provide further support for the value of breath testing as a screening tool,” Time reported.
The American Cancer Society’s Dr. Ted Gansler told CNN. “The main goals of current screening tests are not just to find any colorectal cancer, but rather to find early–curable–cancers and precancerous polyps that can be removed to prevent cancer from developing.” According to Gansler, about only half of Americans ages 50 and older are currently getting tested for colon cancer.”
Although these are early times, if these tests work out many more people may get diagnosed early. Colon cancer is a slow growing disease, so early diagnosis saves lives.
Several cities and states throughout the country have recently reported declines in their childhood obesity rates, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Declines occurred in locales where comprehensive action took place to address the problem. Nonetheless, obesity rates persist in various socionomic and geographic areas. Racial and ethnic disparities also persist.
The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 20% in 2008. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to 18% over the same period, according to The Centers for Disease Control.
The long term health risks are ominous. The New York Times reports that “Obese children are more likely to be obese as adults, creating a higher risk of heart disease and stroke. The American Cancer Society says that being overweight or obese is the culprit in one of seven cancer deaths. Diabetes in children is up by a fifth since 2000, according to federal data.”