Seniors & Health Newsbytes

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12 Things That Can Shorten Your Life
A few key behaviors and health conditions could predict your chances of health and longevity for the next 10 years. Find out what they are.

Want to look 10 years into the future, and see how your health is holding up? Thanks to researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, you now can. They developed a checklist, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which fairly accurately predicts a senior's chance of surviving another decade, providing a unique opportunity for patients and physicians to work together to lessen key health risk factors and improve seniors' quality of life, they say.

The UCSF analysis used a nationally representative cohort of U.S. adults over age 50. Point values were assigned to each factor in the mortality index (the higher the points, the worse the risk). A risk score was then calculated for each participant based on their self-reported health indicators. In the end, there was a dramatic difference: Participants with no risk factors had a 2.8 percent chance of dying over 10 years, while those with the most risks had a 96 percent chance of dying.

Although a single health risk factor isn't enough to predict longevity, researchers caution, a host of attributes taken together can say something powerful about your future health. See how your risk factors stack up.

No. 1 and 2: Age and Gender

Not surprisingly, researchers found that the older you are, the greater your 10-year mortality risk. (The oldest group in the study were people over 85.) Because women continue to live an average of seven years longer than men, being male added two points to participants' assessments, while being female added no points.

Stop the Aging Process ... or at Least Try

When you are younger everyone always tells you to wear a sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) on your face every day. This is just one of the wise tips females learn when growing up. Others include applying your makeup in upward motions so you don't pull on your skin and putting on under eye lotion with your ring finger (it applies less pressure.) People started telling me these things when I was in middle school in order to prevent wrinkles. And lets be honest, no one should be worried about wrinkles at age 12!

I actually really did begin following these rules when I was little and I think that they are good practices to have (especially the SPF.) But now that I am a little bit older, wrinkles are a closer than they were at age 12, so I am much more aware of all of anti-aging products around me.

I am going to be honest; I still do not know a ton about anti-wrinkle creams and have yet to use them.

Botox Helps Stroke Patients

Test Could Help Treat Hearing Loss

Anemia May Raise Elderly Death Risk

Treating the common condition could extend lives, researchers say.

Make Your Stairs Safer

Install handrails on both sides
Stair edges are marked with contrasting colors.
They have a non-slip surface.
Handrail height feels comfortable when used for support.
Handrails extend 12 inches beyond the top and bottom steps, and are round in shape.

Some Doctors Warn of Hype in Hip Surgery Ads

On websites and television, hospitals and surgeons are promoting what they call a dramatically better way to treat painful hips: "minimally invasive surgery" that allows patients to recover quickly and with less pain.

Regular Exercise Fights Pain in Elderly

Older people who exercise regularly experience fewer aches and pains than other people their age who are less active.

Stepping In: What to Do When Loved Ones Ignore Health Problems

It's hard to watch a loved one refuse to make necessary, maybe even lifesaving, behavior changes. Here are some tips for helping loved ones help themselves.

Living Better: Keeping Death at Bay

Overall, Americans are living longer, stronger, and healthier lives according to an in-depth look at nationwide causes of death. See what we're doing right and where we need to improve.

Is your short-term memory short-circuiting with age?

We have one possible explanation plus tips for keeping sharp. "What we found is that in normal aging, focusing on what's relevant is just not enough. You also need to filter out information that's irrelevant or distracting,"

America: Are We Prepared to Age Gracefully?

The number of frail and elderly is set to explode, according to the White House, and a long-term care crisis may be just around the corner. Find out what the expected shortage of care could mean for you.

Those 'Senior Moments'

Memory problems commonly associated with age and called "senior moments" might be related to reduced blood flow to the brain caused by high blood pressure, according to a report at the American Heart Association's 57th Annual High Blood Pressure Research Conference.
Source: American Heart Association,

How To Understand When Your Doctor Talks Statistics

While nearly all doctors are required to learn about statistics during their training, most patients are not, so here s your chance!

Tai Chi Chih Boosts Shingles Immunity In Older Adults

Fifteen weeks of tai chi chih practice may have helped a small group of older adults increase the levels of immune cells that help protect their body against the shingles virus, according to a new study.
Source: Center for the Advancement of Health

The Goods on Garlic

It has antiviral and antibacterial properties.

Tropical Oils Beat Fat

Blend used for cooking fights cholesterol, study finds.

Soy Much Goodness

Protein without the fat.

U.S. Panel on Fence About Supplements

Finds no evidence to recommend them to prevent heart disease, cancer.

Calcium Correctness

Time your intake wisely.

It's Spring, and the Allergies Are A'Bloom

Here's how to tell which is which.

Combo Drugs Best For Rheumatoid Arthritis

Combining a new drug with the standard initial treatment for rheumatoid arthritis seems to work better than using either medicine alone, research indicates.

Eating and Aging

Tips for overcoming eating difficulties.

Air Pollution May Damage Brain, Heart

Studies suggest it can cause Alzheimer's-like lesions, heart problems.

Let Anger go, Save the Headache

If you're angry about something, let it out and it might save you a headache.

Through Sickness and in Health

When one spouse cares for the other.

Some Are Missing Out on Depression Treatment

Lower rates of therapy, drugs for older men, blacks and Hispanics.

'Silent' Strokes Linked to Dementia

Danish study finds symptomless attacks double risk.

Anti-Arrhythmic Drugs Don't Do it All

These heart meds don't offer much protection against stroke, study finds.

NSAIDs May Ward Off Alzheimer's Disease

Study finds aspirin works almost as well as other anti-inflammatories.

HRT Minus Java May Keep Parkinson's at Bay

Study looks at effects of the combination on this brain disease in women.

For Many Seniors, Sleep is an Elusive Dream

But treatments can help those in search of a good night's rest

Pumpernickel Promotes Pump Health in Elderly

Study finds it's never too late to start increasing fiber.

People Keep Their Distinctive Patterns Of Cognitive Ability As They Age, Contrary To Prior Speculation

Never good with numbers? The bad news: As you age, you may still not be good with them. The good news: You ll still be good at what you re good at today.
Source: American Psychological Association,

Ceramics Offer New Promise In Hip Replacements

Dr. Joseph Brown's pain radiated from his back down his right leg to his foot, worsening to the point that it awakened him at night.

Gov. Kempthorne Focuses On Long-Term Care

Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne says that as leader of the National Governors Association he will emphasize long-term care -- a problem for state budgets, the country's aging population and his own parents.

Exercise Reduces The Decline In Pulmonary Function In Aging Men

In tests of male subjects over periods of up to 25 years, Finnish investigators found that higher levels of physical activity were associated with a slower rate of decline in pulmonary function with aging, along with lower mortality rates.
Source: American Thoracic Society,

New Theory On Aging

A new theory on aging seems to confirm what many of us already knew: grandmas and grandpas are the best.

Rx for High Cost of Prescription Drugs

New Internet program helps seniors find big savings.

Oldest American Dies at 113

Eating junk food during her life didn't affect the longevity of 113-year-old

Light Therapy May Boost Hormone Levels

But full impact of treatment is still unclear.

Through Sickness and in Health

When one spouse cares for the other.

Nerve Cell Receptor Linked to Bowel Disease

Duke researchers prevent colitis in rat experiments.

Vitamin Deficiency Screening for the Elderly

A new screening test may identify people at high risk for vitamin B-12 or folate deficiency.

CDC Looks To Prod Americans To Exercise

Try to take 10,000 steps a day, Dr. Julie Gerberding advised the congressmen, a mostly graying bunch with a bit of paunch who curiously fingered the beeper-sized step-counters she'd brought them.

Retinal Abnormalities And AMD Associated With Hypertension And Pulse Pressure

Retinal abnormalities in older people without diabetes are related to hypertension. Higher blood and pulse pressure are also associated with an increased incidence of macular abnormalities, including wet and dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD). These are the major findings of two studies appearing in the April issue of Ophthalmology, the clinical journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the Eye M.D. Association.
Source: American Academy of Ophthalmology,,IHC|~st,333|~r,EMIHC272|~b,*|&d=dmtICNNews

The Science of Gray Hair

Whether dyed, rinsed or allowed to grow naturally, the arrival of gray hair can be a signature life event. Find out why it happens.

Memory Loss Not Normal Part of Aging

In the past, memory loss and confusion were considered a normal part of aging. This information from the National Institute on Aging explains why this stereotype is no longer true.

Deterring Dementia: Prevention Is The Focus In War On Memory Disease

With no cure in sight, scientists increasingly are focusing on measures that might prevent Alzheimer's and other dementias.


Check out our Seniors' area to learn about aging and how it affects your mind and body.

Age Discrimination

Age discrimination continues to damage our society, reducing both the incomes and the self-confidence of millions of Americans.

Older Adults And Depression

Depression is not a normal part of aging, but unfortunately, because many older adults and their caregivers believe it is, depression in the elderly often goes overlooked and untreated.

Strong Quadriceps May Not Help Knee Arthritis

Contrary to many experts' opinion that people with knee osteoarthritis should strengthen upper leg muscles, a new study found that upper leg strength may not protect against knee osteoarthritis and in fact may worsen arthritis in people with certain knee conditions.
Source: American College of Physicians,,IHC|~st,333|~r,EMIHC255|~b,*|&d=dmtICNNews

Sudden Death Not Surprising In Many Women

Most women who die from an abrupt loss of heart function (called sudden cardiac death) have no prior history of heart disease. However, 94 percent of these women have at least one cardiac risk factor such as smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or obesity, according to a report.
Source: American Heart Association,,IHC|~st,333|~r,EMIHC255|~b,*|&d=dmtICNNews

Five Studies Look At Risks Of Differing Particulate Matter, Including Exposures On 9/11

In the hours and days following the September 11 World Trade Center disaster, rescue and clean-up workers continually breathed in air dense with particulate matter (PM) from the explosion and resulting fires. Little monitoring data are available for the first few days when exposures were greatest. While October rains helped mitigate the amount of airborne PM, precise information on PM composition and exposure levels for the period September 11-13 is lacking.
Source: Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology,,IHC|~st,333|~r,EMIHC255|~b,*|&d=dmtICNNews

Older Americans With Coexisting Respiratory Conditions Particularly Susceptible To Harmful Effects Of Air Pollution

Older individuals who died from such non-respiratory causes as cardiac disease were particularly susceptible to the adverse effects of air pollution if they also had coexisting respiratory conditions, according to study results in the second issue for April 2003 of the American Thoracic Society's peer-reviewed American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
Source: American Thoracic Society,,IHC|~st,333|~r,EMIHC255|~b,*|&d=dmtICNNews

Depression and Drug Reactions in Elderly

Depression appears to play a part in adverse drug reactions among the elderly.

Screening the Elderly for Depression

Screening elderly patients in an outpatient eye clinic may be an effective way to monitor them for dementia, depression and functional impairment.

Seniors' Sleep Habits

Older people don't need less sleep

Institutional Abuse

Speak out about mistreatment.

Tailor Things for the Elderly

Nursing home activities need to offer individual flexibility, expert says.

Morning Surge In Blood Pressure Linked To Strokes In Elderly

In older people with high blood pressure, a sharp increase in blood pressure in the morning increases the risk of stroke and is linked to brain lesions known as "silent" strokes, according to a study.
Source: American Heart Association,

To Keep Your Teeth, Brush And See The Dentist

People who take care of their teeth are much less likely to lose them.

Vitamin D Helps Seniors Avoid Fractures

Vitamin D supplements reduce fractures in men and women aged over 65 living in the general community, finds a study in this week's BMJ. Read the story and comments from a Harvard physician.
Source: British Medical Journal,

HHS To Launch Medicare Demonstrations To Improve Health Care Through Capitated Disease Management Demonstrations

HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson announced that HHS is seeking proposals to improve the quality of care provided to certain Medicare beneficiaries.

New Bill Could Help Modernize Medicare

Chicago spinal surgeon Stephen Ondra tries to keep his elderly patients mobile, but he says outdated Medicare rules are preventing him from getting new technology for them.

Oldest American Man, 113, Dies In Florida

The oldest living American man died Monday from heart failure. He was 113.

A Population-Based Analysis Of Mortality Due To Pneumococcal Disease In California

Pneumococcal disease is an important cause of death from pneumococcal pneumonia. A vaccine is available that can protect against most of the common causes of death from this illness. Yet, according to the authors of this study, few population-based studies exist on the actual magnitude of the problem. Consequently, these investigators decided to evaluate the mortality from this illness, along with its California demographic correlates.
Source: American College of Preventive Medicine,

Many Elderly Undiagnosed For Depression

Old-age symptoms can mask signs of depression, making it difficult to diagnose and treat about 2 million older adults nationwide who suffer from depression, doctors say.

A Little Exercise Can Go a Long Way

As long as you feel the strain, your heart gains, new research says.

A Battle for the Ages

Anti-aging researchers, anti-aging docs clash over contributions.

Is It Hypothermia? Look For The "Umbles" -- Stumbles, Mumbles, Fumbles, And Grumbles

Older people who lower the thermostat to cut heating bills raise their risk of hypothermia, a potentially fatal condition in which the body's temperature drops for a prolonged period. Hypothermia is a particular problem for older people who lack proper nutrition, take certain medications, drink alcohol or who have conditions such as arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, stroke, and Parkinson's disease.

Scientists Study Why The Elderly Fall

The elderly man stepped onto an elevated track and began walking, sensors measuring his gait, muscle use and the force of each step. Suddenly he slipped -- and cameras filmed his limbs flailing as he fought to stay upright.

Carbon Monoxide May Aid Arteries

Tests on mice and rats indicate that the potentially deadly gas carbon monoxide -- inhaled at very low concentrations -- may help arteries damaged in angioplasty and transplants.

The Nonphysician Will See You Now

More Americans seek health care from multiple sources.

Winter Full of Risks for Seniors

Bad weather, flu season combine to make daily life dangerous for the elderly.

Long-Term Pill, Short-Term Memory

The pitfalls of once-daily medications.

Hip Protectors Prevent Fractures in Elderly

Convincing them to wear them is another matter, though.

Aging Boomers' Medical Costs May Be Less Than Thought

Death in old age doesn't include expensive procedures, study finds.

Flu's Toll Higher Than Thought

Study finds huge increase in deaths, especially in elderly.

Tainted Polio Vaccine Not Linked to Rare Cancer Increase

Cancer increases seen in age group that was least likely exposed to vaccine.

Doctors Say Trendy Supplements Not Necessary If One Eats A Balanced Diet

In the war against aging, millions of older adults are looking to pharmacy and grocery store shelves to build up their defenses.

Lilly Offers Prescription Card

Low-income seniors with no drug insurance will be able to get a month's supply of prescriptions like the depression-treating Prozac and the osteoporosis-fighting Evista for each.

Study On Suicide Reveals Faith, Social Ties As 'Protective' For Older African Americans

The strong religious faith and social support of older African Americans may be key factors in why they die by suicide far less often than whites, researchers report in the July 1 American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, in an issue devoted to understanding the causes of suicide among seniors.

Drugs Restoring Eyesight In Seniors

To doctors' amazement, experimental new medicines are rescuing people from the brink of blindness so they can read and drive and sometimes even regain perfect vision.

Aneurysm Screening Saves Lives

Ultrasound detects potential time bomb in men over 65.

CDC: Not Enough Seniors Getting Flu Shot

Only two-thirds immunized against it, and fewer for pneumonia

Life-Saving Properties Of Beta Blockers Extend To More Patients

Beta blocker drugs have now been shown to lengthen the lives of people at risk of sudden death due to irregular heart beats, according to a study published in the rapid access issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.
Source: American Heart Association,

Drugmakers Restore Discounts to US Seniors

Two large pharmaceutical manufacturers said they would be restoring the original level of discounts provided through a drug card program for seniors and sending refunds to members who bought medications after those discounts were reduced. GlaxoSmithKline and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. decided to reinstate the larger discounts in light of the federal government's finding that the discounted prices offer to members of the "Together Rx" program won't trigger a Medicaid rule that could cost them big bucks.

Caregiving: A Man's Job

You'd never know it from the typical media report, but almost half of all people who care for an elderly, disabled, or chronically ill family member or friend are men. These men face a unique set of problems. You'll want to read this to get the full picture -- and then share it with a man you know who's caring for others.

Studies Show Elderly Can Tolerate Strong Cancer Drugs

Many elderly patients can tolerate powerful cancer drugs better than doctors think, according to new research.

Ouch! The Receptors Mediating Acidic Pain Sensation

When we feel pain in response to harmful stimuli it is the result of messages sent from pain sensors in the periphery of the body to the brain. These pain sensors - or nociceptors - often lie beneath the skin and detect and signal the presence of tissue-damaging stimuli or the existence of tissue damage. One particular nociceptor, vanilloid receptor-1 (VR1), relays sensory messages to the brain in response to thermal and painful chemical stimuli and is generally regarded as the major pain sensor.
Source: Journal of Clinical Investigation,

Two Drug Companies Scale Back Discounts

Two pharmaceutical companies have cut back on discounts offered to the uninsured elderly because they fear the government will force them to offer similar prices to Medicaid, the federal insurance program for the poor.

Hearing Study Reveals Surprises

Naturally, the last thing older folks in Beaver Dam want to hear is that they are going deaf. So 3,753 of them have agreed to regular testing and probing to help people everywhere learn some simple and unexpected things that may ward it off. Gradual hearing impairment, long shrugged off as just another inescapable indignity of aging, is at last getting some serious study, and the results from Beaver Dam suggest something can be done about it after all. Like having a drink, perhaps, or even just going for a walk.

Cholesterol Fighting Drugs May Also Have Protective Effects Against Multiple Sclerosis

A group of cholesterol-lowering drugs may also effectively interfere with the progression of multiple sclerosis (MS). These drugs, known as statins, greatly reduce hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and heart disease, mainly by their cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein-lowering properties. A study published in the October 8 issue of Neurology, the journal of the American Academy of Neurology, indicates that statins may also have therapeutic potential for a variety of immunity related disorders such as MS, rheumatoid arthritis, type I diabetes and graft-rejection in organ transplantation.
Source: American Academy of Neurology,

Polishing The Crystal Ball: Risk Prediction Methods Need Update

Calculating the risk that a heart attack patient will die or have another heart attack is physicians' attempt at peering into a crystal ball, but their view is clouded.
Source: American Heart Association,


Nursing Homes Kill Thousands

A review of government documents and court records indicates hundreds of elderly patients in nursing homes are dying from neglect, according to a newspaper report.

Nutrition And Exercise Boost Effectiveness Of Flu Shot In Older People

Current influenza vaccines are 50 to 60 percent effective in preventing illness in older people. Two recent studies suggest that the flu vaccine might be even more effective in older adults when supplemented with calories, vitamins, minerals, and exercise.
Source: Gerontological Society of America,

Kidney Disease Linked To Lower Heart Attack Survival

A study of Medicare and other government records of 130,099 elderly heart attack patients found that those with kidney disease were at much higher risk for death than other elderly heart attack patients during the month following hospitalization.
Source: American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine,

Healthy Living: Get Moving! Add Daily Exercise To Fitness Mix, Experts Say

An estimated 25 percent of Americans don't exercise at all, and another 60 percent don't do enough to make a difference to their health, federal reports show. Getting people to move -- anyhow, anywhere -- is emphasized by health officials who've spent more than two frustrating decades sounding alarms about the country's burgeoning waistlines.

MRI Can Predict Risk Of Heart Attacks

For the first time, researchers have shown that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can predict the risk of heart attacks or cardiac deaths in coronary heart disease patients, according to a report in the rapid access issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.
Source: American Heart Association,

Forgetfulness Is No Laughing Matter

Find yourself joking about losing your keys or forgetting where you parked the car? Those little slips may be no laughing matter. A new study suggests that if you think you're losing your memory, you probably will.

Researchers found people over 50 who are aware that they're becoming more forgetful and absent-minded with age were more likely to show a decline in brain function years later.

"We found that several subjective measures, including perceived change in memory ability and frequency of using memory aids -- such as lists and reminders -- predicted a decline in brain function two years later," says researcher Gary Small, MD, director of the Center on Aging at the University of California, Los Angeles, in a news release.

The study was to be presented at the First Annual Dementia Congress in Chicago this weekend.

Researchers studied 39 adults over the age of 50 who had mild age-related memory complaints and tested them on memory performance. They also asked them how well they thought their memory worked. Each of the participants had a brain scan with positron emission tomography (PET) to measure brain activity at the start of the study and two years later.

The study found people who were aware of their memory loss had a significantly greater decline in activity in one of the key memory centers of the brain (the hippocampus) compared to those who had only minimal memory complaints. Previous research has suggested that decreased brain function in this region can predict future memory decline; it also confirms a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease.

Small says self-awareness of memory decline predicted the level of brain activity decline in all patients, regardless of their genetic risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

"The findings suggest that self-awareness of memory ability may be an important factor to consider in assessing mild objective memory losses," says Small.

Researchers say learning more about these mild memory lapses may provide clues about how Alzheimer's develops in its early stages and help identify patients for early treatment to prevent further brain damage.

Is Male Menopause A Myth?

Juan Ponce de Leon never found the mythical Fountain of Youth, but he must have found something in the New World. He died in 1521 at age 61 - 20 years longer than the average life span in those days - and then only after an Indian arrow found him.

Dilemma On Prostate Cancer Treatment Splits Experts

You're a man, 65 years old, and you've been having trouble urinating. Your doctor tells you that you have a cancer in your prostate that is making the gland press on the tube that carries urine. The good news is that the cancer seems confined to your prostate; there is no evidence that it has spread.

Health Benefits Eroding For Workers

Future retirees should expect to cover substantially more, if not all of the costs of their health care not covered by Medicare as employers increasingly reduce retirement medical benefits.

Operating On A Beating Heart Shows Benefit In Elderly

Bypass surgery on a beating heart may be the best option for patients over age 80, leading to fewer strokes and higher 30-day survival rates, according to a study in the special surgery issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.
Source: American Heart Association,

Flu Vaccine a Must for the Elderly

Says universal program would drastically cut deaths, hospitalizations

Exercise Can Prevent Falls In Older People

A weekly exercise programme focusing on balance can prevent falls among older people living at home, finds a study in the British Medical Journal.

Senator: Drug Companies Oppose Lower Prices

Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., accused pharmaceutical companies and their political allies of trying to defeat legislation that would give older Americans a Medicare prescription drug benefit.

Geriatric Day Care Great For Patients, But What About Caregivers?

A German study has found that geriatric day care has positive effects on patients, with an improved feeling of well-being and stabilization of dementia symptoms. However, the study found that providing day care for elderly adults has little or no effect on their caregivers.
Source: The Gerontological Society of America,

Nutrition Status Affects Cognitive Impairment In The Elderly

Old age is often associated with cognitive impairment that can range in severity from mild memory loss to severely debilitating conditions such as Alzheimer disease. By current estimates, more than one million of the elderly in Europe and about 750,000 elderly in the United States and Canada become cognitively impaired each year, and often require expensive long-term care.
Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,

Macular Degeneration Difficult; Vitamins Offer Some Hope

Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD is a disease that comes with advanced age, and about 165,000 people are diagnosed with it each year.

Dry Mouth Affects Eating Habits And Teeth

Older people who have dry mouth develop other oral-health problems and don't eat as well, according to two recent studies from the University of Iowa.

Males 65 And Older At Higher Risk For Bacterial Pneumonia

In a study of all Medicare recipients aged 65 and older who were hospitalized for bacterial pneumonia (community-acquired pneumonia) during 1997, researchers found that men had a higher incidence of the disease, their cases tended to be more complex, and their chances of death from the disease were higher than for women.
Source: American Thoracic Society,

HHS Report Promotes Benefits Of Physical Activity For Older Americans

HHS released a new report finding that frail health often associated with aging is in large part due to physical inactivity, but that it's never too late to benefit from becoming physically active. The report also provides strategies that individuals, clinicians and communities can follow to foster greater activity among older Americans.

Cost of elders' drugs rising sharply

The prices of the 50 most prescribed drugs for older Americans rose, on average, at almost triple the overall rate of inflation last year, a study says.

The report used data from Pennsylvania's state-run prescription drug program for the elderly, those 65 and older, to develop the list of the 50 top-selling drugs. Price histories were obtained from a database published by Medi-Span/Facts and Comparisons.

The study found that 10 of the 50 most-prescribed drugs for seniors are generics. The average annual price for those drugs was $375. Nine of those drugs did not increase in price at all.

The other 40 most prescribed drugs are brand-name medications with an average annual price of $1,106. Only three of the brand-name drugs did not increase in price last year.

Epilepsy Mistreated In The Elderly

Subtle symptoms can be a classic sign of epilepsy in the elderly, confusing because it's not the stereotypical convulsive seizure.

High Protein Diet Along With Calcium And Vitamin D Increases Bone Mineral Density

Previous studies have suggested different effects of high or low protein diets on urinary loss of calcium and bone health. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Dawson-Hughes and Harris explored the associations between dietary protein intake and change in bone mineral density (BMD) and fracture risk in a group of elderly subjects.
Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,

114-Year-Old Japanese Woman With Taste For Sake Becomes Oldest Living Human

Slugging back shots of stiff Japanese sake apparently never hurt 114-year-old Kamato Hongo any - she is now the world's oldest living person, according to Guinness World Records.

Mixed Review For Geriatric Treatment

Frail, elderly patients do better and feel better with specialized geriatric care than they do with regular treatment, but they do not live any longer, according to the biggest such study yet.

Chemotherapy Trial Proves The Worth Of Including Elderly Patients In Clinical Trials

Doctors should be encouraged to include many more elderly people in clinical trials than they do at present, Dr. Olavo Feher told the 3rd European Breast Cancer Conference in Barcelona today.
Source: Federation of European Cancer Societies,

The Pope's Message To Doctors

Pope John Paul II told a group of doctors that resorting to extreme measures to try to keep alive the terminally ill at all costs does not respect the patient. Read the story and comments from a Harvard physician.

Past Socio-Economic Factors Influence Present Quality Of Life For The Old

The odds of poor quality of life in old age increase by 50 - 70 per cent for people who live in rented housing compared to those who own their home, says new, independent research from the Economic & Social Research Council's 'Growing Older' Programme. This finding is backed up by evidence that social and economic status in middle age as well as in old age continues to be a factor in the quality of life experienced by over 75 year olds. The researchers say this evidence is sufficient 'to warrant concern' over the extent of inequality.
Source: Economic and Social Research Council,

Improper Medicare Payments Rate Declines Again In 2001

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today reported that the rate of improper Medicare payments continued to decline last year. The improper payment rate, which estimates the portion of Medicare fee-for-service payments that do not comply with Medicare laws and regulations, was 6.3 percent in fiscal year 2001, compared with 6.8 percent in fiscal year 2000.

Medicare To Assist Chronically Ill

Medicare beneficiaries who are chronically ill with diseases like coronary heart disease and diabetes will soon be able to take part in a project that gives them some prescription drug coverage and coordinates their care.

Obesity Threatens Americans Over 50

Americans over 50 are living longer, smoking less and developing fewer disabilities than their predecessors, but increasing obesity could cancel the health gains, an AARP report says.

HHS Launches Effort To Support Ombudsmen's Efforts To Use Nursing Home Quality Data To Assist Families

HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson announced a new initiative to tap the expertise of volunteer ombudsmen to help consumers use new comparative quality information about nursing homes and to further promote quality care in nursing homes.

Supportive Spouse, Family, Friends Contribute To 'Successful Aging'

Friends, family and positive experiences accumulate over a lifetime to help counteract the normal wear and tear of life, according to a new study in the May/June issue of Psychosomatic Medicine.
Source: Center for the Advancement of Health,

More Exercise, Less Smoking May Extend, Enhance Life Even At Advanced Age

Adults over the age of 72 who exercise more and smoke less than their counterparts are most likely to enjoy long, healthy and happy lives, new research reveals.
Source: Center for the Advancement of Health,

State-Specific Mortality From Stroke And Distribution Of Place Of Death

In the United States, stroke is the third leading cause of death and one of the major causes of serious, long-term disability among adults. There are over 167,000 stroke deaths each year.

Baby Boomers Care For Parents At A Distance

As more baby boomers move into the role of caregivers for their parents, specialists on aging predict that long-distance care for elders will replace child care as the single most important family issue for that generation. An estimated 7 million to 10 million adult children are caring for their parents from a long distance, according to the National Council on the Aging.

Exercise Said Best For Blood Pressure

Fifty-four studies' combined data put the weight of evidence behind the benefit of aerobic exercise to control blood pressure.

Walking Aids Older People's Arterial Elasticity, Helping Heart

With advancing age, large arteries like the aorta and carotid lose their elasticity, making it harder for them to expand and relax with each heart beat. Increase in the stiffness of these arteries can contribute to high blood pressure and enlarging of the heart, both risk factors for heart disease. Impaired elasticity in the carotid artery also can be a factor in postural hypotension, when blood pressure drops precipitously as a person changes body position.
Source: Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology,

High Protein Diets Cause Dehydration, Even In Trained Athletes

A diet high in protein silently caused dehydration in endurance athletes, individuals whose training gave them a greater capacity to adapt to dehydration than the average person.
Source: Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology,

A Popular Japanese Plum, Now Available In The US, May Help Prevent The Onset Of Cardiac Disease

Americans believe that 'an apple a day keeps the doctor away.' In Japan, a similar saying holds true for the umeboshi, the Japanese plum. Recently, umeboshi plums started to become widely available in specialty stores throughout the United States. Could the Japanese plum replace the benefits of the all-American apple someday? Perhaps.
Source: American Physiological Society,

Nutrition Status Affects Cognitive Impairment In The Elderly

Old age is often associated with cognitive impairment that can range in severity from mild memory loss to severely debilitating conditions such as Alzheimer disease. By current estimates, more than one million of the elderly in Europe and about 750,000 elderly in the United States and Canada become cognitively impaired each year, and often require expensive long-term care.
Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Gene Scientists Find Clues To Why We Age

Gray hair, brittle bones, infertility and ultimately death apparently result from the fact that our genes are constantly being injured and cannot repair themselves fast enough, Dutch scientists say.

For The Elderly, Dry Mouth Affects Eating Habits And Teeth

Older people who have dry mouth develop other oral-health problems and don't eat as well, according to two recent studies from the University of Iowa.

Among Childless Elderly, Unmarried Men are more at Risk of Loneliness and Depression than Unmarried Women

In one study, the lack of biological children per se did not significantly increase the incidence of loneliness and depression at advanced ages. Marital status, rather than parental status, is a more salient factor influencing loneliness and depression in old age.

Compared to women, men, on the whole, have much smaller social support networks outside of the immediate family, a circumstance that may be worsened by childlessness combined with being unmarried. However, stepparents' psychological well-being is similar to that of biological parents. This suggests that biological ties between parents and children may be less important than family ties.

Thresearch group consisted of married, divorced, widowed and never married persons who furnished complete demographic and health information. Among the elderly, higher levels of education, better physical health and more economic resources help considerably to reduce the odds of loneliness and depression.
Source: The Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences.

Who Needs Long-Term Care Insurance?

As America's population ages, more people are taking advantage of long-term care insurance, which covers part of the cost of long-term care. Although many people don't investigate long-term care insurance until later in life, the best time to purchase a policy is actually during middle age, because the cost of LTC insurance increases with age.

Unfortunately, it's difficult to decide if you need long-term care insurance and even harder to decide which policy is the right one. If you're looking into long-term care insurance, there are three major areas to consider.

1) Does LTC insurance make sense for my financial situation? LTC insurance works best for people who have saved a good deal of money and don't want their financial stability threatened by nursing home costs. It's also a good option for those concerned about leaving money to a remaining spouse or children.

2) Can you afford this type of insurance? LTC insurance generally isn't a good option for people with modest incomes or limited assets. If your assets will be spent down after nine to 12 months (at $2,000-$3,000 per month) in a nursing home, then LTC insurance probably isn't the right choice.

3) Can you meet the eligibility requirements? Most individuals between 50-79 years old are eligible for LTC insurance, but some policies have restrictions on pre-existing conditions, including age or previous medical ailments.

If you or a loved one decides to purchase long-term care insurance, it's worth investigating multiple policies and state regulations. Find an expert in financial or insurance matters to advise you. Such assistance can be found through the local Area Agency on Aging.

Types of Policies

There are many different types of LTC policies, including:

Each of these types of policies has three basic options:

Some policies include home health care coverage. While this allows more choices for receiving care, it also increases monthly premiums.

When deciding about LTC insurance, it's important to gather as much information as you can. Make a list of questions. Visit a licensed insurance or financial professional. Be sure to have your questions answered by a professional who isn't promoting the policy before purchasing LTC insurance.
Source: ©2001 FamilyCare America, Inc.,

10 Managed Care Tips for Caregivers

If you provide care for an elderly, ill, or disabled loved one, you've probably had to deal with his or her insurance company. Filling out the paperwork can be a time consuming and confusing process-especially if the company denies a claim. Luckily, help is available in many states through the office of the managed care ombudsman. These consumer advocates can help you understand your rights under different managed care plans and guide you through the appeals process.

The following tips were provided by The Office of The Managed Care Ombudsman, the Bureau of Insurance, Commonwealth of Virginia. Check with the appropriate office in your loved one's state for information regarding specific regulations.

1) It's worth the time and effort to read and understand the documents provided by your loved one's insurance company. This includes evidence of coverage, as well as other documents such as member handbooks, provider directories, newsletters, and other material.

2) Understand as much as you can about the plan before your loved one uses it. It's particularly important to know the primary care provider, the plan's policy regarding referrals to specialists, co-payment requirements, and access to emergency care. Be prepared. The plan will probably not cover all of your loved one's medical expenses, and he or she may have to pay part of the cost.

3) Ask questions about anything that isn't clear.

4) If you need assistance, contact the plan's representatives, your loved one's insurance agent, his or her employer, or the office of the managed care ombudsman.

5) If a problem arises, you should first contact your loved one's managed care plan. The evidence of coverage contains a telephone number and mailing address. Be sure to record the day you call, the name of the person you speak with, the title of the person you speak with, and a summary of the conversation.

6) If your loved one or his or her physician has difficulty obtaining approval for medical care-or experiences difficulty with a claim-know what your loved one's rights are according his or her particular plan.

7) Follow the instructions provided by the plan to appeal any decision. Familiarize yourself with the levels of appeals and grievance procedures that are available through the plan's internal process.

8) Carefully document-in writing-the facts that support your case. Keep your letters business-like and clearly state why you believe you are correct. Include copies of documents from your loved one's physician that support the appeal.

9) Follow the time lines and meet the deadlines set up by the plan. Be sure to keep a copy of any letters you send.

10) At any point in the process, feel free to contact your local office of the managed care ombudsman for assistance.
Source: ©2001 FamilyCare America, Inc.,

Alzheimer's Early Treatment can Make a Difference

Most people believe that after a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer's, there is nothing to do but wait for the inevitable loss of mental function. But new drugs offer relief for many symptoms of Alzheimer's, and might even delay some types of mental decline.

Many people may be deficient in vitamin B-12

A deficiency of vitamin B-12 is often thought to be a problem that only occurs in the elderly. But the vitamin deficiency--which can cause anemia, dementia and severe nerve damage--may be more common than once believed, researchers suggest.

Shingles vaccine trial under way

A clinical trial is under way for a vaccine against shingles, a painful and often debilitating condition involving the nerves and skin caused by the reactivation of the virus that causes chickenpox, varicella zoster.

Changing diet can help autoimmune disease

Getting rid of bread, cutting down on fats and adding fish oil to your diet could help control diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or multiple sclerosis, where the body's immune system fights its own tissues researchers suggest.

Tai chi for arthritis

Forty-three million Americans have arthritis. The ancient Chinese tradition of tai chi is an exercise that is offering arthritis sufferers a safe alternative for relieving pain and increasing mobility.

Effective new drugs for rheumatoid arthritis?

"The intravenous injection takes two hours and the cost is unbelievable but the relief is worth it. Thank goodness Medicare covers 80 percent, but it is still pricey."

Don't scoff at gin-soaked raisins?

"I read with much interest the letter about the doctor who disapproves of the raisin remedy for arthritis. I've been on this remedy for more than eight years, and it's really helped me -- and kept me off strong medication!"

Home remedies work for old knee injury?

"After reading your book on herbs and home remedies, I've been using Boswellia, turmeric and glucosamine -- and the serious pain in my knee is now under control. Would it help even more to add the gin-soaked raisin remedy?"

Dementia May Change Musical Tastes

Dementia--an illness that causes the loss of memory and reasoning--may in some cases bring with it gains, such as a new appreciation of pop music, Italian researchers suggest.

Keeping yourself safe from drug dangers

Drugs are disappearing from pharmacy shelves and the FDA Commissioner predicts that more drugs will be recalled. Why? For one thing, breakthroughs that used to be marketed in Europe first are now often introduced in the U.S., which means the American public may be the first in the world exposed to complications.

Diabetes and High Blood Pressure Tied to Mental Decline

People with diabetes and high blood pressure are more likely to suffer a decline in mental ability as they age, a study says. Researchers said the findings indicate that getting diabetes and hypertension under control before age 60 might reduce mental impairment later in life.

Medicare HMOs drop nearly one million members

Nearly 120 health maintenance organizations (HMOs) pulled out of the Medicare program Monday, officially dropping 934,000 older and disabled Americans who were receiving healthcare services from the health plans just last week.

Seniors donate time, brains to Alzheimer's research

Needed: a few good brains. Or Brains, to be exact -- Biologically Resilient Adults in Neurological Studies. Volunteers in the University of Kentucky's BRAIN program could help researcher!s gain much-needed insight into the cause and treatment of Alzheimer's disease.

Seniors' health costs projected to skyrocket

The amount of money seniors and other Medicare beneficiaries pay out-of-pocket for health care is expected to rise drastically over the next 25 years, according to a report released Tuesday by the Urban Institute think tank.

Homelike design make extended care facilities more livable

A Southwestern decorating theme would seem natural for a health care complex in Sun City, Ariz. But one-on-one interviews with the people who were going to live there showed that they had other ideas.

Home care improves satisfaction and quality of life

Although it costs more than traditional healthcare, home care improves the satisfaction and quality of life for both patients and their caregivers, researchers report.

Exercise may strengthen immunity in older folks

Regular exercise may help elderly people fight off infection by boosting their immune systems, new research suggests. The findings add to evidence showing that regular activity strengthens immunity as well as muscles. But the news is not as good regarding vitamin-enriched foods.

Home remedies work for old knee injury?

"After reading your book on herbs and home remedies, I've been using Boswellia, turmeric and glucosamine -- and the serious pain in my knee is now under control. Would it help even more to add the gin-soaked raisin remedy?"

What exactly is macular degeneration?

Macular degeneration is a very complex condition that we are only now beginning to understand well. It is the most common cause of severe vision loss for people over age 50 in the United States and is tremendously debilitating.

What is meant by age-related macular degeneration?

Although some variants of macular degeneration can occur earlier in life, this in general is a disease of people in their 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. That’s when people start to lose vision from this disease.

Seniors' exit from HMOs linked to drug benefits

Seniors who use up their prescription drug benefits are far more likely to drop their HMO coverage, according to research by Express Scripts Inc., one of the nation's largest pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs).

Study shows Alzheimer's drug is safe, effective

A new treatment for Alzheimer's disease, called galantamine, appears to slow the progression of the neuro-degenerative condition, according to researchers. Previous reports have suggested that this drug! improves intellectual ability and delays the progression of the debilitating mental illness.

Household Hazards Not Main Cause of Elderly Falls

Contrary to popular belief, hazards like slippery bathtubs or showers are not the primary cause of falls by elderly individuals, new study findings show. The more likely explanation may be related to "intrinsic (specific to the individual) risk factors including muscle weakness, poor balance, improper footwear, poor vision, and several different medications".

In Old Age Childless Adults Just as Content as Parents

Later in life, people who wanted to have children but could not are just as content with their lives as their counterparts who are parents, results of a study suggest.

Living Healthy to 120 Years Not a Pipe Dream

Reaching an age of 120 years--while remaining healthy--will become a common experience in coming years, according to the president of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine.

Researchers Seek Vaccine to Prevent Alzheimer's

Three new studies in mice are giving weight to the idea that an Alzheimer's vaccine may work in humans. Such a vaccine is already in the early stages of a study in !humans, and researchers say these latest findings in animals bolster the hope that a vaccine may prevent or treat the devastating brain disease.

It's All Over after Age 45

Evidence has shown that brain function slows at age 45 and from then on further decline is inevitable with each passing year. A study found by middle-age you can be 10% to 15% slower in a number of functions than your were in your 20s.

Caring for the Caregivers

The stress of long-term caregiving is especially hard on older people. One study of elderly caregivers taking care of a spouse, found the caregiver had a 63 percent higher chance of dying earlier than peers who were not involved in giving care.

Feeling in Control can Prolong Life

Older adults who feel that !they have control over the role they most value--be it homemaker, provider or volunteer--may liver longer than adults who feel less in control, researchers report.

Alzheimer's Drug may Work for Other Types of Dementia

A drug used to treat Alzheimer's disease may also relieve symptoms of another common form of dementia, researchers in the UK report. From 15% to 25% of dementia cases in the elderly involve Lewy bodies--spherical deposits that form in brain cells.

T'ai Chi May Benefit Those with Arthritis

Older adults who are looking for a gentle, low-impact form of physical activity to help manage their osteoarthritis may benefit from T'ai Chi, according to Massachusetts researchers.

Special nursing care extends survival after surgery

Older people recovering from cancer surgery who receive care from specially trained nurses are twice as likely to survive for 2 years as patients who do not receive this care, Yale researchers have found.

While Medicare and insurers would probably cover this care, study author Dr. Ruth McCorkle told Reuters Health, few patients receive it. Instead, McCorkle said, patients are generally sent home to be cared for by their families and home healthcare nurses.

The specially trained nurses in McCorkle's study were advanced practice nurses (APNs), which are nurses with master's degree-level training in cancer care. Home healthcare nurses, she said, are almost never APNs.

McCorkle and colleagues followed 375 patients age 60 and older who had been discharged from the hospital after tumor-removal surgery. In the study, 190 received care from APNs and 185 received standard care. Over the 4 weeks after the patient had returned home from the hospital, the APNs visited them three times and spoke to them five times by telephone.

Two years after surgery, 67% of the patients receiving this special care were alive, while 40% of the patients who received standard care had survived, the authors report in the December issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

After adjusting for other factors affecting survival, the researchers found that the patients cared for by APNs lived twice as long as those receiving other care. The average survival advantage conferred by APN care was 7 months.

Cancer patients have special needs because they often leave the hospital with highly complex problems involving catheters, dressings, and high-tech equipment. The patients are at risk for problems with wound healing, pain and fever. In addition, most patients need help with walking, bathing, and meal preparation.

"You can teach the family members a certain amount of this, but you can't make them responsible in the same way," McCorkle, a professor at the Yale University School of Nursing in New Haven, Connecticut, told Reuters Health. "You can't shift the responsibility to the family, which is what is happening in our system today."

Family members of cancer patients may need to ask about such specialized care, McCorkle said.

"Unfortunately, the people within the hospital who are doing discharge planning don't realize that a little bit of help...would make all the difference in the world," McCorkle told Reuters Health. "The third-party providers need to be educated, and the consumers need to be educated that they can demand this. They don't need to do it all themselves."

Elderly keeping teeth, getting cavities

As the life span of Americans continues to increase and more people retain their natural teeth well into old age, the demand for dental services among the elderly is expected to surge, researchers predict.

The number of people aged 65 and older is expected to double between 2000 and 2030, and the proportion of those aged 85 and older will increase dramatically, according to the report in the November issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association.

"Dentists should prepare for this trend by first being aware of this "big picture" and should take steps to learn about problems common in the elderly, for example, multiple medication use, multiple chronic diseases and physical limitations," Dr. John J. Warren, an assistant professor at the College of Dentistry at the University of Iowa in Iowa City and the study's lead author, told Reuters Health.

In the past, few elderly have used dental services because it was not common to retain natural teeth into old age, he explained.

To assess the future dental care needs of the growing group of elderly with teeth, the investigators examined 342 men and women aged 79 to 101 years, with at least one remaining natural tooth.

Nearly all (96%) had decay on the surface of teeth with 23% having untreated decay. Nearly two thirds of individuals had cavities affecting the roots of their teeth with 23% of this group having untreated decay. A greater percentage of men than women had untreated decay of all types, the report indicates.

Of the roughly three quarters of elderly people who visited a dentist in the past year, nearly all said they paid for dental services without the help of insurance. People with a greater number of natural teeth were more likely to have seen a dentist within the past year, the authors note.

"If population projections and oral and general health trends prove true, this study sample may represent a microcosm of many future elderly dental patients: people in their 80s who for the most part are living in the community, who have many of their natural teeth, who continue to be at risk of experiencing dental caries, and who regularly seek dental care despite lack of third-party coverage," Warren and colleagues conclude.

Many older Americans try alternative medicine

While some senior citizens strictly adhere to their prescription pill regimen, many of their peers are taking alternative medicine in addition to conventional treatments, researchers report.

About 30% of Americans age 65 and older report that they use at least one alternative medicine--most commonly herbs. And almost 20% have visited an alternative medicine provider in the past year, most often a chiropractor, according to the survey of 2,055 adults.

mericans comprise an age group not usually associated with complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use," lead study author Dr. David F. Foster told Reuters Health. Yet the survey results, published in the December issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, suggest otherwise.

Foster conducted the study while at the Center for Alternative Medicine Research and Education at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts.

After herbs, the most frequently used treatments by seniors included relaxation techniques, high-dose vitamins and religious healing. Alternative medicine use was more common among seniors who also used conventional medicine.

"The more visits a respondent made to a physician, the more likely he/she was to visit a provider of alternative medicine," the report indicates.

"Our research reveals no evidence that CAM use implies a rejection of traditional, allopathic medicine," Foster said. "Rather, CAM use represents attempts by patients to marshal all available resources to fight illness and preserve health."

Yet one "particularly troublesome" finding is that over half (57%) of the seniors who used alternative medicines did not tell their physicians, the authors note.

This is especially important since there are possible health issues associated with alternative medicine, Foster pointed out.

"Chiropractic, while generally safe, may have increased risk in the setting of older, more brittle bones and joints," he explained. "Similarly, herbal therapies have the potential for drug/herb interactions in an older population, (who are) more likely than younger populations to be taking prescription medications," he added.

"Consumers should discuss CAM therapies with their physicians and discuss conventional treatments with their CAM providers," Foster advised. "Full disclosure to all parties is in the best interest of the patient."

Stress of caregiving hits elders hard

Research has suggested that taking care of a spouse with dementia increases an elderly person's risk of illness and death. Now there is growing evidence that the stress of caregiving weakens an older person's already-declining immune system.

In a study of 52 elderly adults, researchers found that those who were caring for a spouse with dementia had reduced immune responses to pneumonia vaccination. A relatively weak immune reaction to a vaccine is a sign of how the immune system will respond to an actual infection. So this finding suggests elderly caregivers may be more susceptible to pneumonia and other infections, according to Dr. Ronald Glaser and his colleagues at Ohio State University in Columbus.

The findings also add to earlier work showing that elderly caregivers had poorer immune responses to the flu vaccine compared with others their age, Glaser told Reuters Health in an interview.

The stress of taking care of someone with dementia appears to inhibit the body's key infection defenses, Glaser explained. The theory is that stress hormones interfere with the function of certain immune system cells, he noted.

Glaser and his colleagues report their findings in the November/December issue of Psychosomatic Medicine.

Together, the flu and pneumonia are the fourth-leading cause of death among the elderly. Experts advise everyone age 65 and older to get vaccinated against the illnesses. But the vaccines are not 100% effective, and certain elderly people may be particularly vulnerable to the infections. The stress of caring for an ill spouse may be one factor behind such vulnerability, Glaser suggested.

"The spouse is often called the second victim of dementia," he said. However, he added, caring for a spouse with any chronic illness can affect a person's health. "We don't think this is limited to dementia."

Spouses may be uniquely affected by the strains of caregiving because they are usually elderly and often have little support, Glaser noted.

It is possible, he said, that support groups may "buffer" some of the stress spouses face.

Getting That Word Off The Tip Of Your Tongue

Have you ever tried to recall a word that was right on the tip of your tongue, but it remained blocked in your memory?

Well, researchers believe they have an explanation for what they call this "tip-of-the-tongue" or TOT experience.

Psychologists believe that retrieving those TOT words depends not only on remembering a word’s meaning, but also on remembering its sound, according to a report in the Journal of Experimental Psychology.

As an example, when research participants are asked questions known to evoke high TOT responses, giving a list of words containing a similar sounding word often triggers the right answer.

One question was: "What word means to formally renounce a throne?" A list of 10 words included "abstract" which triggered the correct response for some participants. The TOT word was "abdicate."

In other words, TOT experiences have to do with connections among words and sounds in our memories and the more we read, do crossword puzzles and keep the mind active the better we’ll be at retrieving the word we’re grappling with.

If words aren’t used regularly, these sound connections weaken and we have less memory recall. Young people have fewer TOT experiences than older people, but we can all improve recall by simply exercising our memory as much as possible through practicing word and sound associations.
Source: Journal of Experimental Psychology, November 2000.

Reaching 100 Is A Family Tradition

You want to know the best way to live to be 100? It’s to have longevity in your genes.

While good nutrition, exercise and optimism can keep you healthier and perhaps stretch your lifespan, a new study shows that reaching extreme old age is most likely a family tradition.

Harvard Medical School researchers looked at the family trees of four American families with longevity and found some amazing statistics. For example, in one family, 50 percent of 46 members of one generation lived to ages 90 to 106, according to a report in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

This particular family had centenarian offspring that included cousins who hadn’t been raised in common childhood environments, indicating that genetics had an important role in the longevity.

One reason this longevity research is important is because it might reveal some of the secrets of aging through genetic mapping. This could one day help us fight some age-related illnesses such as stroke, heart attacks, cancer or Alzheimer’s disease.

The message for most of you is to stop worrying about trying to live forever and enjoy the time you have. We’re all living longer because of medical progress but if you want to live to 100, you’d better check your family tree.
Source: Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, November 2000 (Thomas Perls, M.D., et al, Harvard Medical School).

Prevent Alzheimer's: Using It Might Mean Not Losing It

A new study indicates that if you have a mentally demanding or challenging occupation during your 30s, 40s or 50s, you are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease in later life.

Researchers at University Hospitals of Cleveland Alzheimer Center looked at lifetime occupational demands of 193 Alzheimer’s patients and 359 healthy control subjects over age 60 and determined that those who used their brains the most were less likely to get the disease.

Of the control subjects, 60 percent had worked in managerial or professional specialties that were most mentally demanding, compared to only 25 percent of the patients with Alzheimer’s, according to a report on the study in Family Practice News.

This is a retrospective study that makes it impossible to determine if people destined to get Alzheimer’s take less demanding jobs to begin with because of an underlying mental decline. There is some evidence that Alzheimer’s could be a lifetime disease; perhaps those who get Alzheimer's had less cognitive ability at a younger age.

Another theory is that increased mental challenges could by itself provide a protective effect against Alzheimer’s, a sort of ‘use it or lose it’ argument.

This study also showed that people ending up with Alzheimer’s had careers with a downward trajectory over time, and they took on less demanding mental activities as they aged.

Many studies have shown that keeping your mental abilities sharp as you age keeps you feeling younger and healthier, so use your cognitive powers as much as you can. An added benefit could be protection against Alzheimer’s.
Source: Family Practice News, Sept. 6, 2000

Carbohydrates: The Real Brain Food

Some fad diets have people avoiding carbohydrates, but a new study shows that carbos -- glucose, potatoes and barley -- can improve cognitive performance in elderly people.

University of Toronto researchers say the regular consumption of 50 grams of carbohydrates enhanced memory and thinking abilities in older people with healthy glucose tolerance, according to a report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Some fad diets, such as the high-protein types that would have you eating pork rinds, don’t take into account the importance of eating well-balanced meals that include carbohydrates.

Starches have been around as a staple food for centuries and this study is just one example of the benefits you can get from having them in your diet.
Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, October 2000

How Do I Prevent Injury In This Baby Boomer's Body?

Q: I am 45 years old and moderately out of shape. My doctor has told me that I need to lose weight to decrease my risk for heart disease and other problems. Because I have not previously been super active, I’m a bit concerned about jumping into action. What can I do to decrease my chance of injury?

A: Good for you for getting moving. It’s never too late to get fit and healthy. We’re seeing a lot of people taking on fitness with gusto because their doctors have told them that they have to get in shape or face the consequences. People who have previously led sedentary lives or who have had poor health habits are getting out there, getting fit and kicking their bad habits.

Unfortunately some of these people are getting injured because they jump into exercise a little too quickly. They may not have any experience with exercise or the proper equipment. You are wise to think before you leap.

So, what can you do to make a smooth entry? Have a look at this list of tips:

Start out slow – there is no rush!

Aim for a lot of short and easy exercise sessions rather than one long and hard session.

Build up time slowly so that your body can adjust to the exercise or sport.

Build a base

Work on building your base fitness before taking on a competitive sport or new and challenging activity.

If you think that playing coed city league soccer would be lots of fun – take the first season to practice your skills on your own before joining the team.

Work on building up core strength and stamina with aerobic exercise and weight lifting before jumping on the field.

Listen to your body

If something hurts – stop! Listen to your body and slow down or take a break if you need to.

Go for balance

Balance your exercise program so that the stress is not all one part of the body or on one joint. If you love to run – great, but also swim or cycle to give your muscles balance and your body a break.

Warm up and stretch

Take the time to warm up and stretch out before and after exercise. This little bit of extra time can mean exercising tomorrow or nursing an injury today.

Get help!

If you are going to use weight lifting equipment, get a trainer at the gym to show you how to use it properly.

If you work out at home, get a book with good photos or splurge and pay for a personal trainer to come to your home. It could be well worth the money.

Get the proper equipment

The right shoe for the job is very important. Fit, comfort and support are key.

Padding, wrist protectors and helmet are essential for the beginner on roller blades. And a helmet is always smart for any type of outdoor cycling.

If you are buying home equipment be sure it is safe and well constructed.

Take the time to get expert advice when buying an outdoor bike. An expert can be sure you buy the right bike for your size, ability and purpose.

Should Exercise Change With Age?

Q: Does my exercise plan need to change as I get older? I’m now 68 and I continue to exercise. However, sometimes I feel the effects of the workout longer than I used to. What do you suggest?

A: Good for you for keeping up with the exercise. By no means should we stop exercising as we get older. This is a crucial time to stay fit, healthy and limber. However, there are a few things to keep in mind as you exercise and a few exercises that will be gentler on your body. Here are a some tips:

The older you are the longer you need to exercise. But, you need to exercise more gently.

Don’t do the same exercise every day.

Pick exercises that use different sets of muscles so that one set can repair while you exercise the other. Swimming, which uses the upper-body muscles more than any other aerobic exercise, is an excellent cross-training choice. It’s not the fastest way to burn fat, so couple it with a gentle land exercise such as walking.

Older people need more time to recover from strenuous exercise. After a tough workout, give yourself enough time to repair and to get over the soreness before you push yourself again. This really becomes noticeable after a weight lifting session. Young people repair muscle tissue in 48 hours, but older people may need 72 hours to repair tissue after a strenuous workout.

Stay flexible by doing daily stretches, yoga or exercise that involves a large range of motion.

As you age, your muscles are more likely to stiffen up after exercise, which increases your chance of injury. Here again, swimming (or an aerobic water activity) is the answer. Nobody ever says, "Boy, I sprained my ankle swimming!" Exercise in the water can be very intense, but it doesn’t have the pounding and jarring associated with other forms of hard exercise. If you don’t have access to a swimming pool, try a "dry-land swimming machine." These are machines that you can’t get hurt on. For example, aerobic riders use all the muscles in the body yet puts stress on none of them, just as if you were swimming.

Adapted from The Ultimate Fit or Fat by Covert Bailey and Lea Bishop. Copyright 1999 by Covert Bailey, published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Exercise benefits elderly, too

Doctors often err on the side of caution, and do not promote exercise for their elderly patients. But a leading British physician is recommending a more pro-active stance, encouraging doctors to get their elderly patients to be more physically active.

Dr. Marion McMurdo, of the University of Dundee in Scotland, told Reuters Health that "regular physical activity is more important in old age than it is in youth." In view of the so-called 'graying' of many of the world's populations together with common fears among the elderly about the dependency of old age, "effort should be invested in encouraging older people to be active and to maintain their independence for as long as possible," she explains.

Because people who pursue physical activity into their older years have been shown "to enjoy more years of healthy disability-free life than inactive older people," McMurdo suggests that "health professionals... be imaginative in helping older people identify a type of activity that they will enjoy."

She notes that support from others -- including friends, family members, and healthcare providers -- is key to the successful implementation of and "adherence to (a program) of regular activity."

McMurdo comments that "health professionals should be pro-active in talking to older people in a positive way about the potential benefits of activity in old age." These include "less fatigue, (being) more alert, more energy, (and) better sleep," she says.

In her article published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, McMurdo writes that "public health advice has failed to shake off the 'high-tech' lycra-clad image of aerobic exercises and physical fitness and embrace the concept of health and (ordinary) physical activity -- walking, dancing, gardening, or playing with the grandchildren."

"You don't need to be a marathon runner to improve your health in old age," she says. "In the past, we... overestimated the amount of activity required in old age to improve health."

McMurdo offers several recommendations for those interested in beginning an exercise program. "Find an activity you enjoy. Invite a friend or spouse to join you," she advises. For those who have not been active for many years, "start slowly and build up gradually, increasing the amount of time on a weekly basis," she adds.

"Exercise is meant to be enjoyable so (participants) should be left feeling refreshed and invigorated," McMurdo tells Reuters Health. She reminds exercisers, however, that one's personal physician should be consulted prior to initiating a new exercise regimen. And, consistent with well-known public health pronouncements, McMurdo recommends that older folks avoid tobacco and try to maintain an appropriate weight.

Telling her medical colleagues to "unwrap the cotton wool" in which the elderly are being encased, McMurdo urges health professionals to take "a leading role in passing on his important message: the best investment you can make for your old age is regular physical activity."

Exercise improves balance in the elderly

Elderly people who exercise regularly have better balance and are less likely to fall than those who do not exercise, according to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Balance disorders become more common with age and increase the risk of falls, which are the main cause of accidental death in the elderly, according to a team of researchers led by Professor Philippe Perrin of the University Henri Poincare in Villers-les-Nancy, France.

People who exercise or who are involved in sports activities have better balance as they age, but for those who haven't been exercising, does starting late in life do any good?

Yes, conclude Perrin and colleagues, who put 65 men and women over the age of 60 to the test.

The study participants were divided into four groups: those who had exercised all their lives and continued to do so; those who only became physically active after retirement; those who had been physically active during their youth but had stopped at least 30 years before; and couch potatoes who had been inactive all their lives.

Members of each group performed balance tests that evaluated "body sway." Good postural control, which declines with age, is characterized by a small "sway path." Sway increases with age due to strength loss of the ankle muscles and to decreasing ability to sense touch and position.

Not surprisingly, the sway path was smaller in seniors who were exercising regularly. But there was little difference between those adults who had begun exercising after retirement and those who had never stopped.

These results show that it is never too late to begin an exercise program, conclude the researchers. However, anyone planning to start a new exercise regimen should check with his or her doctor first.

Exercise key to long, healthy life

People who exercise regularly have a lower risk of becoming disabled later in life than those who do not exercise, federal researchers report.

And a second study links two lifestyle factors - regular exercise and not smoking - to a longer and healthier life. Both reports are published in the April issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.

In the first study, researchers studied 1,097 adults aged 65 and older over a 10-year period. They found that those with the highest levels of physical activity were nearly two times more likely to die disability-free compared to their more sedentary counterparts

"Moderate physical activity has the potential to substantially reduce disability in late life. Yet one-third of older Americans do not engage in regular exercise," said lead study author Dr. Suzanne G. Leveille, a National Institutes of Aging (NIA) epidemiologist.

For senior citizens, "walking is the easiest and least costly type of exercise. Current recommendations call for 30 minutes a day, five days a week," she told Reuters Health.

Disability is often thought to be an inevitable part of the aging process. The latest statistics show 37 percent of men and 55 percent of women aged 85 or older are disabled.

While the numerous health benefits of regular exercise are well known, it may also decrease risk for disability by lowering body weight and reducing the risk of painful arthritis and osteoporosis.

Leveille and colleagues interviewed men and women from Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Iowa between 1981 and 1991. They examined the risk factors for disability in men who died when they were older than 80 and women who died when they were older than 85.

The team found that overall, a non-disabled 65-year-old man had a 26 percent chance of living to 80 and being disability-free. For a 65-year-old woman, the probability of living to age 85 and being non-disabled was 18 percent.

The key factor in preventing disability was regular exercise, according to the report, which the team dubbed the "dying with your boots on" study.

"These findings provide encouraging evidence that disability prior to death is not an inevitable part of a long life but may be prevented by moderate physical activity," study authors wrote.

"Exercise is for everyone," said Leveille, who also worked on the second report. "If you do not already exercise, it would be wise to begin - of course with your doctor's permission."

In the second study, researchers at the NIA in Bethesda, Maryland and at the National Research Institute in Florence, Italy, looked at lifestyle factors that promote a long, healthy and active life, non-smokers lived about five years longer than smokers. People who engaged in moderate to high levels of exercise lived three or more years longer than less active study participants.

"These findings provide strong and explicit evidence that refraining from smoking and doing regular physical activity predict a long and healthy life," researchers concluded.

Both studies are based on data from the ongoing Established Populations for Epidemiologic Studies of the Elderly.

You're Never Too Old To Be Fit

Introduction: Americans are living 30 years longer than they did last century, according to the national center for health statistics. For millions of older Americans, the key to healthy living is a regular fitness routine, healthy diet and positive attitude.

Dean Edell, M.D. "Medical studies show that people who are active live longer and healthier lives."

Beverly Guinee/Fit at 70: "I take step classes. I do spin classes. I do body pump and sometimes yoga, depending upon what I have time for. Sometimes I swim."

Dean Edell: "For 70-year old Beverly Guinee, exercise has given her a greater sense of independence and well-being."

Beverly Guinee: "I want to have a good quality of life. I'm not looking for quantity, while I'm here I really want to feel well, be fit and also do some of the things that I want to do. And be able to do on my own."

Dean Edell: "No matter what age you begin, exercise can improve your physical condition. Exercise has been found to decrease cholesterol and blood pressure, increase bone density and lower the risk for heart disease. "And you don't have to be an Olympian to see results."

Christina Bailey/Fitness & Nutrition Coach: "To just start with something very simple, walking -- it could be 10 minutes a day, 5 minutes a day -- it doesn't have to be any great length of time, just start moving."

Dean Edell: "It's important to stay within your own comfort zone."

Christina Bailey: "If you feel that you've pushed yourself too far, slow down, take it easy because the big important thing here is that you can get out and do it again tomorrow."

Dean Edell: "And remember, you're never too old to start."

End Note: If you've been inactive for any length of time, or have health problems, make sure you consult your doctor before starting a fitness program.

Home exercise program helps seniors

A home-based exercise training program designed for older adults can help them overcome some of the barriers to getting fit, results of a study suggest.

Home exercise allows a person to work out inexpensively, at his or her convenience, without having to travel to unfamiliar surroundings.

A well-organized program, including plenty of reinforcement and motivational rewards, can help seniors with the difficult task of continuing to exercise regularly, according to the report published in the January issue of the American Journal of Public Health, the journal of the American Public Health Association.

Dr. Alan M. Jette of Boston University, Massachusetts, and his colleagues studied 215 people ages 60 years and older. Half of the group worked with a physical therapist who came to their homes to demonstrate the exercise program, while the rest continued with their normal routine.

The program, called Strong-for-Life, was a 35-minute videotaped series of 11 exercise routines using elastic bands to work muscles against varying levels of resistance.

Participants were repeatedly encouraged to stick with the program through a motivational video, goal-setting advice, telephone follow-up calls, and simple incentives such as magnets color-coded to match each exercise level.

The study participants completed 89 percent of the recommended exercise sessions over six months. More than half of the exercisers were 100 percent adherent, doing their exercises three times each week for six months.

Compared with the sedentary group, exercisers improved their lower extremity strength and walking stability. Measures of physical disability also improved after six months.

National surveys indicate that 70 percent or more of older adults in the U.S. do not exercise regularly. As the population continues to age, sedentary lifestyles are an increasing threat to public health, the researchers write.

Programs such as Strong-for-Life are "a safe, low-cost, effective method for increasing physical activity among older persons with disabilities," the authors conclude.

Helping Seniors Feel Balanced

Introduction: Older adults are hospitalized for fall related injuries five times more than any other injuries, according to the centers for disease control. And the majority of these falls are due to poor balance and muscle strength. Doctor Dean Edell explores the role balance plays in keeping seniors healthy and on their feet.

Dean Edell, M.D.: "Balance disorders become more commonplace as we age.

Julie Rankin/Exercise Physiologist: "Seniors lose a large percentage of their fast twitch muscle fibers which is their power in the muscle, and when they do they're not able to catch themselves as well."

Dean Edell: "With regular exercise seniors can improve their motor control and decrease the likelihood of falling."

Julie Rankin: "Through strength training and through aerobic and agility type of work you can begin to improve the ability of those seniors to be able to respond more effectively."

Dean Edell: "If you do injure yourself, exercise can help speed your recovery. Exercise increases blood flow to the injured area and stabilizes and strengthens surrounding muscles and joints."

Louise Charles/Back on Her Feet: "If I hadn't had the opportunity to come to the pool and move my joints around in the pool without all the pain, I can say now that I probably wouldn't be as far as I am today."

Dean Edell: "Seventy-three year old Louise Charles had total knee replacement surgery. Water aerobics was a gentle exercise to help jump start her recovery.

Louise Charles: "I would get a little bit stronger and now I can do just about anything I want to."

Julie Rankin/Exercise Physiologist: "The water is great for feeling safe for broad motions. This also helps with your balance."

Dean Edell: "And with better balance and improved health, comes greater independence.

Louise Charles:"I don't have to have people waiting on me and that's the part I like about it. I feel free."

Dean Edell: "Once seniors get over their fear of injuring themselves they become more confident in leading an active lifestyle."

End Note: If you do have an injury it's advised that you consult your doctor before you begin an exercise program. And if you decide to try water aerobics make sure the instructor is aware of any injuries.

Vitamins C, E May Help Aging Minds Stay Young

Researchers with the Honolulu Heart Program say taking vitamin E and C supplements improves the cognitive functions of older men and lowers the risk of some kinds of dementia. This is positive news, but the study has some obvious flaws.

For one thing, if the 3,385 Japanese-American men surveyed are health-conscious enough to take vitamins daily for a long time, they’re also more likely not to smoke, to get more exercise and eat better. Also, dosage information isn’t available for the men, who ranged in age from 71 to 93.

The researchers also don't say anything about the subjects' income or educational levels, which have been factors in other studies of mental decline in aging.

The supplement data was collected on the men in 1988. Assessments made five years later showed that 2,999 were cognitively intact while 47 had Alzheimer’s dementia, 35 vascular dementia and 50 had a variety of other types of dementia, according to a report in Neurology.

Researchers noted that while the vitamins didn’t seem to protect men from having a stroke, the supplements may have helped limit the neuronal injury that persists after an ischemic event, thus giving protection against vascular dementia.

Also, taking the supplements showed no protective effect for Alzheimer’s disease, although I wonder if the onset of the disease would have resulted in these men forgetting to take their vitamins.

The men who reported using both supplements together for the longest times also showed better cognitive functions in later life. So, possibly these vitamins could help our minds age gracefully.
Source: Neurology, March 28, 2000.

How Can I Improve Coordination?

Q: Do you have any hints for improving coordination?

A: Coordination is one of those things we don't think much about until we are put to the test. But it is a very valuable asset, especially for older people. Maintaining coordination can help prevent falls and injuries.

Aerobics classes are a great way to improve your body's coordination. Aerobic machines such as treadmills, stair climbers, and stationary bikes, for which the movements are basically untrained and repetitive, do not require coordination. You just do what the machine guides you to do. Yes, you can get fit using these machines, and yes, you can lose fat. But you might end up as a fit klutz!

Aerobic machines train the gross motor nerves -- the large nerves responsible for ordinary locomotion. But they don't train the smaller finer nerves that help you zig and zag down a ski slope. They don't train you for the balance you need to walk across a log over a stream while carrying a 50-pound backpack. "But," you might say, "I'm not a jock or into hiking. I don't ski or backpack." Well, you still need coordination -- just to square dance or play Frisbee with your kids!

Even if aerobics classes are not your favorite form of exercise, I'd like you to try them now and then. The erratic, back-and-forth, up-and-down movements are some of the best ways I know to develop coordination. By the way, aerobics classes aren't just dance-movement classes anymore. There are athletic-step classes, adventure-training classes, and even ski-conditioning classes.

Source: Adapted from The Ultimate Fit or Fat by Covert Bailey and Lea Bishop. Copyright 1999 by Covert Bailey, published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

How Can I Maintain Balance As I Get Older?

Q: As I get older I worry about losing my balance and falling. I’ve noticed that I just don’t seem to be as sure on my feet as I used to be. What’s this all about and what can I do to prevent it?

A: Suppose you take a drunk-driving test. With your eyes closed, you have to put your hands out in front of you and touch your fingers together. It's simple to do when you're sober, but if you've been drinking too much the alcohol blurs the nerve signals in your arms and fingers so that they don't have a sense of where they are. There's a big word for this "sense of body position" -- proprioception.

One of the neat things about a very fit athlete is that he or she has a highly developed sense of body awareness. There is no way Michael Jordan could leap into the air, turn around three times, fake out all his opponents and still do a perfect lay-up if the proprioceptors in his joints don't tell him exactly where every part of his body is as he flies through the air.

If people kept their proprioceptive response intact as they aged, they wouldn't have the accidents that older people tend to have. You don't hear about a 25-year-old falling off a curb and breaking a hip or a wrist. A healthy, young man, even if he happens to stumble off a curb, will immediately sense his legs are not level and his proprioceptors will send the signals needed to catch his balance. Even if he should fall, warning signals that he received from his proprioceptors will have given him time to be better prepared for the fall.

If we don’t use our proprioceptive ability, we lose it. Older people who don’t exercise to maintain proprioception are candidates for falling and breaking a bone. Aerobics classes are an especially good way to tune up your proprioceptors. The variety of movements that are a natural part of aerobics classes provide a perfect training ground for proprioception. If you’re older and thinking that aerobics classes are for younger people, think again. Anyone can do aerobics. There are all kinds of classes and levels.

Aerobic classes are also a great way to get out and be social. There are plenty of non-dance aerobic classes nowadays, too. Many classes focus on the sport elements rather than dance. Give them a try!

Once you get the hang of the aerobics and are feeling greater balance and coordination, you may be ready to take on some other challenges. Sports are the natural proprioception builders. Think of all the coordination it takes to play soccer or basketball. While you may not be ready to take on this challenge, there are other sports that do require skill and balance without the vigor. Try:

Proprioception is one of those things you don’t know you’ve lost until it’s too late.

Source: Adapted from The Ultimate Fit or Fat by Covert Bailey and Lea Bishop. Copyright 1999 by Covert Bailey, published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

How Do Sleep Problems Differ For The Elderly As Compared To The General Population?

Some sleep disorders are more common as you get older. For example, sleep apnea (difficulty with normal breathing patterns during sleep) appears to be more common as people get older.

Also, older people may have multiple medical problems or may be receiving multiple medications that can interfere with sleep. So we see this combination of sleep problems and illnesses and medications that can interfere with sleep become more common as people get older.

Also, sleep patterns change as we get older. The quality of normal sleep changes and sleep is lighter and less efficient. So the combination of all these things contributes to the increase in difficulty sleeping as people get older.

Often we divide sleep symptoms into two basic types: insomnia or daytime somnolence, which means difficulty with initiating or maintaining sleep, and daytime somnolence is excessive sleepiness during the daytime.

Classically, we think of insomnia as being more likely due to stress or psychosocial issues, while with daytime somnolence, we’re more concerned about a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea. But symptoms of these conditions can overlap, so they can cause symptoms of either insomnia or daytime sleepiness.

Sleeping problems are extremely common in the elderly. Probably about one third to one half of older people complain about having difficulty with their sleep. And use of sleeping medications, particularly over-the-counter agents, is pretty common.

What Are Some Consequences Of Sleep Problems In The Elderly?

The consequences of daytime sleepiness can be quite severe. For example, someone who is driving a car with excessive daytime sleepiness could fall asleep at the wheel, with tragic consequences.

There can also be more subtle problems. For example, sleep apnea is a disorder of abnormal breathing patterns during sleep, where the blood oxygen level drops at night while they are asleep because they don’t breathe adequately. This can cause personality changes, irritability, and other symptoms during the daytime, in addition to heart problems.

In general, people who don’t sleep well don’t feel well the next day. Everyone goes through periods when they don’t sleep well at night, but usually your body is pretty good at making up for that. If you have a night or two where you don’t sleep well, then usually after that you sleep well because your body needs to recover that sleep.

How Can Sunshine Help With Sleep Problems In The Elderly?

The one thing we routinely recommend to people having trouble with sleep is sunlight exposure. We don’t know for sure the exact minimum amount needed, but I recommend people get at least one half hour of bright sunshine each day.

Unfortunately, routine indoor lighting isn’t adequate. If you live in an area with little sunlight, you can buy a commercial light box.

Seasonal affective disorder is where people in the wintertime become depressed, and that can be treated with bright light exposure. We learned quite a bit about the use of bright light with that disorder. For most people, sunlight is the simplest and easiest way to go in order to get enough light.

False Memories? Take This Test

There is unique and clever research out of Washington University on false memory syndrome - when you remember things that didn't really happen.

First, read the list of words below:

Now write down all the words you remember.

Do you remember the word "needle" in that list?

It's not on the list. This is an example of false memory. A little more than half of you won't remember and think you heard the word "needle."

This is an example of the tests that they gave to show how we can have memories of things that did not happen. The research is published in the October 1998 issue of the Journal of Memory and Language.

This study documents the relative inability of forewarned subjects to effectively suppress the creation of false memories.

The mind has a strong compulsion to make inferences and fill in blanks as it processes incomplete data. "The idea that our memories hold a literal record of our past like a video recorder is wrong," states Henry L. Roediger III, PhD of Washington University, who conducted the study with colleagues.

This test is an example of how false memories are generated.

How Long Will You Live Into The New Millenium?

Sunrise, sunset - quickly fly the years... how long will you live into the 21st century? Use our handy life expectancy calculator to get a personal forecast.

Memory Quiz

As we get older, our memory tends to fail more often. Frustrating, but true.

If you want to test your memory ability, here's a short-term memory test developed by the Memory Assessment Clinic of Bethesda, Maryland.

You must read through this list of 15 foods just once, and only once, concentrating on each word.

Ready? Here's the list.

Now turn away and write down as many of the foods as you can remember on a sheet of paper. Afterwards, come back to this article to see how you fared.

How many did you remember?

The average person ages 18-39 can remember ten items. From ages 40-59, nine items; from ages 60-69, eight items and for 70 and older, seven items.

If you score poorly and and want to know about ways to improve your cognitive skills, see the article "Worried About Memory Problems? What Was The Question?"

Worried About Memory Problems? What Was The Question?

A lot of you probably think I have a great memory, and I do when it comes to medical subjects. But, I find myself often forgetting where I parked. People say hello and I forget their names.

Memory loss isn’t unusual as you age, but it can be scary. This is obvious from the number of calls and messages I get from people worried about why they’re suddenly forgetting things.

Most of you are worried you might be getting Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. While this is possible, I’m here to tell you that most of us begin forgetting things as we get older, and while it’s frustrating, it’s not something to panic about.

I've put a memory test on so you can see how good your memory is. You read a list of 15 items and then turn away and write down as many of the items as you can remember. Don’t cheat – just read the list once before writing down the items – and you’ll get a good indication of your memory prowess.

Experts say there are some signals telling you when to worry about your memory. Here are the categories for assessment of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia as defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

If you think any of these categories apply to you, you should seek further assessment from your physician or other health care professional.

--Difficulty learning and retaining new information; being more repetitive; trouble remembering recent conversations, events, appointments; frequently misplacing objects.

--Trouble handling complex tasks, following a complex train of thought, or performing tasks that take several steps, such as balancing a checkbook or cooking a meal.

--Problems with reasoning ability, such as being able to respond with a reasonable plan to problems at work or home. Uncharacteristic disregard for rules of social conduct.

--Problems with spatial ability and orientation, such as trouble driving, organizing objects around the house, finding your way around familiar places.

--Language difficulties, such as finding the right words to express what you want to say in a conversation.

--Behavior patterns that are more passive and less responsive; being more irritable or more suspicious than usual; misinterpreting what is seen or heard.

If you pass this assessment and just have normal memory loss bugging you, there are some things you can do, according to a study in Psychology and Aging.

Continue your education. People who are well educated are able to develop ways to solve problems less educated people can’t. Also, mental stimulation at any age keeps cognitive functions at a higher level.

Some other things you can do are join a bridge club, work on crossword puzzles, or marry a stimulating mate.

The point is to exercise your mind to maintain optimal mental functioning.

One thing I don’t recommend is taking herbs or supplements that claim to enhance your memory. Study after study has shown no difference in cognitive functions after ingesting these products.

So, try the memory test. I admit I took it and didn’t do very well. My excuse was I was on a book tour, drinking coffee and I found it hard to concentrate on anything.

Remember, if you score poorly and are worried about memory loss, there are ways you can improve your cognitive skills.

Now, what was the question?

Source: Nutrition Action Newsletter, May 1997

Elder Care - Support Group

General Information::

Support groups consist of people who have come together to share the common experiences and problems unique to their disease or condition. Support groups are organized to deal with four main sources of stress: mental or physical illness, addictive or obsessive behavior, personal crisis or life changes, and caring for disabled family members.

In addition to being a place to meet people who share a common bond, self-help/support groups also help members in other ways. Through newsletters and regular contact with other people in similar situations, members receive up-to-date information regarding their disability and treatments that are available. Along with this sharing comes understanding and a sense of belonging. Research confirms that the coming together of people in trouble serves to increase self esteem, decrease anxiety and depression, and raise levels of overall well being.

Information on support groups in your area can be found in a variety of ways. Handbooks of community resources, including support groups, are usually available in local libraries and hospitals. Major groups are often listed in the Yellow pages under "social service agencies".

Children of Aging Parents , 2761 Trenton Rd., Levittown, PA 19056 215.945.6900

Mature Smart

This is a commercial site, but the products are straight-forward and useful, very appropriate for an older or disabled person.

Longevity Checklist

Longevity Checklist

You're female

You're under age 85

You're a non-smoker

You're a healthy weight for your height

You don't have diabetes

You don't have heart failure

You don't have cancer

You don't have lung disease

You can manage your finances

You can bathe yourself

You can walk long distances

You canpush or pull heavy objects


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Old folks can't afford the drugs they can't live without. - Brooks & Dunn

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