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Displaying items by tag: senior health

As we get older, particularly into our 50’s and 60’s, cataracts can become a common eye condition experienced by both men and women. Cataracts are a leading cause of vision loss in the United States, so it’s important to know how to protect your eyes to reduce your risk for cataract and to be able to recognize the signs of a developing cataract. 

Cataract Formation

Like the rest of the body, the eyes and the structures that support the visual system undergo significant change as we age. One of the structures that undergoes the most change is the lens in the eye. The lens of the eye is located behind the pupil and the colored iris. The lens helps to focus images onto the retina, which then transmits the images to the brain. Normally the lens is “crystal clear.” 

Aging, and other medical conditions can cause the lens to become cloudy and yellow. This can cause mildly blurry vision, resulting in changes in your eyesight. If the crystalline lens loses significant transparency and clarity, then a cataract has formed. A cataract is the clouding of the eye’s lens, causing blocks or changes in the passage of light into the eye. 

Vision Changes Due to Development of Cataracts

If you have cataracts, you may notice changes in your vision, such as:

  • Difficulty seeing in dim illumination
  • Difficulty with night driving
  • Colors appear faded or dull
  • Experiencing glare, haloes, or light sensitivity 
  • Diminished vision

The only way to treat cataracts is to remove them surgically. The longer cataracts are left untreated, the more difficult it can be to successfully remove the cataract and restore vision.  

Cataracts can affect you even if you’ve had normal vision and relatively healthy eyes throughout your life. This is because, for most people, cataract development is a part of the normal aging process. 

Risk Factors for Developing Cataracts

Certain health and lifestyle conditions and use of certain medications can increase your risk for developing cataracts, such as:

  • diabetes 
  • trauma to the eye
  • chronic inflammation of the eye
  • other eye disease
  • repeated sun exposure without using UV protective eyewear (on cloudy days also)
  • long-term use of steroids, cortisone (including for asthma)
  • other chronic inflammatory medical conditions
  • smoking
  • genetics, family history
Published in Healthcare

Feeling a sense of purpose or meaning in life is associated with a 19% reduced rate of clinically significant cognitive impairment later, according to findings from a review of evidence led by researchers at University College London (UCL).

The UCL researchers examined several positive psychological constructs (e.g., maintaining a positive mood, being optimistic, having a sense of life purpose) to determine if these constructs have a significant association with reduced risk for dementia and other cognitive impairment in later life. 

The results showed that having purpose and meaning in life were key factors consistently associated with reduced risk of dementia years later:

  • Among people who had higher purpose or meaning in life, there was significant association with a reduced risk of multiple cognitive impairment outcomes, including dementia and mild cognitive impairment. 
  • Having a sense of purpose, most notably, was associated with a 19% reduced rate of clinically significant cognitive impairment. This finding—reduced risk for cognitive impairment—did not apply to other positive psychological constructs, such as having a positive mood state.

For this study, the UCL research team conducted what is known as a systematic review and meta-analysis, which involves and in-depth approach to pooling and analyzing data from multiple studies. The researchers gathered evidence from nine previously published studies, yielding data from 62,250 older adults (age 50+) across three continents. This makes the findings quite meaningful because they have relevance across different demographics. 

Meaning in Life: How Does it Protect the Brain from Impairment?

One theory about how purpose and meaning, as well as other positive psychological factors, may protect against cognitive decline has to do with the physiological effect that positive mood and resiliency has in the body, including the brain. 

Positive mood promotes a state of balance (homeostasis) in the body. This reduces the circulation of stress hormones and other chemicals that are known to increase inflammation in the cells and tissues, Inflammation, which causes damage to cells and can alter physiological function, is a known underlying factor in many disease processes, including Alzheimer’s Disease and heart disease among others. 

Having a sense of purpose in life seems to promote positive mood, which supports resiliency from stressful events; in turn, this reduces inflammation in the brain—both of which are linked with reduced risk of dementia.

Reinforcing the positive psychological effects that come with having a sense of purpose is the fact that, when people feel their life has meaning and purpose, they are more likely to engage in activities that support their health: exercising, socializing with peers, doing volunteer work—all of which may protect against dementia risk.

The researchers suggest that prevention programs for people at-risk for cognitive impairment and dementia should prioritize activities that help bring purpose and meaning to one’s life. Staff who work with older adults can devote programming time to helping the elder identify what is important them, what their values are, and how they might act in alignment with these priorities and values. The researchers suggested “taking small steps.” For example, if an elder values “education for all,” they could benefit from volunteering as a literacy coach or as a reading buddy in a local school.

Published in Health & Wellness

This month we are celebrating the health benefits of sleep for mind and body! National Sleep Awareness Week is March 13-19, 2022—it’s the perfect time for older adults to learn new ways to improve their sleep routine.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, adult sleep habits were affected in many ways. Some people slept more while others didn’t sleep enough. Many of us were tossing and turning through the night. Additionally, many adults got into some pretty poor sleep habits… staying up late or falling asleep in front of a mobile device. 

Poor-quality sleep is detrimental to the health of the brain and the body. In fact, there’s 25 years of scientific research that supports the health benefits of good sleep hygiene for adults (and kids, too). 

How Do We Know Sleep is Good for Health? 

In order to understand the effects of sleep deprivation on our physical and mental health, scientists study how the brain and body respond when we don't sleep enough. 

Insufficient Sleep Increases Risk for Illness

Insufficient sleep increases a person’s risk for chronic disease. When you get less than 8 hours of sleep a night on a regular basis you raise you risk for:

  • diabetes
  • heart disease and stroke
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • colds, flu, and respiratory illness
  • obesity
  • cognitive impairment

While You Were Sleeping: How Does Sleep Affect Health?

No matter your age, sleep effects brain chemistry and the hormones that circulate through your body. Put another way, sleep influences the functioning of the nervous, immune, and endocrine systems. 

When you get sufficient, quality sleep a lot of amazing things happen in your body:

  • the brain develops and reinforces brain pathways that are involved in memory, learning, and emotion
  • the body manufactures hormones that are involved in repair and growth, and which help minimize the effect that stress can have on our physiology. These hormones support the health of the liver, the development of muscle and bone, that break down fat, and the regulation of blood sugar
  • the immune system gets a boost so that it is more effective at fighting infection 
  • the body works to decrease inflammation, which protects us from chronic illness such as diabetes and heart disease
  • the metabolic system manages hormones that the body relies upon to regulate appetite 

As you can see, sleep affects a lot of what goes in the body and how healthy (or unhealthy) your body can be.

Published in Helpful Tips

Many people, even those who are in good health and eat a balanced, robust and healthy diet, take nutritional supplements. In fact, vitamins, minerals, and herbs are the most widely used over-the-counter products among people of every age and every lifestyle. Many older adults take nutritional supplements and they tend not to inform their physician (or even other family members) they are doing so. Mixing certain nutritional supplements with prescription medicines can result in a dangerous interaction and seniors could be putting their health—or even their life—at risk: Many nutritional supplements alter the way prescription medications work in the body. This can lead to a dangerous situation in which medications do not work as they should for a given medical condition and can result in a life-threatening interaction.

Every physiological process in the body relies upon vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and other compounds that facilitate processes necessary to maintain your physical and emotional health. For people of all ages who eat a variety of healthy foods most of the time, we tend to get the nutrients we need. As we age, however, our bodies change in every respect.

Consequently, we may not digest food as well, can develop food intolerances, may take medications that affect nutrient absorption, and a variety of other factors can affect how effectively nutrients are getting to the places where the body most needs them. This can prompt senior citizens to take nutritional (dietary) supplements purchased over-the-counter.

4 Ways Nutritional Supplements can Interact with Prescription Medication

Taking nutritional supplements is not risk-free:  If you take prescription medications for health concerns such as menopause, a heart condition, cholesterol management, high blood pressure, cognitive decline to name a few, the dietary supplements you take could be changing the way your prescription medicines work inside your body. Some of these interactions can include:

  1. Decreasing the effectiveness of a medication’s ability to treat a health condition
  2. Increasing the potency of a prescription beyond what is medically safe for your condition
  3. Altering how the body breaks down a medicine, resulting in too much oof the medicine circulating in the bloodstream and target tissues
  4. Altering how a medicine is excreted by the body, which also changes potency
Published in Medication

The outbreak of COVID-19 or Coronavirus has spread fear much more virulently than the disease itself although older adults being at high risk of mortality from coronavirus certainly have much to fear. Self-isolation as a method to reduce transmission risk may not be an optimal response to the coronavirus threat for very old adults because social isolation and loneliness have been shown to be detrimental to the physical and mental well-being of seniors. Isolating seniors amid such high tension can only serve to heighten the risk to their mental and physical health. Social isolation and loneliness are prevalent among the elderly because their social networks tend to shrink in later life due to losses of friends, family or from age related functional loss. As whole communities retreat into isolation to ease concerns about acquiring coronavirus, the vulnerable elderly living in near isolation will be forced to deal with fears of dying or media reports of impending doom all alone. What an alarming development!

All gatekeepers to the elderly should increase urgency to help seniors stay connected socially during the coronavirus crisis. What seniors in later life need more than ever are peers sharing similar feelings of distress about coronavirus who can band together and help each other through this most difficult period. Gatekeepers to the elderly are reminded that social isolation and loneliness though not the same, are widely recognized among health experts as a cause of poorer health among the elderly. Social isolation is measured objectively by the number of contacts we have which can drop sharply as we age.1 Loneliness is measured subjectively as the difference between one’s desired and achieved levels of social connectedness which can increase as we age.2

Published in Information
Monday, August 05, 2019 16:14

Exercise and Heat-Related Illness

This month’s topic for Gym Talk is "Heat Safety Awareness".

Hot weather can be dangerous, and seniors over the age of 65 are among those most at risk for heat exhaustion. Now that the hot weather has arrived it's important to know the signs of heat exhaustion and how to stay cool.

The human body regulates temperature through sweating, until exposed to more heat than the body can handle. As you become older the ability to notice changes in your own body’s temperature decreases. Others at risk for heat illness include infants and young children, people who are ill, those with chronic health conditions or on certain medications, and people who are overweight. Health conditions can make the body less able to adapt to the heat. Also, some medicines can contribute to dehydration.

Published in Helpful Tips
Monday, July 15, 2019 16:11

Stonebrook Village Gym Talk: Brain Health

This month we’ll be focusing on exercise and brain health. This is a topic that usually doesn’t get a lot of attention but is very important as far as one’s mental health is concerned. When we talk about exercise were always referring to the physical part of exercise and tend to leave out the mental part, so we wanted to share some awesome news on this topic!

Let’s talk about an overview of the brain first. The brain is one of, if not the most complex, organs in our body. The human body cannot physically and mentally run without a brain. The brain produces our every thought, action, memory, feeling and experience of our lifetime. It weighs about 3 pounds containing millions of neurons (nerve cells) working hard each day so what better way to treat your brain than to exercise it with physical activity and nutrition!

Published in Stonebrook Village
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