You have your blood tested, your “bad” cholesterol is high and your doctor prescribes a statin to cut plaque buildup on the walls of your arteries, thus reducing the risk of angina, heart attack and stroke. Which, of course, is good. But should you worry about side effects of this potent drug?
Although proper diet and exercise is critical in the fight against heart disease — the nation’s leading cause of death — most health experts agree that the benefits of statins largely outweigh the risks associated with this prescription medication. That’s why more than one in four residents of the United States have increasingly been using statin drugs since it was introduced in 1987. It’s also interesting to note that about twice as many men than women 65 and older are currently prescribed this medicine.
Statin drugs block the action of a chemical in the liver that is necessary for making both high-and low-density cholesterol. Even though cholesterol is necessary for normal cell and body function, very high levels of it can lead to atherosclerosis, a condition where cholesterol-containing plaques build up in arteries and block blood flow. A high-density cholesterol level is the most common reason that a person is prescribed a statin.
Most people who take this drug do not experience side effects. Those who do have a reaction report headaches, a feeling of pins and needles in their arms and legs, abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea or a rash. Only a few experience memory loss, cataracts, liver failure and skeletal muscle damage, so it is very important for users to report ill effects to their doctors.
Meanwhile, studies indicate that statins may play a role in slowing the aging process. As we get older, our cells do not divide and multiply as quickly as they used to. Statins delay cell deterioration, a recent study in Naples, Italy, has found.
Regular exercise is not only a young person’s game. Studies show that as your age, getting a regular workout affects the brain in such a way that strengthens cognitive abilities.
How long do you exercise daily? Do you wear a tracking device that records the number of steps you take each day? If not, then consider buying one. Fitbits and other brands are now available where ever sporting goods are sold. An investment of $100 to $150 for an easy-to-use tracker worn on your wrist is well worth the time and expense. You establish a goal — say, 10,000 steps (or about 5 miles) — and get going. By the end of the day, your tracker tells you where you stand. But, remember, check with your doctor or health-care provider first to determine your daily goal.
Exercise is one of the most important things you can do to keep your body — and especially your brain — in good working order. New studies show that people 65 and older who stay active, don’t smoke and eat healthy have less trouble remembering things. And the more intense your daily exercise, the more your brain works as it should. Again, be sure to check with your health-care provider to determine your maximum limit.
“Physical activity is an attractive option to reduce the burden of cognitive impairment in public health because it is low cost and doesn’t interfere with medications,” said Clinton B. Wright, MD, MS, of the University of Miami in Miami, Fla., and member of the American Academy of Neurology. “Our results suggest that moderate to intense exercise may help older people delay aging of the brain, but more research from randomized clinical trials comparing exercise programs to more sedentary activity is needed to confirm these results.”
Exercise in older people is associated with a slower rate of decline in thinking skills that occurs with aging. People who reported light to no exercise experienced a decline equal to 10 more years of aging as compared to people who reported moderate to intense exercise, according to Dr. Wright’s population-based observational study.
It’s always the “bug season” down at the gym, so beware!
There’s a cliché out there about staying out of hospitals because germs gather there. It’s misleading, of course, because hospitals typically take extra care to clean everything thoroughly. But it’s also true. Most hospital executives steer clear of questions about staph infections, for instance.
Same goes for gymnasiums. There was an interesting item in Parade magazine recently by Leslie Goldman tagged “Gym Germs” that should be noted by everyone who enjoys a good workout in public facilities.
“Muscles aren’t the only things you can get at the gym,” the writer notes. “The close quarters, plus the prevalence of sweat, leaves you vulnerable to germs and infections. In fact, a University of California, Irvine, study found that staphylococcus bacteria easily survives on gym equipment and locker room benches even after being sanitized.”
These bacteria are commonly found on human skin, and can cause problems when they enter the bloodstream through cuts and blisters especially in the nose area.
Also prevalent on gym equipment including free weights and machines are traces of rhinovirus, which is responsible for common colds. This germ typically enters the body through the eyes, nose and mouth. So practice swabbing down all gym equipment with a disinfectant before and after use. Hand sanitizer is OK if used abundantly.
And the showers area is another place to visit with care. Foot fungus and plantar warts just thrive in warm, moist environments. So don’t forget to wear your flip-flops. Gym bags and towels are also havens for nasty germs. So bring some clean plastic bags for used towels and an anti-germ spray for your backpack. Mold spores multiply rapidly, so don’t delay doing your cleaning once you get back home.
Walk into a name-brand drug store and check out the colorful vitamins and minerals aisle. Look at all the health supplements! Need more energy? Less wrinkles? Sleep? Iron? Goat Weed? It’s like a Yellow Brick Road. A bottle of every vitamin and mineral you’ve ever heard of and more are right there waiting for you. All you need is red shoes for clicking and a credit card.
But there is lesson in the story of the magnanimous Wizard of Oz. He’s a nice guy. He’s also a fraud. So don’t be fooled by the glitz. Nutritional supplements are not all they’re cranked up to be.
We mentioned this subject before in this space because it is very important. The message is worth repeating. Americans spend $11 billion annually on vitamins and minerals, and “baby boomers” are especially vulnerable to the latest fads because they are at the age where they are especially vulnerable to quick fixes regarding their health. So get real. If you’re feeling like something’s missing in your diet, it probably is. But the solution will not be found in an over-the-counter pill.
Supplements cannot prevent or cure illnesses like diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Supplements are no substitute for a good, well-rounded diet. Consuming too many supplements on a regular basis is not healthy — especially if you are on an aspirin regime or blood-thinners.
Also understand that too much Vitamin A increases your risk of osteoporosis. Too much Vitamin E can elevate the chances of your having a stroke. Too much iron can raise your risk of heart problems. Excesses of anything in pill form can build up in your body fat and become toxic. Also try to get outside in the sunshine daily for a while. It’s the best source of Vitamin D.
The key to proper consumption of vitamins, minerals and all the so-called natural supplements is to talk first to your doctor or dietitian about it. Tell her what’s bothering you. Give her a list of what you typically eat each day, including fruits, vegetables, fortified cereal and low-sugar juices. Ask her if a multivitamin is right for you, and listen carefully to her instructions.
Also, don’t be fooled by labels that proclaim a supplement is “all natural.” This is a typical sales gimmick. But do pay close attention to the nutritional information panel on the bottle. The percentage of the recommended daily value (DV) of each ingredient should be no lower than 100 percent and no higher than 300 percent.
Ask you health professional about that too. She knows!
“Use it or lose it!”
You’ve heard this cliché practically all you life, right? That’s because it is absolutely correct. You could buy a brand new car, park it in a brand new garage, protect it from all the elements etc., but if you don’t crank it up regularly and go for a ride, it will fall apart.
The disintegration process is called “entropy,” which refers to the errors in a system that causes it to fall apart because the object is not being used properly, if at all. The “thing” that falls apart for lack of use in this instance would be your body. “Entropy” happens as we age unless we continue to use what God has given us, so to speak.
Exercise your muscles or they will disappear. Move your joints or they will become arthritic, eat properly or suffer energy loss or stoke, use your brain or become senile, learn to relax or have a heart attack. You get the message.
Let’s zero in on senility. Studies have shown that some people in their 70s, 80s and above have high levels of Alzheimer’s disease in their brains, but retain normal cognition. Why is that? Have they simply not lived long enough for the disease to manifest itself? Or have they used their brain efficiently to ward off the effects?
The later appears to be correct. Lots of people in the twilight of their lives pass away with normal cognition. They are as sharp mentally as they were when they were 50 years or so younger. The obvious answer is: They never quit exercising their brains. They socialized, read, worked crossword puzzles, continued working and, yes, even learned how to rest their minds through meditation.
So, it is very important to not only to nourish our physical bodies, exercise them properly and rest them with at least 8 hours of sleep daily, the same sort of cycle applies to our brains. Eat food low in saturated fats, keep hypertension and cholesterol in proper balance, learn how to meditate instead of sitting around sleeping throughout the day, read more and watch less television, interact with people, work at a vocation and/or avocation and remain productive.
Also note that, while it’s harmful to be overweight when you’re young, carrying the proper amount for your age is critical as you enter into your 70s, 80s, and 90s. Being too thin can kill you too!
Here are some other interesting findings:
- People who live longer drink two to three cups of coffee.
- People who exercise live longer than those who don’t, even if it’s only 15 minutes of walking a day.
- People who do something rather than sitting and watching TV live longer, as do those who continue to engage socially, go to church or other place of worship, remain active politically and read, write, play bridge or solve problems that require using their brains.
In other words, maintain a healthy lifestyle from “head to toe” in order to live a full, conscious life. Strive to use every part of your body as you age. It won’t be the same as when you were younger but that’s natural. And this applies especially to your brain.
We all worry that the people we love are not getting the care they need, and even if they are, we always think it could be better. It comes from your mother, and even if you are not a mother, we all have that protective instinct in us. That’s why leaving the care of your elderly loved one to professional caregivers can be stressful, especially if the agency uses multiple caregivers, or you need respite care (temporary caregiving). There are a multitude of things that could go wrong and that is why having a Home Health Care Check List For Professional Caregivers is so important. It can outline what to do in an emergency, what special quirks a senior has, and of course the necessary procedures that the senior requires. Below you will find some suggestions, but in no way is this list exhaustive. Every senior is different, with different needs, so the checklist should vary accordingly.
- Keep a list of medications and allergies on the wall dictating what time medications are taken, how many, how they are administered, and where the medications are located. Here is a helpful article on managing your medication.
- Everyone has a routine and we all get upset when it is compromised, so try your best to explain their sleeping patterns, TV shows, eating time, weird quirks and semantics and habits.
- It is also suggested you have a list of snacks available as well as meals that the senior likes. Many professional businesses can cook to appease your elderly loved one, so don’t forget to mention this.
- Emergency Contacts should also be plainly visible in worst-case scenario. This should also include the doctor or primary care physician of elderly loved one. Your preferred hospital should also be listed.
- Plan of Action– It is also not a bad idea to have a detailed list of what to do if something should go wrong. Even if they have your contact information, what happens if they are unable to get a hold of you, or someone else? There should be a plan for what to do in case of emergency. Advanced directives and the necessary documentation should be able to be found, as well as medical orders for life sustaining situations which should be given to any paramedics or doctors should the need arise.
- Previous Medical History/Bodily Injuries– The professional caregiver should already have this information, but it never hurts to provide it, especially if things change. Also, we all have aches and pains some days and it is best to not agitate those.
- Logbook- It is never a bad idea to keep a logbook so that the caregivers can communicate with each other before each visit. That way if anything does change or seem strange, not only is it documented but it is also easier for a caregiver to provide adequate service.
If you are looking for Home Care or Respite Care in the Charleston area there are a number of great resources to help make your search easier including the Charleston Senior Directory.
Article written by Senior Directory
Regular physical activity is essential to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It is important to make daily activity a regular part of your life. But research has shown that strength training is just as beneficial as an aerobic exercise.
Strength training regularly can reduce signs and symptoms of numerous diseases and chronic conditions such as, arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, back pain and depression. In particular, those with diabetes can better manage and control their glucose levels by adding strength training to their lifestyle. A little strength training can also have a positive impact on a person’s mental and emotional health.
As you age your balance and flexibility tends to weaken, and that can lead to falls and broken bones. Adding strength training and properly executing each exercise can increase your flexibility, balance, bone strength and agility.
When beginning a strength-training regimen, it is important to start slowly and work your way up. Try to do strength-training exercises for all of your major muscles groups at least twice a week for 30 minutes at a time. Be sure to alternate muscle groups throughout the week. There will be slight fatigue and muscle soreness, but that should only last for a few days.
Execute these strengthening exercises to target upper and lower body:
- Arm curls
- Side arm raises
- Chair dips
- Toe Stands
- Leg curls
As you get comfortable with your exercise program, you will learn what your body can and cannot handle. Strength training will allow you to perform day-to-day tasks with ease and help you maintain your independence. Also, as with any exercise program, be sure to check with your doctor before starting.
Women outlive men two-to-one. But it hasn’t always been this way.
I read a study recently that found men and women died of so-called natural causes at about the same rate until about 1900. But by the year 1970, men have become twice as likely to pass away of old age than women.
Why is this?
Because of heart disease and stoke.
Ok, then why are men more likely today to die of hear
t disease and stroke compared to women?
Men appear to be more vulnerable to these diseases because their body fat — called “adiposity” — tends to collect between the chest and hips. And it is between these areas where men need to work on their “core” values.
By that I mean men should focus their exercise to include leg-lifts, full sit-ups and weightlifting that strengthens the core muscles. This combined with a proper diet will do wonders for men’s health.
So wise up, men, and get with the program.
We can now add disturbed sleep to the growing list of problems made better by mindfulness training. Apparently, the practice of non-judgmental focused attention on the present moment leaves a residue that stills the brain/mind enough to help the involuntarily sleep deprived get their rest. At least that’s the conclusion from some solid new research just published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
An especially interesting, and useful, aspect of this research is that it was a randomized clinical trial using real-world interventions with real people. Adults 55 and older with at least moderate problems sleeping were randomly assigned to one of two groups. One group received a six week sleep hygiene education program. The other group participated in a community-based mindfulness program taught by a certified instructor. They also received sleep hygiene instruction.
The mindfulness group met two hours per week for six weeks. As stated in the NIH clinical trials database, those in this group “will be guided through in-class meditation practices and will be assigned daily meditation homework. Active program components include sitting and walking somatosensory-focused meditation, audio-guided body scan meditation, and loving kindness meditation.” This was the real deal. It was a much more immersive experience than something like just listening to oneself breathe a few times week or relying on one of the increasingly popular mindfulness apps, worthwhile endeavors in their own right but not the same intensity as what this research studied.
The sleep hygiene education group also met twice a week for six weeks. They met as a group so as to provide equal support, attention, time, and expectation of benefit. They were taught “knowledge of sleep biology, identifying characteristics of healthy and unhealthy sleep, sleep problems, and self-monitoring of sleep behavior.” The sleep hygiene component included the kind of advice health-care practitioners—myself included—frequently provide patients with moderate sleep problems. Advice such as no alcohol, caffeine, or screens before bed; establish a regular schedule for sleep; associate bed for sleeping not TV; make bedroom dark, cool, and relaxing; avoid large meals before going to bed; exercise during the day; and (personally my least favorite) avoid napping during the day.
While both groups showed improvements in sleep by the end of the study, the mindfulness training group did significantly better in reporting reductions in sleep problems. Plus, as the authors report, the mindfulness group also showed significant improvements in “secondary health outcomes of insomnia symptoms, depression symptoms, fatigue interference, and fatigue severity.”
We know that sleep problems are significantly associated with poor health outcomes. We also know that pharmacological sleep aids all carry significant risk and have significant side effects. We need effective options other than potentially dangerous meds, especially as the population ages and more people develop sleep problems. And the fact that mindfulness training has now been shown to improve sleep among the involuntarily sleep deprived is an important step towards a more well rested, and therefore healthier and happier, population.
It also means I will be changing what I do in my practice when it comes to patients who report sleep problems. From now on sleep hygiene plus a mindfulness practice seems to be the way to go.
Maybe you’re convinced you shouldn’t lift weights because you prefer not looking like The Hulk. Maybe you figure you just wouldn’t like it, since you’re not one of those CrossFit types.
We hate to be confrontational about it, but frankly, you’re wrong. Despite a prevalent allegiance to cardio machines for things like weight loss and overall health, strength training not only builds muscle but can prevent disease, improve mood and — really! — help you lose weight.
Here are 13 smart reasons to include a little work with the weights into your fitness repertoire.
1. You’ll live longer.
While most forms of regular exercise can add years to your life, strength training in particular has big benefits. As we get older, the more muscle mass we have, the less likely we are to die prematurely, according to 2014 research from UCLA. “In other words, the greater your muscle mass, the lower your risk of death,” study co-author Arun Karlamangla, M.D., said in a statement. “Thus, rather than worrying about weight or body mass index, we should be trying to maximize and maintain muscle mass.” And what better way to maximize those muscles than by pumping iron?
2. For better sleep.
Regular exercisers — especially those who truly push themselves — report the best sleep, and weightlifting is no exception. In a small 2012 study in older men, researchers found that resistance training reduced the number of times the study participants woke up during the night, as compared to a control group who performed no exercise.
3. Your progress is so noticeable.
There’s nothing that feels quite as rewarding as setting a goal and crushing it. If you’re new to strength work, you’ll find that a weight you once thought was impossible to lift starts to feel easy sooner than you might imagine. And then, you’ll feel like a boss.
4. To protect your bones.
Weight-bearing exercise and particularly strength training is thought to increase bone density, reducing the risk of fractures and breaks among older adults.
5. To boost your balance.
Of course, one major cause of bone breaks as we age is falling. Some of weightlifting’s benefit in protecting against osteoporosis may be improved strength and balance, resulting in fewer falls. Indeed, research suggests that various resistance routines can reduce an older person’s rate of falling by around 30 percent.
6. It can make you happier.
Like many forms of physical activity, a little lifting can work wonders for your mental health. Strength training has been linked to reduced anxiety and depression symptoms as well as improved self-esteem, and it may even give your brainpower a boost.
7. To look better in your skinny jeans.
Now, we don’t suggest you lift weights (or do any exercise, for that matter) solely for appearance — there are just so many other benefits! — but when it comes to slimming down, endless hours on the elliptical may not be getting you any closer to the results you desperately seek. In fact, building muscle may help you lose fat more effectively than simply doing cardio. “If you’re looking to lose fat, go with strength training,” trainer Nick Tumminello, author of Strength Training for Fat Loss told Business Insider.
8. To burn more calories.
Simply having more muscle on your frame helps your body burn up extra calories — even when you’re sitting completely still.
9. You can do it in under 30 minutes.
Adding strength work to your regular exercise routine doesn’t have to eat up the tiny bit of free time you had left in the day. In fact, lifting is one area where more is not always better — around 30 to 60 minutes a week, total, is plenty, according to Runner’s Times.
10. And you don’t even have to go to the gym.
We’re using the term “lifting weights,” but the world of strength and resistance training includes a whole host of options outside of what you’d find at the gym. You can “lift weights” with cans and jars you find in your kitchen. You can “lift weights” using only your body. You can buy a pair of five-pound dumbbells and lift along with a DVD in the comfort of your own living room, where the only person checking you out in the mirror is you. In fact, if you’re new to strength training, many moves are safer if performed with just your bodyweight until you can get the hang of perfect form. Plus, many of those machines at the gym aren’t adjustable enough for the wide range of bodies that use them.
11. To run faster (really!)
Or swim longer or bike harder or get better at just about any other athletic endeavor you fancy. Why? Because you’ll be cultivating stronger, more powerful muscles to then put to good use. Also, strength training can help prevent injuries in other athletic pursuits, by helping correct muscle imbalances that in turn throw your form — even just while sitting or standing — out of whack.
12. To help your heart.
Despite the name, cardio isn’t the only form of exercise with cardiovascular benefits. A resistance training routine has been shown to lower blood pressure, in some cases as effectively as taking medication. The American Heart Association recommends adults aim for at least two strength training sessions a week.
13. Because then you can wear shirts like this.