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Aspects of Aging

Health and Wellness

Barbara Weinbaum
New York Times
August 23, 2016

A great deal of the decrease in deaths from heart attacks over the past two decades can be attributed to specific medical technologies like stents and drugs that break open arterial blood clots. But a study by health economists at Harvard, M.I.T., Columbia and the University of Chicago showed that heart attack survival gains from patients selecting better hospitals were significant, about half as large as those from breakthrough technologies.

New York Times
February 17, 2016

Some forms of exercise may be much more effective than others at bulking up the brain, according to a remarkable new study in rats. For the first time, scientists compared head-to-head the neurological impacts of different types of exercise: running, weight training and high-intensity interval training. The surprising results suggest that going hard may not be the best option for long-term brain health.

For a related article, see For Effective Brain Fitness, Do More Than Play Simple Games (New York Times, July 8, 2016) 

New York Times
September 5, 2016

Loneliness, which Emily Dickinson described as “the Horror not to be surveyed,” is a quiet devastation. But in Britain, it is increasingly being viewed as something more: a serious public health issue deserving of public funds and national attention. Working with local governments and the National Health Service, programs aimed at mitigating loneliness have sprung up in dozens of cities and towns. Even fire brigades have been trained to inspect homes not just for fire safety but for signs of social isolation.  

Vitamin B12 as Protection for the Aging Brain
New York Times
September 6, 2016

Depression, dementia and mental impairment are often associated with B12 deficiency, especially among the elderly who live alone and don’t eat properly.

New York Times
September 7, 2016

“Over the last 15 years, as a geriatrics and palliative care doctor, I have had candid conversations with countless patients near the end of their lives. The most common emotion they express is regret: regret that they never took the time to mend broken friendships and relationships; regret that they never told their friends and family how much they care; regret that they are going to be remembered by their children as hypercritical mothers or exacting, authoritarian fathers."  So stated VJ Periyakoil, M.D. and that’s why he came up with a project to encourage people to write a last letter to their loved ones. It can be done when someone is ill, but it’s really worth doing when one is still healthy, before it’s too late.

16 Tips to Keep Your Joints Healthy
August 25, 2016

Stay In Motion. It's the golden rule of joint health: The more you move, the less stiffness you'll have. Whether you're reading, working, or watching TV, change positions often. Take breaks from your desk or your chair and get active. See this slide show for details of keeping limber.

September 30, 2016

It helps your heart.  If you're in good shape, moderate drinking makes you 25% to 40% less likely to have a heart attack, stroke, or hardened arteries. This may be in part because small amounts of alcohol can raise your HDL ("good" cholesterol) levels. Heavy drinking, on the other hand, boosts your risk of heart disease, but know the limits.  Before you start a petition to replace the office water cooler with a beer keg, let's be clear: Alcohol is only healthy in smaller amounts -- about 1 drink a day for women (5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1.5 ounces of liquor) and 2 for men. After that, the benefits get hazier and the risks increase.

New York Times
March 9, 2015

Of course, young children fall more than any other age group, but the consequences are rarely more serious than a skinned knee or smashed ice cream cone and thus don’t get counted in official tallies. Fall injuries requiring medical attention rise almost linearly from age 18 on, peaking at 115 per 1,000 adults 75 and older. Statistics among older people are indeed daunting. Dr. Laurence Z. Rubenstein, chairman of geriatrics at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine, reports that those 65 and older constitute about 13 percent of the population but account for three-fourths of all deaths caused by falls. About 40 percent in this age group fall at least once a year; one in 40 of them ends up in the hospital, after which only half are still alive a year later.

New York Times 
November 3, 2014
Preventing a fall, and the resulting injuries, isn’t simply a matter of being more careful. Indeed, experts who have studied falls wish that people would take measures to protect themselves much as they do against heart disease or viral infections.

New York Times
September 23, 2016

Home medical care, a practice from the past, can cost less than hospital care. But bringing it back faces numerous challenges.

New York Times 
April 15, 2016

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all adults age 60 and over be routinely vaccinated “irrespective of whether you’ve had shingles or not,” said Dr. Rafael Harpaz, a medical epidemiologist in the division of viral diseases at the C.D.C. The vaccine is approved starting at age 50. The risk of recurrence is comparable to the risk of a first episode, with 6 percent of adults having a second bout of shingles within eight years of the first.

New York Times
June 20, 2016

After the author wrote last year that diet, not exercise, was the key to weight loss, I was troubled by how some readers took this to mean that exercise therefore had no value.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Of all the things we as physicians can recommend for health, few provide as much benefit as physical activity.  In 2015, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges put out a report calling exercise a "miracle cure."

Symptoms Older Adults Shouldn't Ignore
August 17, 2016

If you experience any of these symptoms, consult your doctor.

Loneliness Can be Deadly for Elders; Friends Are the Antidote
New York Times
December 30, 2016

A "tide" of recent research indicated how dangerous loneliness and isolation can be and how important social networks are to counteract the dangers.

How to Become a "Superager"
New York Times
December 31, 2016

"Superagers" are those whose memory and attention aren't merely above average for their age, but are on a par with healthy, active 25 year olds. The keys seem to include engaging in vigorous exercise and strenuous mental effort.

Who Will Care for the Caregivers?
New York Times
January 19, 2017

The estimated economic value of unpaid family caregivers is approximately $470 billion per year. Those caregivers are wearing out. They may be aging themselves, may be balancing work and other family demands, may be unable to save for their own retirement. There are things the medical community can do to help them.

Getting Older, Sleeping Less
New York Times
January 16, 2017

The causes of insomnia are many, and they increase in number and severity as we age. What to watch for, when and how to talk to your doctor, possible treatments.

Blame Technology, Not Longer Life Spans, for Health Spending Increases
New York Times
January 23, 2017

Increases in health care spending are not driven by the aging of the population, but by the increasing sophistication and cost of medical technology. 

When Retirement Comes With a Daily Dose of Cannabis
New York Times
February 19, 2017

There is increasing evidence that cannabis can help with many of the physical problems of aging. Obtaining access in a nursing home or similar facility can be difficult or impossible, although things are changing.

Yoga for Everyone: A Beginner's Guide
New York Times "Well Guides"
March 5, 2017

Descriptions and videos of easy to do yoga poses. For those ready to go further, see Yoga to Make You Strong

Working Longer May Benefit Your Health
New York Times
March 3, 2017

The scientific evidence is inconclusive, but it tends to suggest that working longer is good for your health, particularly if you find your work fulfilling.

The Biggest Threat Facing Middle-Age Men Isn't Smoking or Obesity: It's Loneliness
Boston Globe Magazine
March 9, 2017

The health hazards of skimping on time with friends are increasingly obvious.

Informed Patient? Don't Bet On It
New York Times
March 1, 2017

Most people don't read or don't understand the "informed consent" form they sign.

Generation Us: Downsizing Your Living Arrangement Can Be Stressful at Any Age
Daily Progress (Charlottesville, VA)

March 16, 2017

Moving from a house to an apartment to assisted living or an nursing home.... It's hard. There is even a condition, relocation-stress syndrome or "transfer trauma" that can lead to physical symptoms including fatigue, sleep disturbances, anxiety and agitation.

Health Benefits of Pets for Older Adults
Next Avenue
March 16, 2017

Among the benefits: companionship and connection to community, exercise, lower blood pressure, lower anxiety.

The Best Exercise for Aging Muscles
New York Times
March 23, 2017

Recent research indicates that intense exercise, especially interval training, may improve health at the cellular (mitochondrial) level.  

Self-Driving Cars Could Be Boon for Aged, After Initial Hurdles
New York Times
March 23, 2017

Once the bugs are worked out, self-driving cars might extend the independence of the aging, especially as the majority live in the suburbs with limited or no public transportation.

High Tech Hope for the Hard of Hearing
The New Yorker
April 3, 2017

Recent research findings show how hearing is damaged and lost, and is beginning to develop new hearing aids and other means of improving hearing.

Patient Voices: Sleep Apnea
New York Times
April 3, 2017

Sleep apnea is common, and can cause significant health problems. Here are stories from patients about their treatment and cure.

Walk, Stretch or Dance? Dancing May Be Best for the Brain
New York Times
March 29, 2017

Research indicates that social dancing (ballroom, country, square dancing for example) improves brain function while providing physical exercise.

Is It Harder to Lose Weight When You're Older?
New York Times
March 31, 2017

Unfortunately, yes, for a variety of reasons. Instead of focusing on the scale, focus on maintaining a healthy weight, healthy eating and exercise.

How Many Pills Are Too Many?
New York Times
April 10, 2017

Patients should review their prescriptions regularly with their doctor, especially if they see several specialists or are having problems like dizziness. There may be drugs they can stop taking, or reduce the dosage.

The 9-Minute Strength Workout
New York Times
April 17, 2017

Fast and rigorous for when you don't have time for a full workout.

Why Deep Breathing May Keep Us Calm
New York Times
April 5, 2017

Research at Stanford University indicates just why deep breathing can help us calm down. It also demonstrates how intricate and pervasive links are within our bodies between breathing, thinking, behaving, and feeling.

The Cost of Not Taking Your Medicine
New York Times
April 17, 2017

Too many patients don't take the medications they're prescribed, either because they can't afford them, they feel better and don't think they need them, or other reasons. It's important to talk with your doctor before starting or stopping any medication. The results can be catastrophic.

After Knee or Hip Replacement, No Place Like Home
New York Times
April 24, 2017

Research demonstrates that most patients, even those living alone, do better going home after surgery and receiving in-home physical therapy, than they do spending time in a specialized rehab center.

Diet Sodas Tied to Dementia and Stroke
New York Times 
April 26, 2017

A long range study indicates that people who consume one to six diet sodas per week had twice the risk of having a stroke as those who had none. The link to dementia is weaker but similar. 

Are Dorms for Adults the Solution to the Loneliness Epidemic?
Fast Company
April 27, 2017

Living alone has been linked to an earlier death. Co-housing, where residents have private apartments but also share a common living area, may be one solution.

Health Care? Daughters Know All About It
New York Times
May 11, 2017

A huge percentage of the care of older people falls on their daughters (many of whom are also approaching retirement). The increase in the number of people with dementia will increase the demand. Care givers sacrifice their own health, their time with their children and partners, their current earnings, and their retirement.

Yoghurt May Be Good for the Bones
New York Times 
May 16, 2017

New research indicates that eating yoghurt daily may help increase their strength and density, decreasing the risk of osteoporosis.

The ABCs and Ds of Whether to Get Protstate Cancer Screening
New York Times
June 26, 2017

Explains why the recommendation regarding prostate screening have changed for younger men but remained the same for those over 70. 

Forgot Where You Parked? Good
New York Times
June 30, 2017

Forgetting small things is actually healthy. It turns out that forgetting can help us learn, and when we relearn something we've forgotten, we develop deeper understanding.

The Patient Wants to Leave. The Hospital Says "No Way"
New York Times
July 7, 2017

Checking out "against medical advice" is fairly common, especially among older patients. Emergency medicine is sometimes practiced as "one size fits all" without considering the age and other health issues of patients. Fear of lawsuits may also play a part. Many elderly patients do better at home than in an institutional setting.

How to Stay Out of a Nursing Home and Age Independently
PBS Newshour
July 11, 2017

A summary of recent research on how to remain healthy and independent, including diet, exercise, and social interaction.

The Subtle Signs of a Thyroid Disorder
New York Times
July 24, 2017

Routine blood work may not show problems with your thyroid. You may want to talk with your doctor about screening for thyroid stimulating hormone, too.

Warren Scores Victory on Bill to Make Hearing Aids Cheaper, Easier to Buy
Boston Globe
August 3, 2017

A bill passed by the US Senate would make it possible to purchase a hearing aid without a visit to a specialist, and encourage the development and sale of cheaper, high quality devices.

Stop Treating 70 and 90 Year Olds The Same
New York Times
August 11, 2017

Health care providers need to realize that their most elderly patients are very different from their older patients, and adjust drugs, screening recommendations and other care accordingly.

Tai Chi May Help Prevent Falls
New York Times
August 8, 2017

Tai Chi, an ancient Chinese martial art, has been shown to help prevent falls by improving flexibility and balance.

New Study Offers Support for Prostate Testing
New York Times
September 4, 2017

There has been conflicting advice in the last few years on the benefit of PSA testing. New analysis suggests that having the test but proceeding cautiously with biopsies and treatment may have benefits. There is not unanimous agreement however.

Under "Observation," Some Hospital Patients Face Big Bills
New York Times
September 1, 2017

Patients "under observation" can spend days in the hospital but still be classified as "out-patients." The implications can be dire, especially if they need subsequent nursing home care, since Medicare treats in-patient and out-patient bills differently.

Vision and Hearing Loss Are Tied to Cognitive Decline
New York Times
September 25, 2017

If left untreated, diminished vision or hearing can result in a decline in cognitive ability as well. Currently, Medicare's coverage of vision and hearing correction is extremely limited, leaving poorer seniors at increased risk.

Graying State Needs More Health Care
Albuquerque Journal
October 22, 2017

New Mexico is rapidly changing from one of the youngest states to one of the oldest. The number of health care providers we need is increasing, but the supply isn't. Opportunities for businesses (and groups like Village in the Village) that provide services to seniors will also increase.

Under New Guidelines, Millions More Americans Will Need to Lower Blood Pressure
New York Times
November 13, 2017

The American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology have issued new guidelines for blood pressure levels, based on findings from a federally funded study. The guidelines will require many more Americans to use drugs to lower their blood pressure when diet and exercise don't get them to the much lower numbers.

For a doctor's perspective on the guidelines, see Don't Let New Blood Pressure Guidelines Raise Yours (NYTimes Nov. 15). The author advises caution and extensive conversations with your health care provider before starting new drug regimes. He points out that the study patients were monitored under ideal conditions (not a rushed doctor's office) and were chosen for the study because of elevated risks of heart disease. And before you go for your next appointment, read Odds Are They're Taking Your Blood Pressure Wrong, for information on how it should be done. Don't hesitate to ask that your doctor's office do it right.

Cataract Surgery May Prolong Your Life
New York Times
December 4, 2017

Results of a recent study indicate that, not only does it improve quality of life through better vision, cataract surgery may actually prolong your life. There are things you can do and foods you can eat to help prevent cataracts, but their removal is the most common surgical procedure in the US.

The Surprising Effects of Loneliness on Health
New York Times
December 11, 2017

The negative effects of loneliness and social isolation have been known for several years. But as scientific understanding grows, new refinements are appearing. For example, not every person who is isolated is lonely. Loneliness, an emotion rather than a state of being, is surprisingly common across all age groups, and may indicate a propensity for dementia in later life.

Why Sitting May Be Bad for Your Heart
New York Times
December 20, 2017

While we've known for a long time that sitting too long is unhealthy - leading to weight gain, diabetes and heart disease - a new study shows that it may be damaging our heart muscles by encouraging the body to manufacture a particular chemical that can contribute to heart failure. Even exercise may not counteract the damage. 

Too Many Older Patients Get Cancer Screenings
New York Times
December 19, 2017

Older patients - some in their 80s and 90s - are being screened for cancers that are unlikely to affect them. While mammograms and PSA tests are "noninvasive" and may not be seen as harmful, followup biopsies, etc. can be painful and traumatic. The American Cancer Society and other professional groups have issued guidelines for screening, which should be considered by patients, their doctors and their families in light of life expectancy and other factors.

Vitamin D and Calcium Don't Prevent Bone Fractures
New York Times
December 28, 2017

A growing body of research demonstrates that supplements don't help strengthen bones against fractures. Talk to your doctor; you may be able to get rid of those pills and save some money. Concentrate on foods that provide the nutrients and on getting exercise.

Afraid of Falling? For Older Adults, the Dutch Have a Cure
New York Times
January 2, 2018

A specialized class helps seniors in The Netherlands learn how to avoid falls, and how to fall so they avoid serious injuries. 

For those who live here and can't attend such classes, here's advice on How to Prevent Falls

You're Over 75 and You're Healthy. Why Are You Taking a Statin?
New York Times
January 5, 2018

Research indicates that statins may not prevent a first heart attack in older patients, and can have serious side effects. Talk to your doctor.

New Findings Could Save Lives of More Stroke Patients
New York Times
January 24, 2018

New research indicates that the critical "window" for intervention after a stroke may be longer than previously believed. If more patients receive appropriate treatment, more will survive and be less impaired.

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