Wednesday June 19, 2013
If you're struggling to manage - or stomach - the rising cost of prescription glasses, you might be tempted to buy magnifying reading glasses that are on sale in department stores and in kiosks, just about everywhere you look. Ready-made readers are inexpensive enough that you can afford to keep a pair in your purse, in the car, and at your desk. But how safe is this mass-produced eyewear, for your aging eyes?
It turns out that very little research has been done on these over-the-counter glasses. While they offer convenience, and they're usually very affordable, they'd seem less of a bargain if they ruined your eyes. The good news is, they're likely not harmful, but they do have some limitations. For example, you may not need the same magnifying power in both eyes, but one-size-fits-all readers have the same power in both lenses. Also, they can't correct other vision problems like astigmatism.
Still, vision experts I consulted say if they work for you - great, with some cautions. Take a look at my full article for all their advice on using discount reading glasses, and why you still need a regular eye exam.
Read the full article: Are discount reading glasses safe?
Wednesday June 12, 2013
The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are warning older adults to avoid extremely hot weather this summer - a pattern that's already hit in the southern United States. At greatest risk of heat-related illnesses like heat stroke and life-threatening heat exhaustion are young children, people coping with many chronic illnesses like heart disease and kidney conditions, and older adults in general. In fact, the National Institutes on Aging report that most deaths due to hyperthermia (overheating beyond the body's ability to cool itself) are in people over the age of 50.
In fact, physiological changes in the body make people more vulnerable to overheating as they age. Aging skin gets thinner and less able to moderate body temperature, while blood vessels are less effective at cooling the body. The result can be dangerous illnesses which are especially dangerous for adults who live alone and may not understand the signs that their body is in distress.
The CDC encourages all older people who live alone to check on close friends or relatives who may be at risk in a heatwave, and to recognize symptoms of hyperthermia such as dry, flushed skin, dizziness, changes in mood or demeanor such as irritability or lethargy, and/or a fever over 104°F or 40°C.
Heat and the Elderly. US Centers for Disease Control Public Information Sheet. Accessed June 11, 2013.
Too Hot For Your Health. US National Institutes on Aging Public Information Sheet. Accessed June 11, 2013.
Friday May 31, 2013
A huge new meta-analysis of studies involving a specific group of painkillers has revealed the medications pose risks to the heart and gastrointestinal system when taken at high doses. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDS, include ibuprofen, diclofenac, naproxen and coxib drugs. Concerns about gastrointestinal bleeding caused by so-called "traditional" NSAIDS prompted the development of a new generation of these medications in the 1990s - drugs that subsequently were found to cause heart problems like myocardial infarction.
Published online in The Lancet this week, the review analyzed 639 different trials, involving more than 353,000 patients taking NSAIDS. The paper concludes that even traditional NSAID drugs like ibuprofen can increase the number of fatal heart attacks, when taken for chronic pain or inflammation long-term (over a period of a year).
The major detrimental effects were expressed this way: for every 1,000 patients who already had a moderate risk of heart disease, taking a high dose of diclofenac (150 mg/day) or ibuprofen (1200 mg/day) was associated with three additional coronary events (such as heart attacks), one of them fatal. For every 1,000 patients with a "moderate" risk of gastrointestinal problems taking that amount of NSAID medication over a year, an additional 4-16 upper GI tract complications (mostly bleeds).
All NSAIDS were found to double risk of heart failure, and cause 2-4 times the risk of gastrointestinal problems like bleeding ulcers at these dose and duration levels. Naproxen was an exception in that it seemed not to increase the risk of cardiovascular problems (making it a safer option for patients predisposed to heart disease), though it continues to be linked to gastrointestinal problems when used long-term.
The authors call for more research on the risks of lower doses of NSAIDS over the long-term, as an aging population of baby boomers is expected to pursue pain relief for chronic conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. In an accompanying commentary, preventative medicine professor Marie Griffin of Vanderbilt University writes that safe and effective solutions for long-term pain management are "sorely needed".
"Vascular and upper gastrointestinal effects of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: meta-analyses of individual participant data from randomised trials." The Lancet, Early Online Publication, 30 May 2013
Wednesday May 22, 2013
What if you could wave a magic wand, or find a single ingredient, that could help you avoid the dreaded middle-aged spread as you age? Believe it or not, boosting one component in your daily diet has been proven in research to help people shed pounds, and reach a healthy weight, without feeling deprived or hungry.
What's this "magic" ingredient? Water! While drinking water has been shown to have little impact on satiety (that is, how satisfied you feel after consuming it) eating water-rich foods can slow down the rate of digestion and delay feelings of hunger. Barbara Rolls, nutrition researcher and professor at Pennsylvania State University, was an early proponent of this approach back in the 1990s and has written extensively about it in her series of Volumetrics diet books.
Why does eating foods with a high water content boost weight loss? Rolls says there's new evidence suggesting that water in food is metabolized differently than water consumed as a beverage. Even better, she notes - aiming for foods that contain a lot of water generally leads you to foods that will boost your longevity and health in general, such as fruits, vegetables, and other minimally-processed items. Best of all? You can satisfy yourself with ample portions!