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.
- Read the full article: Why older adults are more vulnerable to the heat
- Which diseases are more common in older people?
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.
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
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!
Chia seeds may have made their mark on the toy market in the late 1970s, but they're gaining popularity as a whole food with benefits now, for their longevity-boosting dietary fiber and omega-3 fatty acid content. In fact, some proponents say that chia seeds can help you lose weight, and give you an energy boost that will last all day. Is this true?
In chia's favor as a weight-loss tool, is its capacity for absorbing water - up to 10 times its weight. Barbara Rolls, a highly-respected nutrition researcher, and Director of Pennsylvania State University's food laboratory, has investigated the power of water-rich foods to keep us full and satisfied longer, with fewer calories, and recommends this strategy for people trying to lose weight as they get older.
Though Rolls has not studied chia seeds in particular, she expects the same principles would apply to chia, if added to other dishes to boost their water content.
In the scientific literature, chia seeds' ability to help you shed pounds has not been demonstrated. I spoke to David Nieman, head of Appalachian State University's Human Performance Laboratory. He's led a few different investigations into the effects of chia seeds on weight-loss and other disease factors (such as blood pressure and inflammation markers). While supplementing with amounts of chia seeds ranging from 25 g to 50 g (about 3-6 tbsp) daily showed some improvement in cardiovascular disease risk factors, none of his randomized trials resulted in weight loss or changes in body composition for the subjects.
"There's nothing highly unusual about chia, despite the mystique about it," he tells me. "Companies are pushing it as a miracle food, and it is a good nutritional product, but it's not very different from other nuts and seeds with the same nutrient makeup."
Still, Nieman believes the seeds show promise as an energy food for sports performance, and his research into this aspect continues. At the very least, chia seeds are a healthy and natural source of some very beneficial nutrients, and deserve a place in your anti-aging diet.
- Read the full article: Can chia seeds boost my energy level?
- Which are healthier: White chia seeds, or black chia seeds?
David Nieman, Director of Human Performance Laboratory, Appalachian State University. Interview conducted April 30, 2013.
Nieman DC, Cayea EJ, Austin MD, Henson DA, McAnulty SR, Jin F. "Chia seed does not promote weight loss or alter disease risk factors in overweight adults." Nutr Res. 2009 Jun;29(6):414-8.
With Mother's Day around the corner, you may be on the hunt for simple gifts that offer comfort to your mom, grandmother, or another special woman in your life.
Why not consider something that will boost her wellbeing - even her longevity - on May 12th? I've got a list of gifts that are easy to arrange, and deliver... like a monthly subscription to a service that will bring healthy chocolate to her door, or small devices that generate nature sounds to help her sleep (great for hotel travel!).
- Take a look at all my recommendations for Mom
Of all the interventions aimed at improving - and protecting - memory, brain exercises are the most effective. That's the conclusion of a recent research review, published earlier this month in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Led by Dr. Raza Naqvi, a geriatric medicine fellow at the University of Toronto, the review analyzed a total of 32 studies examining whether different activities, including supplements, medications, physical exercise and brain games could prevent cognitive decline in otherwise healthy older adults.
The news is bad for supplements like fish oil, and Dehydroepiandosterone (DHEA): they appear to have no effect on memory in this group of subjects. Likewise for estrogen, and testosterone, which were shown to actually contribute to cognitive decline, in research studies on older adults.
What seems to work? In three different research studies, various so-called brain games improved various aspects of memory. While the methods and time periods differed, cognitive exercises to improve memory were the only type of intervention that consistently prevented mental decline in the older subjects who participated.
While the results for physical exercise, including resistance training, aerobics and balance instruction, were mixed, Naqvi says he still recommends physical activity to his patients if they are able. With few negative side effects, exercise provides several anti-aging benefits, including helping you avoid many age-related diseases and boosting longevity in general.
The take-home message from this research overview? "There's no concrete, high-quality evidence that either prescription or non-prescription medications, or supplements, can prevent cognitive decline in healthy older adults," Dr. Naqvi tells me. "If they're expensive, or causing side effects, you should discuss them with your doctor to consider whether they're worth it."
- Read the full article: How to Save Your Memory
Raza Naqvi, Dan Liberman, Jarred Rosenberg, Jillian Alston, Sharon Straus. "Preventing Cognitive Decline in Healthy Older Adults." CMAJ 2013. DOI:10.1503
Make no mistake about it: stress can shorten your lifespan. Far from simply an uncomfortable psychological phenomenon, stress of all types - marital, financial, at your workplace - takes a physical toll on your body and your health.
This is Stress Awareness Day, a date earmarked to boost awareness of how stress and anxiety can negatively affect your well-being, your relationships, your work performance, and your longevity in general. There are such valuable and effective techniques for relieving stress, from taking a "mini-vacation" from work in the middle of the day using a brief mini-meditation or self-hypnosis method (either of which can be done in the privacy of a bathroom stall - no co-workers need see you!), to tips on how to sleep better. All of these practices can help keep you resilient in the face of the barrage of demands and deadlines that make up a typical day.
For a look at our Guide to Stress Elizabeth Scott's valuable site, which is filled with advice on how to relieve stress and live a more relaxed and fulfilling life, click here. Your body and mind will thank you.
Read more about stress and health:
People may not remember having had chicken pox, but if the virus returns as shingles - they're unlikely to forget it quickly. What's unusual about shingles is that it's not a new infection, it's the return of a previous disease.
After you're exposed to the chicken pox virus (and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that more than 90% of the population has), the virus remains dormant in your body. As you age, your ability to fight off the virus diminishes, and it can reawaken as shingles, causing severe nerve pain and other serious problems.
Fortunately, shingles and its complications can be reduced with the shingles vaccine. The vaccine has been approved in both Canada and the United States for people over the age of 50. For people over 60 years and older, health authorities in both countries go further, with formal recommendations that people in this age group get the shingles vaccine.
I've got a number of articles about shingles, explaining why it happens in older people, whether it's contagious, and how this potentially devastating disease can be prevented.
- Read more: Why do some people get shingles?
- How Can I Avoid Getting Shingles?
- What Every Older Adult Should Know About Shingles
A new study suggests that getting hip fracture patients into surgery sooner may improve their chances of recovery. Presented at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) in Chicago on Saturday, the research examined a sample of more than 44,000 hip fracture cases logged by the National Trauma Data Bank.
Hip fractures can be fatal for an older person. Falls which lead to broken hips are the top cause of injury-related deaths in people over the age of 65 in North America.
The yet-unpublished research as described in this news release identified a number of factors that predict worse outcomes after a hip fracture, including dialysis, obesity, shock, diabetes,and cardiovascular disease. The only factor a surgeon could influence, according to the researchers, was the time elapsed between the hip fracture and surgery to treat it - with the optimal window of time described as no greater than 24 hours. Better communication between orthopedic surgeons and the attending physician was recommended as crucial for expedited surgery, and improved survival rates after a hip break.
Tinnitus is known as ringing in your ears, but sufferers can tell you this often annoying, sometimes debilitating problem can manifest as hissing, clicking, or sound like the roaring of ocean waves.
Why does tinnitus happen? This hearing of phantom sound still mystifies many researchers, but there are clues that it may be a symptom of some age-related diseases, can be the result of age-related hearing loss, or a consequence of long-term exposure to loud noises. It's so common among musicians that a non-profit organization, "Hearing Education and Awareness For Rockers" or HEAR, was established in the late 1980s to help with this particular occupational hazard. Since then, San Francisco co-founders Kathy Peck (a rock musician) and Flash Gordon (a local physician) have helped thousands of sufferers better understand and cope with this difficult problem.
Legendary rock guitarist Pete Townshend of the Who - who also suffers from tinnitus - is a supporter of the education effort.
If you suffer from tinnitus, take a look at my article on tinnitus in older people.