June is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

alzheimer's awareness monthAnd brain health awareness, too!

At this time, there is no drug or treatment to prevent Alzheimer’s or dementia. The best advice is that what is good for your heart is good for your brain, too.

Related post: Don’t buy supplements to prevent Alzheimer’s

Embracing a healthy lifestyle is our best chance to reduce the risk of developing dementia as we age.

That means moderate physical exercise every day, a calorie-appropriate diet full of a wide variety of nutrients, and lots of mental stimulation.

Related post: Do “brain games” prevent dementia?

Socializing and mental exercises help improve brain … Continue reading

Add high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to your exercise routine

hiitHIIT for better health— and lower doctors’ bills

A few months ago my husband and I joined a local gym. We wanted to be a little more serious with our exercise routines.

Aging can be expensive. I believe one way to save money on health care as we age is to exercise. Exercise can help prevent diabetes, heart disease, some cancers and possibly dementia.

I also want to keep my muscles and bones strong, to prevent falls and fractures.

I’m no exercise fanatic (quite the opposite, in fact), but aging healthfully is important enough to me that I worked with … Continue reading

How to prevent osteoporosis

prevent osteoporosisMay is National Osteoporosis Month

I can’t let May and the NOF’s awareness campaign pass without giving a shout out to the best way to prevent bone loss or osteoporosis.

It’s not taking enormous calcium supplement tablets every day or occasionally choking down a couple of chalky TUMS.

It’s a combination of eating a variety of nutrient-rich foods and exercising every day.

Actually, no one can prevent bone loss altogether. That’s like saying you can prevent wrinkles. As we age our bones lose strength and flexibility. But we can slow the process down and prevent it from turning into significant Continue reading

Exercise for brain health

brainThe wellness blog in the New York Times had an article about brain health that has strengthened my resolve to exercise every day.

Walk, Jog or Dance: It’s All Good For the Aging Brain

It turns out that regular walking, cycling, swimming, dancing and even gardening may substantially reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.

The author is referring to a recently published study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

The study looked at 10 years’ worth of lifestyle data, including exercise levels, on 900 men and women over the age of 65. Over the course of those 10 years, the … Continue reading

Tips to cut back on medications

cut back on medicationsI don’t think anyone would be surprised to know that Americans are popping more pills than ever.

About 60% take at least one prescription medication. Even more take daily dietary supplements, herbal remedies or other over-the-counter drugs.

And the more drugs you take, the higher the risk of dangerous drug interactions.

A new study published this month in JAMA reports that close to 88% of older Americans over the age of 62 take at least one drug. Of those, the report estimates, 15% are at high risk of suffering from a major drug-drug interaction.

I read Dr. Richard Lehman’s response Continue reading

Blueberries for brain health

blueberriesFor years I’ve heard that blueberries are good for brain health. Which is great, because I love blueberries and try to work them into my diet several times a week.

So I was happy to read the results of some new research that supports the connection between blueberries and the human brain.

Most blueberry studies to date have been performed on animals, but two recent studies—funded in part by the National Institute on Aging and the blueberry industry—used human subjects.

One study used adults over the age of 68. Half ate the equivalent of 1 cup of blueberries daily for … Continue reading

Screening eye exams in older adults

Just yesterday I posted about the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and the fine line they walk between providing evidence-based recommendations for screening tests and making medical specialist groups happy.

Sometimes it just doesn’t happen.

The task force recently gave an “I” grade to vision screening in patients over 65. An I grade, or Insufficient evidence, means that the task force can’t definitively say that the benefits of vision screening in older adults outweigh the possible harms.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) doesn’t agree.

Specifically, the task force reviewed the evidence for primary care doctors screening for … Continue reading

Nexium and increased dementia risk

nexiumI’ve previously posted that Nexium and similar acid-reducing drugs, the PPIs (proton pump inhibitors), have been linked to an increased risk of heart attack .

Now, a new study has confirmed a connection between PPIs and dementia.

The patients receiving regular PPI medication…had a significantly increased risk of incident dementia compared with the patients not receiving PPI medication…

The avoidance of PPI medication may prevent the development of dementia.

The study specifically looked at PPI use in patients age 75 and older, who are frequently taking several prescription medications.

This is an important study, because as the health news Continue reading

What is a death doula?

I subscribe to the belief that no one should die alone or afraid, and death is a natural part of the life cycle that can be—should be—a sacred, deeply meaningful experience.

Sadly, too often that’s not the case. Our current health care system doesn’t do death well at all. Unless they qualify for hospice, patients and their families are left feeling helpless, confused and afraid. Sometimes angry.

No one expects us to be experts at childbirth if we’ve never had a baby. Why should we be experts at death if we or a loved one has never died before?

I … Continue reading

Hospice and Palliative Care Month

November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month!

I am a huge supporter of hospice and palliative care, but I think it’s underutilized in our health care system.

So to help inform and increase awareness, here are some of my favorite books and DVDs on the topic.

Heads up about Medicare changes

This post if for any of my readers who are Medicare age or about to be Medicare age.

I think it’s important to understand what changes are in the pipeline that will affect your doctors and their ability to be able to treat you.

Some doctors already refuse to see Medicare patients because of government red tape and poor reimbursement.

But starting in 2017 it’s going to get worse, and many physicians are wondering if they should follow their colleagues and drop out of the Medicare game altogether.

I recently read two posts by physicians on the health care blog … Continue reading

The shingles (herpes zoster) vaccine

shingles herpes zosterA painful but common condition in older adults is shingles or herpes zoster. I’ve known several elderly people afflicted with this, and I will absolutely get the vaccine as soon as I turn 60!

The vaccine, Zostavax, is FDA-approved for ages 50 and up, but the Cleveland Clinic recently advised that it’s not cost effective for anyone under 60 to get immunized.

Why? Because Zostavax is too expensive. On average, it costs about $200, and that doesn’t include the cost for the office visit or vaccine administration that some clinics charge.

The vaccine is effective for 10-12 years, so … Continue reading

Yoga for neck pain

Chronic neck pain can be, well, a pain in the neck.

Usually caused by overuse, poor posture, tension or arthritis—or a combination—neck, shoulder and upper back pain can interfere with almost all routine activities.

But some simple yoga moves can help, and I think this particular YouTube video is great. The moves are well explained, and they can be done either standing or sitting at your desk. And it’s short, only 4 minutes, so these exercises can be done almost any time if your neck muscles are feeling tight or painful.

The Clinical Journal of Continue reading

Goodbye, Dad

My father passed away on the Fourth of July. He was 93 years old.

It sounds a cliché to say he was “surrounded by his family,” but he was, and it was an experience none of us in that room will ever forget.

My mother, brother, husband, sister-in-law and four nieces (along with one fiancé and one boyfriend) were all crowded into Dad’s little room at his memory care home.

His condition had deteriorated the previous night, and we knew this day could be his last. He was not conscious and his breathing was labored.

As we talked, cried and … Continue reading

Look “Up” – Health benefits of positive thinking

positive outlookDo you think of yourself as an optimist or a pessimist? Or, like me, a hybrid of the two (hope for the best, but plan for the worst)?

I just finished reading Up: How Positive Outlook Can Transform Our Health and Aging by Hilary Tindle, MD, MPH, and found it an engaging look at how our outlook can drive our behaviors toward better or poorer health.

Dr. Tindle began her career as a primary care doctor. What she found were “relentless days of chronically ill” patients who suffered from obesity, depression, anxiety, insomnia, smoking, drinking, loneliness and isolation.

…it

Continue reading