Older Americans Who Neglect Oral Care Put Overall Health At Risk

June 19, 2018  
Filed under Aging Parents, Health & Wellness

 

Conscientious parents constantly remind their children to brush and floss, and routinely schedule dental checkups to make sure their teeth and gums are healthy – and staying that way.

But youngsters aren’t the only ones who who can use such reminders. Older Americans need to put a priority on their oral health as well, and research shows that as a group they aren’t doing so.

In fact, the statistics are grim. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that almost every single American over age 65 (96 percent) has had a cavity, and 20 percent have untreated tooth decay. Another 65 percent suffer from gum disease, an ailment that has been linked to a host of other problems, such as strokes, heart disease and diabetes.

“Anyone who thinks they can ease up on dental care as they age is making a big mistake,” says Dr. Harold Katz, a dentist, bacteriologist and developer of TheraBreath Healthy Gums Oral Rinse (www.therabreath.com).

“Not only do poor dental habits affect what’s going on in your mouth, they also affect your overall health.”

Some of the CDC’s findings that Katz says are troubling include:

  • Tooth loss. Nearly one in five adults aged 65 or older have lost all of their teeth. Complete tooth loss is twice as prevalent among adults aged 75 and older (26 percent) compared with adults aged 65 to 74 (13 percent).  The CDC points out that having missing teeth, or wearing dentures, can have a detrimental effect on nutrition. “It’s not surprising that people who have lost teeth, or wear denture, often are going to choose soft food they chew easily,” Katz says. “They will pass up fresh fruits and vegetables that are more nutritious, but are more difficult for them to eat.”
  • Oral cancer. Cancers of the mouth (oral and pharyngeal cancers) are primarily diagnosed in older adults; median age at diagnosis is 62 years. “That’s another reason it’s important for older people to have regular checkups,” Katz says. “Your dentist can check for signs of oral cancer during those visits.”
  • Dry mouth caused by medications. Most older Americans take both prescription and over-the-counter drugs, many of which can cause dry mouth. Reduced saliva flow increases the risk of cavities. Saliva helps prevent tooth decay, gum disease and bad breath, and also lubricates the mouth, making it easier to eat, swallow, speak and taste food. “Sometimes dry mouth might just cause mild discomfort,” Katz says. “At other times it can lead to significant oral disease that can compromise the person’s health, dietary intake and quality of life.”

“As  you age, proper oral care is just as important as ever,” Katz says. “It’s not something you want to ignore because your overall health is at stake.”

 

VT SENIOR GAMES ASSOCIATION ANNOUNCES SUMMER SEASON OF EVENTS

June 19, 2018  
Filed under Health & Wellness, News

Hundreds of VT athletes over 50 get ready for major summer competitions

 

The Vermont Senior Games Association (VSGA), a program of the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, announces its summer season of competitive athletic events for people over 50.

Read more

Here are ten tips to ACE your posture

June 14, 2018  
Filed under Health & Wellness

Mom was right, posture is important, especially as we spend our days hunched over phones and computers. Poor posture strains muscles and joints, and is linked to back and neck pain, as well as overall stress and even depression. Plus slumping makes you look older.

Read more

Chin-ups and Facelifts May Have a New Definition

June 14, 2018  
Filed under Health & Wellness

Can Face Yoga Reduce Signs of Aging?

By Melissa Erickson

When it comes to better-looking skin, some women opt for invasive surgery or Botox, but new research finds that doing simple facial exercises can help banish lines and wrinkles and lead to younger-looking skin.

Read more

A Woman’s Best Friend, Too

June 14, 2018  
Filed under Health & Wellness

Dog temperaments to consider for women living on their own

By Melissa Erickson

Dogs aren’t just man’s best friend — they’re woman’s best friend, too. While dogs provide companionship and love, security and an exercise partner, the best pet will also match your lifestyle, finances, energy and activity levels.

What dog is right for a woman living alone?

“Don’t just go with the cutest pup you find. I’ve seen many Australian shepherds end up at shelters or with behavior issues because owners choose them for their great looks without considering the breed’s high energy needs and at times frustrating herding instinct,” said Meg Marrs, senior editor at K9 of Mine (k9ofmine.com).

“Overall there are a lot of things to think about when choosing a new pet, but current lifestyle should be among the top considerations,” said veterinarian Aaron Vine, vice president of Central Veterinary Associates. “If a person is fit and active, choosing an active breed of dog would be best. If a person has medical concerns, such as arthritis, or has difficulty getting around, a smaller-breed dog should be chosen. A woman who is older and not in the best of shape should only choose a smaller-breed dog. The larger-breed dogs such as Rottweilers, Golden Retrievers, Labradors and others can require a lot of strength just to take them for a walk, but they do also make great jogging partners.”

Protection/security

“There’s a reason that so many German shepherds are used as police dogs,” said Benjamin Nelson, co-editor of the Super Whiskers blog (superwhiskers.com). These imposing and strong dogs have a physical presence that will help you feel safe at home and out on your own, plus they’re intelligent and easy to train, Nelson said.

“While almost any dog may help deter a burglar, breeds like Rottweilers and Dobermans look intimidating, and no one will think about messing with you if you have one of these dogs at your side,” Marrs said. “Despite their reputation, most owners will attest to how sweet and gentle these dogs really are. They actually make great family dogs.”

Small space

The most famous characteristic of the English bulldog makes these dogs perfect if you live in a small space: They’re lazy.

“Short walks will keep them happy, and for the rest of the time they will just be happy with you on the couch. … They don’t get particularly big either, and combined with a very funny personality, they will be the perfect dog for a small space,” Nelson said.

Other low-maintenance dogs with minimal exercise requirements and few grooming needs include pugs, Chihuahuas, Boston terriers and Malteses, Marrs said.

Get a fit friend

If you are looking for an exercise partner, a retired greyhound “will be a better motivator than any personal trainer,” Nelson said.

Greyhounds range from 50 to 80 pounds “yet they are known as little big dogs, because they are extremely happy in small spaces,” said Lisa Sallie, president and founder of the non-profit Grateful Greyhounds (gratefulgreyhounds.org). “Retired racing greyhounds generally come off the tracks around age 2.5, and live to be about 13; so, you do not have the puppy years or habits to endure, but generally a decade with a lovely dog.”

Other high-energy breeds include Golden Retrievers, Labradors, shepherds or terriers, Marrs said.

Small dog, big investment

“I think the easiest breeds for older women are the smaller breeds who do not need the level of activity that larger dogs do, like Yorkies, Morkies, Maltese,” said Lynette Whiteman, executive director, Caregiver Volunteers.

A small poodle “is a perfect match for more sedentary women who are after companionship, and a hypoallergenic breed,” said Lazhar Ichir, founder of BreedingBusiness.com, a resource for dog breeders.

For a less-mobile woman, a Shih Tzu is a great choice because they don’t need a huge amount of exercise and they’re very light shedders, Nelson said.

Crossbreeds

Crossbreeds “make great pets and often have less inherited diseases,” said Marina Cholakova, spokeswoman for Cloud 9 Vets, which specializes in at-home end-of-life veterinary care. “Also, consider getting a rescue dog rather than buying a puppy. There are so many dogs in charities and rescue centers that just need a second chance of a happy home, and these centers will assist in finding the right dog to match your situation.”

4 Common Retirement  Planning Mistakes

June 14, 2018  
Filed under Aging Parents, Health & Wellness, Money

And How to Avoid Them

Constructing a smart retirement income plan isn’t easy. Throughout the working years there are many factors to consider, such as salary, expenses – monthly and unforeseen – debt and college for the kids, just to name a few. Read more

Engage… at Any Age!

June 14, 2018  
Filed under Health & Wellness

You are never too old (or young) to take part in activities that enrich your physical, mental and emotional well-being. No matter your age, there is no better time than now to start.

To help do just that, consider these tips from the Administration for Community Living:

Be Well Read more

Better Sleep Can Prevent Cognitive Decline

June 11, 2018  
Filed under Aging Parents, Health & Wellness

Better Sleep Can Prevent Cognitive Decline

Psychiatrist and Sleep Expert Offers Tips on Sleep and Brain Health

By Dr. Alex Dimitriu

 

Menlo Park, CA, June 2018 – Sleep is as important to our health as good nutrition and regular exercise. Not getting enough sleep is detrimental to daytime functioning – to our mood, energy, concentration and reaction time – and over the long term, it contributes to obesity and the risk of serious illness. But according to psychiatrist and sleep specialist Dr. Alex Dimitriu, sleepless nights have implications well beyond making you sleepy the next day. “Some of the most exciting research in sleep science is studying the effects of sleep on the brain and what happens when you deprive your brain of restorative sleep,” he says. “New research suggests that sleeping less than seven to eight hours a night can be linked to memory loss, cognitive decline, and even Alzheimer’s disease.”

 

Our brains don’t sleep when we do.

During waking hours, the brain is bombarded with more stimuli than it can process. When we go to sleep, the brain goes to work, making order out of chaos and archiving memories for later retrieval. It does this by strengthening critical neural connections, discarding unimportant ones, and solidifying new memories.

 

“We’ve all noticed, and research has confirmed that ‘sleeping on it’ helps us recall a newly learned task,” says Dr. Dimitriu. “This explains why people suffering memory deficits can recall a name from forty years ago but not what they had for lunch yesterday. Their brains have become less efficient at making new connections and storing new memories. Better sleep may improve this key brain function.”

 

As with every organ in the body that converts fuel into energy, the brain produces waste that accumulates during waking hours and is cleared out while we sleep. There is more space between brain cells while we’re asleep, making it easier for cerebrospinal fluid to flush out toxins. Researchers are just beginning to understand this cleansing process – called the glymphatic system – but it appears that the more waste that’s littering the brain, the easier it is for degenerative diseases to take hold. Among these waste products is beta-amyloid, the toxic protein best known for its presence in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. The glymphatic system, which becomes less efficient as we age, does its work while we sleep, raising the possibility that better sleep can improve the processes that flush beta-amyloid and other toxins from the brain.

 

Older adults with dementia suffer sleep disturbances that have generally been considered a consequence of diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Now researchers are looking into whether sleep problems might themselves be a risk factor for cognitive decline, dementia, and Alzheimer’s. In a recent study funded by the National Institutes of Health, it was found that losing just one night of sleep led to an immediate increase in beta-amyloid in the brain. These beta-amyloid proteins clump together to form the amyloid plaques that impair communication between neurons and are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Dimitriu notes: “While previous studies have shown that sleep deprivation elevates the level of beta-amyloid proteins in the brains of mice, this is one of the first to show that sleep may play an important role in clearing beta-amyloid in the human brain. This is an important step in helping us understand the pathology of Alzheimer’s and potentially how to prevent it.”

 

Reversing cognitive decline

“We are seeing more and more evidence that sleep plays a critical role in maintaining brain function as we age,” Dr. Dimitriu continues. “The question of reversing cognitive decline by improving sleep is another interesting avenue for investigation.” A 2014 study tested a novel therapeutic program for reducing mild cognitive impairment based on the idea that clinical trials in pursuit of a “magic bullet” drug have yielded little but that a combination of therapies that address multiple targets in the underlying pathology of Alzheimer’s might have an additive or synergistic effect. The program included life style changes, including sleep optimization, as well as a regimen of medication and supplements designed to optimize metabolic factors implicated in Alzheimer’s, correct imbalances, reduce beta-amyloid, and more. “The study was small but showed impressive results,” says Dr. Dimitriu. “Clearly this combination approach shows promise.”

 

Improving sleep

Everyone has trouble falling asleep occasionally. For most of the millions of Americans who regularly struggle to get to sleep or stay asleep, improving sleep habits can restore a restful night’s sleep. Dr, Dimitriu makes these recommendations:

 

·        Don’t eat a heavy meal or drink a lot of liquid close to bedtime. Reduce or eliminate stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine during the day and alcohol in the evening.

·        Exercise regularly – but early in the day, not within several hours of bedtime.

·        Stick to a sleep schedule, going to bed and waking at the same time each day, including weekends. Avoid naps or limit them to 30 minutes; don’t nap after 3:00pm.

·        Keep your room cooler than during the day. Use a fan or noise machine to mask distracting sounds. Try room-darkening shades if morning light wakes you too early.

·        Take about 30 minutes to wind down before going to bed. Do something relaxing, like reading or listening to quiet music. If you can’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, do something relaxing for 20 minutes, or until you feel sleepy.

·        Sleeping on your side, particularly on your left side, may improve circulation while you sleep.

·        Don’t use a computer, tablet or smart phone right before going to bed! The light from the screen stimulates the brain and makes it hard to fall asleep.

 

“We’ve long known that sleep is important for overall health and especially for brain function,” Dr. Dimitriu concludes. “Now, as we uncover the mechanisms at work, we have the opportunity to make great strides in preventing and treating cognitive decline and degenerative disease.”

 

Alex Dimitriu, MD, is double board-certified in psychiatry and sleep medicine and is the founder of the Menlo Park Psychiatry and Sleep Medicine Center in Menlo Park, CA. 

Increasing our awareness of stroke

May 31, 2018  
Filed under Aging Parents, Health & Wellness

By Matthew Sullivan, M.D.

 

National Stroke Awareness Month may be behind us, but work is always needed to combat one of the deadliest diseases on earth. We have all likely experienced the devastating effects of a stroke in either the life of a family member or in someone close to us. As a physician, I see the consequences of this terrible disease every day. There are many ways to work to reduce the impact of stroke in our community and as with any significant public health threat, it starts with all of us refreshing a few key pieces of knowledge.

 

Sometimes known as a cardiovascular accident (CVA), a stroke is actually a decrease in the blood flow to an area of the brain. This can happen in one of two ways—a blockage of blood flow within an artery (an ischemic stroke, the most common form) or by leakage of blood from a damaged blood vessel (a hemorrhagic stroke, less common).

 

Brain cell death due to decreased oxygen occurs within minutes and results of this can be catastrophic. In the United States, stroke is the leading cause of significant disability and is the fifth leading cause of death. It is the second leading cause of death worldwide. The numbers surrounding this disease are fairly staggering from both a personal and public health point of view, but the good news is that many strokes and their tragic outcomes can be prevented.

 

There are risk factors we cannot change, such as our age, race, gender and family history. Importantly, age is the biggest factor as chances of a stroke double in each sequential decade after age 55. Women are actually at greater stroke risk than men overall—each year, strokes kill twice as many women as breast cancer. More men have strokes prior to the age of 75 (three-quarters of all strokes happen after this age). Black and Hispanic men are also at increased risk.

 

Despite some risks that we are stuck with, there are modifiable risk factors as well. This means everyone has the ability to reduce their risk of having a stroke. Quitting smoking, eating healthier (the Mediterranean diet), increasing exercise, controlling high blood pressure, losing weight, improving your cholesterol, cutting alcohol intake, treating atrial fibrillation and controlling your blood sugars if you are a diabetic all top the list. While these things may look fairly simple, they are some of the most difficult behavior changes I talk about with my patients.

 

Change and motivation for change happen in different ways for all of us. If some of these things seem like too great a task to take on, try setting a small, achievable goal at first and slowly building from there. When in doubt about how to improve your own risk, you can (and should) talk to your primary care provider. Even a seemingly small behavior or behavior change can have a large impact. Consider that:

 

  • Smoking even one cigarette a day increases the risk of stroke by 30 percent;
  • Reducing blood pressure to healthy levels can reduce your risk by 40 percent;
  • Increased physical activity (even by walking more) can reduce risk by 25 percent.

 

Preventing a stroke is the best possible outcome. Sometimes we find ourselves in less than ideal circumstances. If a stroke does happen, the speed at which you get medical attention is key to preventing some of its worst effects. A good way to remember the signs of stroke is to “act F.A.S.T. ” This stands for:

 

  • F ace – check for drooping and asymmetry;
  • A rm – check for weakness and numbness;
  • S peech – listen for difficulty speaking;
  • T ime – call 911 and get medical help as soon as possible (time equals brain).

 

When you suspect that you or someone you love is having a stroke, don’t wait—get medical attention immediately.

 

Stroke is one of the most common and catastrophic diseases we face. I’m writing because I’ve seen how devastating the results of stroke can be, yet there are real, concrete steps we can all take to reduce that risk. By remembering to “act F.A.S.T.,” we can get timely treatment which may prevent a devastating outcome. By making a lifestyle change (or two), we can avoid a stroke entirely. Small changes can truly make a big difference.

 

Learn more at stroke.org and strokeassociation.org.

 

Editor’s note: Matthew Sullivan, M.D. , is a family medicine physician on staff at Green Mountain Family Practice in Northfield. You can reach him at 802-485-4161 or matthew.sullivan@cvmc.org

10 Tips to ACE Your Posture

May 29, 2018  
Filed under Health & Wellness, News

 

Stand Taller

Mom was right, posture is important, especially as we spend our days hunched over phones and computers.  Poor posture strains muscles and joints, and is linked to back and neck pain, as well as overall stress and even depression.  Plus slumping makes you look older.

 

HEre are 10 tips to ACE your posture  from PostureMonth.org to build new habits and retrain posture by improving your body Awareness; taking Control of how you sit, stand and move; and designing the postural Environment right for you.

 

10 Tips to ACE Your Posture

 

“A” is for AWARENESS

 

1. Take a picture:  Seeing how you really look is a great incentive to improving posture.  Check your alignment compared to a line through the middle of your head, shoulders, hips and ankles.  Any camera works for front and side pics, or use the free PostureZone app for any mobile device to visualize and track exactly how your body stacks up.

 

2. Get moving:  Take posture breaks throughout the day.  Set a reminder to get up and stretch, or try a postural exercise like the ones below.  Moving your body every 90 minutes or so will make a big difference in how you feel at the end of the day.

 

“C” is for CONTROL

 

3. Ground your feet: Lift your heels and come up on your toes, then lift your toes to come up on heels and spread toes. Roll onto the outside edge and then the inside edge of each foot.  Press down on all four corners of both feet to connect with the ground.

 

4. Center your pelvis:  Core exercise is not just for the gym.  Lengthen your spine with a gentle low back arch and tuck.  Repeat for 5 cycles to wake up and reset neglected muscles during your day.

 

5. Open your chest:  Lift your shoulders all the way up, then roll them back, and then release them down.  Repeat 5 times to open your chest and relax your spine.

 

6. Level your head:  Imagine a balloon gently lifting the top of your head toward the sky.  Keep your head level and focus on a spot directly in front of you to retrain the deep muscles that align your neck.

 

7. Take 5 Breaths: Belly breathing with your diaphragm is key to strengthening posture.  Lengthen your body and spine with 5 slow, aware breaths to let your shoulders relax and clear your mind.

 

“E” is for ENVIRONMENT

 

8. Adjust it: There’s no one single perfect posture position, and your body is designed to move.  So change it up.  Consider a desk that lets you stand up or sit down to keep moving throughout the day. Instead of an office chair, try sitting on a ball or a pelvic for a couple of hours. When taking long trips, adjust your car seat each time you stop. When texting, lift your phone up to eye-level instead of folding your head down.

 

9. Sit strong: Adjust the rear-view mirror in your car so you have to sit tall with upright posture to see. Change the angle of your computer monitor or lift it a bit higher to reduce stress on neck muscles.

 

10. Stand taller: Head up, shoulders down and pelvis engaged gives you more height and less girth.  Plus people with strong posture often feel less pain, look younger and feel more confident!

 

Recheck your posture (Tip 1) a few times a year to keep track of your improvement.  VisitPostureMonth.org for more ideas to ACE Your Posture.

 

 

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