Archive for the ‘Senior Health’ Category

Sugar is at the Root of Many Health Problems

Too much sugar is bad at any age. Here are seven good reasons to avoid it:blood sugar

 

  1. Sugar contains added calories with no essential nutrients

There are no proteins, essential fats, vitamins or minerals in sugar – just pure energy. A diet that includes 10 – 20 percent of calories as sugar can contribute to nutrient deficiencies. When up to 10 – 20% or more of your calories come from sugar, this can become a major problem and contribute to nutrient deficiencies.

 

  1. Sugar can overload your liver

Before sugar enters the bloodstream from the digestive tract, it is broken down into two simple sugars – glucose and fructose. If we don’t get glucose from the diet, our bodies produce it. Fructose,however, is different. Our bodies do not produce it in any significant amount and there is no physiological need for it. If the liver is full of glycogen, eating a lot of fructose overloads the liver, forcing it to turn the fructose into fat. This can lead to fatty liver and a number of serious health problems.

 

  1. Sugar can lead to diabetes

Insulin is a very important hormone in the body. It allows glucose (blood sugar) to enter cells from the bloodstream and tells the cells to start burning glucose instead of fat. When people eat a lot of sugar, it can cause resistance to the hormone insulin. When our cells become resistant to the effects of insulin, the beta cells in the pancreas make more of it. As insulin resistance becomes progressively worse, the pancreas can’t keep up with the demand of producing enough insulin to keep blood sugar levels down. At this point, blood sugar levels skyrocket (which leads to the diagnosis of diabetes). It is not surprising that studies show that people who drink sugar-sweetened beverages increase their risk of diabetes by more than 80 percent.

 

  1. Sugar can cause cancer

Cancer is characterized by uncontrolled growth and multiplication of cells – and insulin is one of the key hormones in regulating this sort of growth. Many scientists believe that having constantly elevated insulin levels (a consequence of sugar consumption) can contribute to cancer. In addition, the metabolic problems associated with sugar consumption are a known driver of inflammation, another potential cause of cancer.

 

  1. Sugar is highly addictive

Sugar can be addictive. Like abusive drugs, sugar causes a release of dopamine in the reward center of the brain. People who have a susceptibility to addiction can become strongly addicted to sugar and other junk foods.

 

  1. Sugar is a leading contributor to obesity

Not surprisingly, people who consume the most sugar are the most likely to become overweight or obese. One of the most important things you can do if you need to lose weight is to significantly cut back on your sugar consumption.

 

  1. Sugar raises your cholesterol and gives you heart disease

The evidence is mounting that sugar, NOT fat, may be one of the leading drivers of heart disease. Studies show that large amounts of fructose can raise triglycerides, small, dense LDL and oxidized LDL, raise blood glucose and insulin levels, and increase abdominal obesity – all major risk factors for heart disease.

Heart Health Awareness

Heart healthNow is a good time to become educated on ways to prevent heart disease.

While great strides have been made over the years, the bad news is that heart disease remains the leading cause of death among men and women in the United States. Every year, 1 in 4 deaths are caused by heart disease.

What can you do to prevent you or a loved one becoming another statistic? Here are some important steps to take:

  1. Ask your doctor what your blood pressure should be. People with high blood pressure are four times more likely to die from a stroke and three times more likely to die from heart disease. Since high blood pressure often shows no signs or symptoms, having your blood pressure checked regularly is very important. Once you find out your blood pressure, discuss with your doctor how you can best meet your goal.
  1. Quit smoking – and if you don’t smoke, don’t start. Smoking is not only a major risk factor for cancer, but for cardiovascular disease as well.
  1. Start eating healthier. At the top of the list is reducing your sodium intake. Most Americans consume too much sodium, which can raise blood pressure. In addition, start eating plenty of fruits and vegetables. Know your cholesterol and triglyceride levels and keep them under control.
  1. Get off the couch! Regardless of your age, it is important to exercise regularly. This doesn’t necessarily mean running marathons. Walking every day can make a difference.
  1. Get tested for diabetes. Many people who have prediabetes, and even diabetes, are not aware they have it. If you do have it, you need to keep it under control.
  1. Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is a leading risk factor for diabetes and heart disease. If you’re overweight, talk to your doctor about starting on a safe weight loss plan.

The good news about heart health is that cardiovascular disease is largely preventable. By following these steps, you can greatly improve your odds.

 

Holidays Are Not A Time of Joy for Everyone

During pray

The holiday season is upon us, which can be the best of times and the worst of times.

It’s a time of the year, in fact, that can often be stressful and disappointing. For many, there can be feelings of sadness and depression, particularly for those who have lost loved ones.

While it’s a myth that suicide is more common around the holidays – statistics show that spring is actually the peak time – this can be a particularly difficult time for those prone to depression.

Social isolation is one of the biggest predictors of depression.

Mental health professionals say that people who are lonely or have feelings of disconnectedness often avoid social interactions at this time of year. Unfortunately, this can make things worse. Many see other people spending time with friends and family and ask themselves, “Why can’t that be me?” or “Why is everyone else so much happier?”

Holidays can be difficult because they often bring back memories of friends and family members who are gone. In addition, the disappointment over not being able to enjoy the holidays may add to one’s depression.

Mental health experts encourage people to follow these practical tips:

  1. Acknowledge your feelings. Don’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
  2. Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, work-related, religious or other social events that will offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others can be a good way to lift your spirits.
  3. Avoid conflict with family and friends. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to your expectations. Try to set aside any grievances.
  4. Stick to a budget. Don’t try to buy happiness by purchasing gifts you can’t afford.
  5. Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, visiting friends and other activities.
  6. Learn to say “no.” Saying “yes” when you should say “no” can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and family will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity.
  7. Learn to grieve. If the holidays remind you of a loved one, it’s a good time to discuss your feelings or find help by joining a support group.
  8. Don’t abandon healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence will only add to your unhappiness. Make sure to eat properly, exercise, and get the proper amount of sleep.
  9. Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. This may include listening to soothing music, getting a massage, or reading a book.

Depression at this time of year, or any time for that matter, should not be ignored. If these feelings last, it’s time to talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

Here are some tips for helping an elderly person with depression.

Music Therapy For The Elderly

Elderly woman with headphones listening to music.

Music Therapy Touches Hearts and Memories

Not long ago, a documentary clip went viral. It featured the story of Henry, an elderly man with dementia who sat locked inside himself day after day… until they placed headphones over his ears and let him hear the music he loved during his youth. Suddenly, everything changed.

One of the greatest challenges the elderly face is a lost sense of belonging, independence, freedom, and enjoyment. These unmet needs result in feelings of isolation, sadness, and loss. For those suffering from Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, the inability to communicate this experience can be both complex and devastating.

Music therapy is a powerful tool in caregiving. According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation, music can trigger lost memories, promote communication and movement, manage anxiety, stimulate creativity, and renew identity. Simply stated, music has the power to reach across the barrier of time and functional limitations to evoke joy and vitality. Keep reading to learn how you can share this wonderful therapy with your elderly loved one.

Six Tips for Using Music Therapy to Help Your Elderly Loved One

Explore their music history. Old hymns, swing, and wartime songs are often favorites among the elderly; however, take care to avoid songs that bring up unpleasant memories. Because of the powerful associations music creates, it can sometimes return someone to an experience that was emotionally painful. Watch for signs of distress. If this occurs, stop the song immediately and move on to something else.

Compile a playlist. An iPod or other type of mp3 device can be a great way to amass a variety of songs that can be played easily through a small speaker or headphones. Playlists can be grouped by themes for specific moods and activities.

Make music accessible. When possible, allow the person access to the player as a source of comfort when needed. As always, use good judgment to avoid any risk of the person becoming entangled in the cords. If mobility or confusion is an issue, close supervision may be necessary.

Play music during exercise. Listening to music while walking may help improve gait, and it can encourage interest in other types of exercise.

Create an ambiance. Using background music during the general day-to-day can enhance mood. Make a special playlist of calming music to reduce sundowning, anxiety, or problems with behavior.

Encourage drumming and sing-alongs. Music can promote a sense of emotional connection. Use facial expression to engage and communicate with the person through the sound of the music.

Visit the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America for more information about using music therapy with the elderly. If you’d like more ideas on how to improve an elderly person’s quality of life, check out our post on pet therapy.

Pet Therapy For The Elderly

Happy Senior Man With His Dog

A therapy pet can be a powerful member of the caregiver team. It has been well established that pets can lower the risk of heart attack and increase survival rates in those who have suffered heart attack, but research shows there are many more additional benefits.

When humans interact with animals, there is a resulting increase in the production of serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin – the “good” hormones responsible for improving mood. Further, levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, are decreased.

These hormonal changes result in a sense of well-being which helps improve depression, agitation, social interaction, engagement, and even nutritional intake.

Taking walks with a dog tends to motivate seniors to walk farther, thereby increasing their level of physical activity. In situations where mobility is reduced, talking to or petting an animal can still lower heart rate, improve vital signs, and has been shown to reduce the need for medication.

If you are considering pet therapy for yourself or an elderly loved one, here are some tips that may help:

Make the decision together. Situations vary and people age differently. Full pet ownership may not be suitable for every situation, and the right pet should be paired with the right person. A decision to get a pet should not be forced on the elderly person. For some, pet ownership may not be the answer. The services of a professional therapy pet may be a better choice.

Does the person have disabilities? In some cases, dogs may not be a good fit for someone with major physical limitations. Indoor pets that need less care, such as cats or birds may be a better fit. In cases of significant impairments, your loved one may be a candidate for a service animal to aid in functioning.

Age, Size, and Temperament. When matching a pet to an elderly person, it is important to consider the animal’s unique temperament, care and grooming needs, training, physical size, and remaining life expectancy. A young puppy or kitten may require too much training and lack the maturity to be a suitable companion. While much older pets may have more health problems that could result in expensive veterinary bills and medications. A plan should be in place to determine who will care for the animal if it outlives its owner.

Financial Considerations. Some pets are more expensive than others to maintain. Consider the costs involved for each type of pet, not just for initial cost, but also ongoing care and maintenance. Adopting a pet from your local shelter may be a more affordable choice. Shelter workers or foster owners often become very familiar with each animal’s personality and may be able to assist in making a good match. Additionally, some shelters offer discounts to seniors. For instance, Idaho Humane Society offers a discount to people over the age of 60.

Pet Sharing. If acquiring a full time pet for your loved one is too impractical, consider “borrowing” someone else’s pet. Do you or a close friend have a dog or other pet that is well socialized and up for a house call? Consider bringing the pet for regular visits with your elderly loved one. Recent studies have even shown that watching cat videos online can boost energy and reduce sadness and anxiety.

Click here to download the PDF, Tips for Caregivers: Deciding if Pet Therapy is Right for Your Loved One. For more information, including research about pets and seniors, visit Pets for the Elderly

The Benefits of Home Health Care

Man-getting-out-of-bed1-300x300Home care has become increasingly popular as an assisted living option, as more elderly people need assistance. Because of the latest medical breakthroughs, millions of adults are now finding themselves taking care of older relatives and parents. When do you decide to utilize home care versus doing it on your own? Read the rest of this entry »

Prevention: Key To Keeping Elderly Healthy

elderly-exercise1-201x300The elderly population in the United States is increasing rapidly. By 2030, the number of those 65 or older will more than double to approximately 71 million.

This number of elderly Americans has far-reaching implications for our nation’s public health system and will place unprecedented demands on the provision of health care and aging-related services. Public health efforts to promote health and functional independence are critical strategies in helping older adults stay healthy. Read the rest of this entry »

Hoarding: Know the Signs

cumpulsive hardingA hoarding disorder is a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them. A person with a hoarding disorder experiences distress at the thought of getting rid of the items. This usually results in excessive accumulation of items, regardless of actual value.

Hoarding often creates such cramped living conditions that homes may be filled to capacity, with only narrow pathways winding through stacks of clutter. Some people also collect animals, keeping dozens or hundreds of pets in unsanitary conditions because they can’t care for them properly. Read the rest of this entry »

Important Tips on Caring For an Elderly Person with Arthritis

Arthritis can be painful and difficult for the elderly to deal with so it’s good to know how to help those with arthritis when necessary. Knowing about the different types of arthritis can also be very helpful. It’s the best way to assist those with arthritis.

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritisarthritic elderly hand opening a pill bottle

There are two different types of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis causes swelling of the joints as well as joint damage. It’s an autoimmune disorder that can best be treated with medication. Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage between the joints disintegrates. This causes the bones to rub against each other. Both types of arthritis can cause the joints to become inflamed and stiff which makes it hard for those with arthritis to move their joints. Arthritis most commonly occurs in the joints of the hands, wrists, knees and feet which can make it hard for those with arthritis to move around or pick things up. Read the rest of this entry »

Home Care Helps Seniors with Arthritis Lead an Active Life

Selective-focus image of Arthritic/Senior Adult Hands opening a pill bottleWhen a senior has painful arthritis, family members often worry that their loved one is not safe living at home. They wonder, “is Mom taking her medications correctly, and following other treatment instructions? Is she getting as much exercise as the doctor recommends? Is she getting out less because of her reduced mobility?” Family may also be juggling job tasks and other family responsibilities, spending more and more time taking their loved one to doctor’s appointments and helping with the housework and personal care.

Home care services can help your loved one manage arthritis in several important ways: Read the rest of this entry »