The American Senior Fitness Association presents Round-Up

January 2, 2006

Table of Contents
  • A New Approach for Overweight Women (Research)
  • Avoiding Asthma Attacks (Health notes)
  • Memory Aid (Successful aging)
  • Balance Tests Not Interchangeable (Research)
  • Which Nursing Home Is Best? (Elder care)
  • New Beginnings (Inspiration)
  • From the SFA Archives (Research)
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A New Approach for Overweight Women

Reporting on an article
published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Reuters Health described a recent study that pitted conventional diet and exercise weight-loss plans against a healthy lifestyle model:

A two-year study of 78 obese women, all formerly chronic dieters, found that those who completed a program emphasizing body acceptance and healthy lifestyle choices instead of weight loss came out better than those who followed a standard weight-loss regimen.

Although they didn't lose weight, they did achieve long-term reductions in both blood pressure and cholesterol levels. In contrast, the women who followed a more traditional, regimented weight-loss plan did lose weight initially but wound up gaining most of it back and, more importantly, did not achieve lasting improvements in their blood pressure or cholesterol levels.

The more successful of the two programs did not entail dieting, but focused instead on making healthful food decisions (such as eating when truly hungry, not due to external cues like the sight of a fast-food franchise). It did promote physical activity, just not with a rigid workout schedule. Instead, participants were encouraged to incorporate exercise into everyday life (for example, by taking the stairs instead of the elevator). Instead of being fixated on body weight, it focused on self-acceptance and improving health.

Avoiding Asthma Attacks

Because individuals differ
, personal experience may be the best teacher when it comes to recognizing specific factors liable to spark an asthma attack. Being able to predict trouble in advance may help us to sidestep it entirely. If avoiding some known irritant is going to be impossible, foreknowledge can alert us to take medication, according to doctor's instructions, in order to prevent or lessen the severity of an anticipated attack. Below is a checklist from The Good Health Fact Book (a Reader's Digest publication) identifying the ten most likely suspects for triggering asthma attacks:

  • Allergens such as pet dander, dust, mold, pollen, grasses, and ragweed;
  • Irritants like paint, varnish, household cleaners, cologne/perfume, hair spray, and cigarette smoke;
  • Respiratory ailments such as sinus infection, bronchitis, or the common cold;
  • Strenuous or sustained physical exertion (particularly in cold weather conditions);
  • Air pollution, windy conditions, or sudden changes in temperature and humidity levels;
  • Certain industrial gases, fumes, vapors, and other substances encountered in the workplace;
  • Anxiety, fear, anger, and other forms of mental or emotional distress (many people report difficulty breathing during "panic attacks");
  • Physical issues such as acid reflux, overactive thyroid gland, or pregnancy;
  • Adverse reactions to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which in some cases may include ibuprofen, aspirin, and NSAIDs used as ingredients in cold medications;
  • Allergic responses to certain foods (such as those that contain nuts, color dyes, milk, sulfites, or wheat).

Memory Aid

Here's an entertaining way to help yourself
remember the name of someone you have just met. Connect the name (and the person) with a special mental image. For example, this technique is simple if you're meeting a Mrs. Fox, a Mr. Wolfe, a Miss Poole, a Ms. Greene, or a Dr. Baker. It works just as well for many first names like Robin (the bird), Ray (the beam of sunlight), Barbie (the doll), Ben (the clock), and Helen (of Troy). If the association you form is kind of silly, it may make it even easier to "place" your new acquaintance and correctly recall his or her name when you next meet. Consider: Rob (a masked bandit), Pam (the cooking spray), Trey (an h'or deurvres platter), Alice (in Wonderland), and Peter (Rabbit). If no mental picture comes to mind, try devising a quick rhyme that fits your impression of the person, like: Slim Jim, Jolly Mollie, Tall Paul, or Great Kate. Have some fun helping yourself out in the memory department!

Balance Tests Not Interchangeable

Following is an edited abstract
from "Comparison of Older Adult Performance During the Functional-Reach and Limits-of-Stability Tests" by Sean Clark and colleagues, Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 13(3), 266:

Despite widespread use of the functional-reach and limits-of-stability tests, comparisons of postural strategies and postural limits for these tests have not been previously reported. (The functional-reach test is a simple, inexpensive measure of one's ability to reach forward while maintaining a fixed base of support; the limits-of-stability test is a more sophisticated assessment of postural limits, which involves the use of sensors and a computer.) The purpose of this study was to compare postural strategies and postural older adults at low fall risk completed the functional-reach and limits-of-stability tests. Fourteen older adults completed three functional-reach and limits-of-stability trials... Results indicated that despite relatively similar instructions to reach or lean as far as possible without losing balance or altering the base of support, their performance differed with regard to postural strategies employed and maximum center-of-gravity excursions produced. These findings suggest that because of differences in task constraints, functional-reach and limits-of-stability tests should not be used interchangeably.

Which Nursing Home Is Best?

We here at SFA
have strong opinions about optimal nursing home care -- for our elderly loved ones now and, eventually, for ourselves. Here are some features we look for in the nursing home setting:

  • The facility should be located near friends and family for convenient visitation.
  • Exemplary nursing and physician care must be provided at all times.
  • Should hospital admission be needed, the nursing home center must be associated with a well-reputed hospital.
  • A top-notch activity program -- including enjoyable physical exercise, intellectual stimulation, and recreational trips off-campus -- is essential.
  • The resident's religious preference should be respected and accommodated.
  • Every effort to honor the resident's privacy must be maintained on an ongoing basis by staff members.
  • The dining environment must be agreeable -- and the food both healthful and flavorful.
  • All personnel should work to create a homelike atmosphere.

New Beginnings

The American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
(1807 - 1882) penned a wonderful thought with which to start out a new year:

"Age is opportunity no less,
Than youth itself, though in another dress,
And as the evening twilight fades away,
The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day."

From the SFA Archives

Periodically we find it instructive
to review our files with an eye for research that is still as meaningful today as it was on the day it was first published. Here's an item from 1999 that has successfully withstood the test of time:

The journal Circulation (volume 100) reported: In the Honolulu Heart Program, men aged 71 through 93 who walked one-and-a-half miles per day were found to be at half the risk for coronary heart disease compared to those who walked less than one-fourth mile per day.

Update: The positive association between heart health and physical exercise has been supported by numerous subsequent studies. Walking remains a highly practical and effective -- not to mention, enjoyable -- mode of exercise for many senior adults!

Round-Up readers: Thank you for your interest and questions. Due to the high volume of contacts SFA receives, we cannot respond to individual queries or comments. However, the newsletter does address frequently asked questions and topics of vital interest to our members.

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