October 16, 2006
Table of Contents
A Gentle Reminder From SFA
Ladies, please don't think that if you have already reached your seventies or eighties you can let down your guard against breast cancer. Although it's tempting to breathe a big sigh of relief when we've gone for years without that disease touching our lives, actually the risk grows higher with age. We must be sure to stick to our regularly scheduled physical examinations and mammograms -- and to our monthly self-checks. While at lower risk, men need to be vigilant as well. Whether male or female, notify your physician immediately if you develop any secretion, lump, thickening, or change in texture of the breast tissue.
Post Polio Syndrome
Editor's note: Articles by SFA author Jim Evans are regularly featured on the American Senior Fitness Association's website www.seniorfitness.org. Recently it occurred to our editors that Experience! readers might also enjoy seeing an Evans article, in its entirety, in the newsletter now and then. So today we're presenting Jim's helpful answers to one older adult's questions about post polio syndrome (PPS). Jim Evans, a nationally recognized senior fitness consultant and San Diego's "Forever Young" radio talk show host, shares the facts about PPS below.
DEAR JIM: Like many children of my generation -- I'm 69 -- I suffered from polio in the fifties. Fortunately it only affected my right leg at the time, and after several months of physical therapy I recovered completely. At least I thought so. For the past several months I've been experiencing a similar weakness in the same leg. My doctor isn't sure, but he thinks I might be experiencing post polio syndrome. Does this mean that the polio is returning? And what can I do about it? ACHING IN ALBUQUERQUE
DEAR ACHING: Not to worry. It is highly unlikely that your polio is returning. However, if your doctor's tentative diagnosis is correct, the nerve damage that you suffered in your leg from the polio as a youngster has caused an acceleration of the normal weakness attributed to aging. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, an estimated 300,000 polio survivors are at risk for post polio syndrome (PPS) characterized by a weakening of the same muscles that were previously affected when they had polio.
Polio, or poliomyelitis in its long form, has also been called infantile paralysis because it was so widespread among children three to five years of age (more than 50% of reported cases). It was the scourge of America in the 1950s and a source of anxiety for parents every summer when thousands of youngsters were afflicted by this crippling disease. Both my mother and my youngest brother were among its victims, and -- like you -- both recovered, although my mother has experienced some increased weakness in the affected leg in her later years. It is a contagious disease mostly transmitted by human contact through the ingestion of fecally-contaminated food or water, and it has been virtually eradicated in this country.
The height of the polio epidemic took place in 1952 with nearly 60,000 cases and more than 3,000 deaths reported in the U.S. alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The illness itself usually only lasted two weeks or less, but nerve damage could sometimes last a lifetime, and you will recall that many victims who were totally paralyzed were kept alive in iron lungs to facilitate their breathing. Some survivors are still living in iron lungs or other more advanced respirators even today.
What can you do? Although there is no known way to prevent PPS, most physicians will recommend that you lead a healthy lifestyle including moderate exercise, a well-balanced diet, and regular checkups. Just as physical therapy was so important in your initial recovery, physical activities such as water exercises (particularly in warm water 85 degrees F or higher), tai chi, and mild forms of yoga can be beneficial in the treatment of PPS, using your own level of tolerance to determine your limitations.
For further information about post polio syndrome, contact Post Polio Health International at (314) 534-0475 or refer to their website at www.post-polio.org.
A Tasty Autumn Appetizer
Entertaining? Take a few red apples, some low-fat cheese, and a box of fancy wooden toothpicks. Cut the apples into bite-sized slices and the cheese into very small cubes. Dribble a little lemon juice over the apple slices to preserve their color. Spear each piece of cheese with a toothpick, then pierce the toothpick on through the inside of an apple slice. Repeat until you have filled a serving platter.
A common cause of the knee pain that sometimes accompanies aging is knee osteoarthritis (the progressive degenerative form of the disease known as "wear-and-tear" arthritis). Physical exercise may be useful in reducing that pain. A common remedy for knee pain is knee-replacement surgery. Below are two edited abstracts from informative articles on these subjects that were recently published by the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity.
1. The first abstract summarizes "Effectiveness of Exercise Interventions in Reducing Pain Symptoms Among Older Adults with Knee Osteoarthritis: A Review" by Brian C. Focht [14(2), 212]:
Knee osteoarthrits (OA) affects approximately one third of older adults in the United States. The pain accompanying its progression reduces quality of life and leads to activity restriction and physical disability. Evidence suggests that exercise represents a promising treatment for pain among older knee-OA patients. The author provides an overview of the research examining the effectiveness of exercise interventions in reducing pain symptoms among older adults with knee OA.
Critical evaluation of the literature reveals that aerobic training, strength training, and combination aerobic and strength training result in improvements in pain. The magnitude of pain reduction accompanying exercise interventions varies considerably across studies, however.
In addition, most trials have focused on short-term (less than 6 months) interventions, and the limited number of long-term (longer than 6 months) trials have been plagued by high attrition (drop-out during the study) and poor post-intervention maintenance of treatment effects (that is, poor exercise adherence after the study).
Given the variability in the effectiveness of exercise interventions, future research is necessary to determine the individual differences that influence older OA patients' responsiveness to exercise interventions and to identifiy more efficacious strategies for promoting the maintenance of long-term exercise.
2. The second abstract summarizes "Balance Confidence and Function After Knee-Replacement Surgery" by Kate E. Webster, Julian A. Feller, and Joanne E. Wittwer [14(2),181]:
This study examined the relationship betwen balance confidence and function in older adults after knee-replacement surgery. Thirty-six adults (20 men and 16 women age 58 - 84 years) completed measures of balance confidence, general self-efficacy,* and function.
Results showed that participants with greater balance confidence had better functional performance and reported fewer difficulties with activities of daily living. General self-efficacy and age were not related to any of the functional measures. Women scored lower than men for all balance-confidence and function measures.
These findings highlight the potential value of studying balance-related self-efficacy beliefs in people with knee replacements. Additional studies are now needed to determine whether a change in balance confidence is associated with a change in function and to further explore gender differences.
*According to the authors: "...self-efficacy... is defined as the confidence a person has in his or her ability to successfully perform a specific behavior. In this context, balance confidence refers to the degree of confidence a person has in keeping his or her balance while performing activities of daily living."
The Time of Your Life!
We here at Experience! predict that the wry gentleman quoted below just needs to be patient and wait for the next phase of his life to regain all the positive characteristics he misses -- plus some!
"At sixteen I was stupid, confused and indecisive. At twenty-five I was wise, self-confident, preposessing and assertive. At forty-five I am stupid, confused, insecure and indecisive. Who would have supposed that maturity is only a short break in adolescence?"
-- Jules Feiffer
Experience! readers: Thank you for your interest and questions. Due to the high volume of contacts SFA receives, we cannot respond to all individual queries or comments. However, the newsletter does address frequently asked questions and topics of vital interest to our members.
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