Health and Fitness Information for Mature Adults 

May 19, 2008              

Table of Contents

  • Partyin' in New Orleans (SFA's adopted nursing home)
  • Exercise and Migraines (Managing headache symptoms)
  • Bright Day: I Can See Clearly Now (Vision care eases depression in elderly)
  • Physical Activity and the Brain (Exercise may discourage mild cognitive impairment)
  • What a Workout! (Humor)

Partyin' in New Orleans

No place knows how to celebrate better than the Big Easy! And that is certainly true of our adopted New Orleans nursing home, the John J.
Hainkel Home & Rehabilitation Center. On St. Patrick's Day, the residents there enjoyed an outdoor barbecue hosted by the local sheriff's office. It featured great food, colorful decorations, lots of smiles, and some really cool St. Paddy's Day hats!

The American Senior Fitness Association (SFA) adopted the historic Hainkel facility in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, which disproportionately disrupted the lives of elderly citizens in the afflicted Gulf Coast region. Coincidentally, the Association also adopted a frail kitten rescued near New Orleans in the aftermath of the terrible storm. The little tomcat, named Gumbo, made a full recovery from his traumatic experience and now serves as the mascot for our nursing home adoption project.

Hospital administrator Robert Bales recently updated SFA on current volunteer work at the Home. In April, Delgado College students visited to engage in recreational activities with the residents. The resident dining room has been updated with smaller, more personal four-place tables. Attractive framed posters have been placed in common areas, and spring planting is under way to spruce up the resident grounds. He added that the residents were very enthusiastic about the world-famous annual New Orleans Jazz Fest!

In fact, Mr. Bales said, SFA's recent donation went toward such off-grounds field trips for the residents. Let us share a little more of his message: "On behalf of the residents, please accept my appreciation and thanks to you and your association members for adopting the residents of the John J. Hainkel Home & Rehab Center. Donations such as yours make a significant difference in the life of the residents here."

SFA members and Experience! readers, please everyone send a small donation -- tax deductible -- to assist our adopted nursing home. Here's how to help:

It is so exciting that all of us in SFA can join together and help our adopted elders in this wonderful area that was so cruelly devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Mr. Bales said, "Thank you for the kindness and thoughtfulness of your association, and please know that your adoption of the facility will make a difference in the quality of life of the residents here." For more details about the John J. Hainkel Home, just click on Gumbo!


Exercise and Migraines

SFA author Jim Evans is a 40-year veteran of the health and fitness industry and an internationally recognized senior fitness consultant. Today he advises a lady who is subject to migraine headaches.

DEAR JIM: I am a 69-year-old female with a history of migraines. I've been physically active most of my life, and exercise has usually helped to reduce my migraine symptoms. But lately I have been experiencing severe migraines right after exercising. The only change I have made in my exercise regimen is to add some resistance training to my normal cardio workout to help improve my bone density and muscle tone. Should I go back to just cardio for a while and see what happens? UNEASY IN URBANDALE

DEAR UNEASY: Most medical experts believe that migraine sufferers have a heightened neurological system response that triggers migraines whenever there is a change in their normal routine. So, yes, you might want to return to just doing your cardio workout for the time being. You may be simply experiencing a benign condition sometimes known as "weightlifters' headache" which often comes on suddenly after exercise but usually disappears after about 30 minutes. Although you didn't mention it, nausea is a common symptom of exercise-induced migraines, too.

Exercise releases endorphins that usually reduce the frequency and/or severity of migraines -- just as you have experienced up until now -- but when exercise sets off a migraine, there may be other factors to consider. To start with, be sure that you are taking in enough fluid while exercising, because dehydration can cause a headache. Not eating properly before exercising can cause a drop in blood sugar that can produce a headache, too. Even something as simple as failing to warm up before exercising can sometimes bring about a headache. Also, if you were not breathing properly while performing your new resistance exercises -- holding your breath, for example -- you may have temporarily elevated your blood pressure and triggered a migraine.

With your history of migraines, you probably already know that a lack of sleep, certain smells, and eating foods containing MSG (monosodium glutamate) can also cause headaches.

Take all of these factors into account when you return to your resistance training, and see if there is a recurrence of migraines. If you continue to experience the migraines, you should seek medical attention to determine if there is something more serious behind your condition.


Bright Day: I Can See Clearly Now

Recent research
published in the Archives of Ophthalmology shows that correcting nursing home patients' vision deficits improves their quality of life and reduces their risk for depression, according to a report by HealthDay.

University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers analyzed two groups of long term care residents age 55-plus: 78 subjects received eyeglasses one week after an eye examination, while 64 subjects waited for their glasses for two months after their eye exams. Vision-related quality of life and depressive symptoms were gauged at the beginning of the study and again after two months.

At baseline, the groups were similar in terms of medical and demographic status, visual acuity (acuteness of perception; keenness), and refractive error (pertaining to the deflection of light from a straight path during the visual process). Not surprisingly, at the end of two months the subjects who received their glasses promptly had improved in distance and near visual acuity, whereas the others enjoyed no visual acuity gains.

Importantly, at the end of the study the subjects who received their glasses in a timely fashion showed fewer depressive symptoms and scored higher in terms of general vision, reading, hobbies, social interaction, and other activities.

These outcomes may seem so predictable from a common sense standpoint that readers might question the need for such research. That issue is addressed by the words of the researchers themselves: "These findings underscore the need for a systematic evaluation of the factors underlying the pervasive unavailability of eye care to nursing home residents in the United States so that steps can be taken to improve delivery and eye care utilization."  


Physical Activity and the Brain

Another HealthDay report
describes encouraging new research on the subject of mental fitness. It appears that regular moderate-intensity exercise, especially when undertaken between age 50 and age 65, may help to prevent mild cognitive impairment.

What is considered mild impairment? Persons with the condition are able to function satisfactorily in everyday life, but falter when it comes to recalling details (for example, details associated with recent conversations and events or with imminent appointments). Over time, most such people undergo a progressive decline in cognitive ability, which actually results from Alzheimer's disease. However, not all of those with mild impairment go on to develop more serious problems.

This research was conducted by Mayo Clinic scientists, who studied 868 men and women ages 70 to 89. It involved comparing the subjects' level of exercise activity to their cognitive health status over time. The findings suggest that physical exercise may reduce the risk for developing mild cognitive impairment.

The study's lead researcher Dr. Yonas Endale Geda released a statement saying: "Regarding the mechanism of action of physical exercise and mild cognitive impairment, we speculate that either exercise induces chemicals that protect brain cells, or exercise is simply a marker for an overall healthy lifestyle, or there is some positive interaction among exercise, healthy lifestyle, and intellectually stimulating activity."


What a Workout!

Well, as much as we love her
, we might not want to follow this funny lady's physical fitness program:

"My idea of exercise is a good brisk sit."

                                               -- Phyllis Diller

Experience! 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.

Free SFA basic membership: If you aren't already a member of the American Senior Fitness Association (SFA), just sign up online at www.seniorfitness.org. There are no fees or membership dues. And, we don't give out our members' personal information to others! When you join SFA, you'll receive our e-newsletter "Experience!" which will bring you older adult fitness news, research, and wellness tips.

Fitness and health professionals: You may distribute copies of Experience! to your exercise clients and patients as a free newsletter service. Copies of Experience! or excerpts therefrom must always ascribe credit to the American Senior Fitness Association (SFA). To fulfill that requirement, include the complete banner (title information at the top of each newsletter) as well as all post-newsletter notes, messages, copyright information, and the SFA logo.


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